Identify your purpose: what are you trying to get out of the situation? If you know what you want and you can visualize your purpose, things are going to be easier. I personally write my vision and goals and review them frequently, especially if things aren’t going as I expect.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Luciano Colos.
Luciano Colos is a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. He launched his first startup right after completing a Fulbright fellowship that granted him a Master of Engineering at UC Berkeley in 2014. His new company, PitchGrade, develops cutting-edge AI applications for entrepreneurs, such as a pitch deck review tool that helps startup founders create compelling pitch decks so that fundraising is the least of their concerns.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I was born and grew up in Patagonia, Argentina. After completing my degree in Industrial Engineering back at home, I earned a Fulbright scholarship that allowed me to do a Masters of Engineering at UC Berkeley from which I graduated in 2014. The experience of studying and living in Silicon Valley helped breakthrough many fears and limiting beliefs and to become an entrepreneur. Since then I’ve been building and running my own businesses. I started with a (failed) fintech startup right after graduating from my Masters and I’ve been building software businesses since then.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
At age 16, I spent four months manufacturing a kayak ergometer I designed myself. It was a solution for my teammate kayakers and me who could not train during the winter due to the low temperatures and high speed winds that cause tall waves in the Río Negro River in Patagonia. With that project I was able to learn early on that by building something you learn much faster. Another lesson I had was the gratification we can get from committing to a project and accomplishing it despite the circumstances.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three character traits that were most instrumental to my success are perseverance, thinking big and building long term relationships.
During my career as an entrepreneur I’ve had to go through several difficult times. One of them was when I lost a big client that represented 50% of my business’ revenue and I to rush to find work to keep my team. That was one of the most difficult times because it was fast and unexpected. I wasn’t prepared for that. Over time, as more of those difficult situations happen, we are able to develop thick skin that allows you to get by without feeling that your life is ending.
The second most important character trait is thinking big. It is required to get out of the comfort zone, question the status quo and you beliefs, and drive your business growth. In my case, a big breakthrough came by considering I didn’t have to settle and live in Argentina. By accepting that as an alternative, I was able to earn a Fulbright scholarship and do my Masters in the USA. That opportunity changed completely the trajectory of my life.
The third one is building long term relationships with friends, clients, colleagues, and employees. Building the right relationships, maintaining them and cultivating them has been instrumental to continue growing and get incrementally better over time. The right people can help you get to places you have even ever imagined.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
I believe that deep in our roots as humans we assign to failing the meaning that those who love us won’t love us anymore. That is a very powerful feeling. As entrepreneurs we risk our capital and our reputation in our endeavors, and that exposure means that if we fail, our community might not accept us anymore. Imagine a father feeling his son won’t love him because his business is failing. Or a husband who feels his wife is going to leave him because his business went under. Those feelings could be brutally frightening.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
In some way fear is a protection, a feeling that helps us to stay away from danger. However, if we fear things that are unreal and might never happen then we’re severely limiting ourselves, and that could be even more dangerous. There is a big conflict for entrepreneurs that must take risks to get a venture going and the fear of failure. If the entrepreneur doesn’t take the risk, the business might never start. Even if we as entrepreneurs don’t take enough risks, we might cause our business failure.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
I believe that if you’re sane you will never be free from fear to failure. However, what we do is to be courageous. Being courageous doesn’t mean we won’t feel fear, it means that we will feel fear, but we are going to do it anyways.
The danger is not fear to failure, the danger is being paralyzed and not doing the important things because of that fear. If we don’t do the necessary things to make progress, then we’re even in more danger.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
Two years after I was running a software agency I own; I had a call with one of my main clients and he said he was forced to terminate the contract we had in the following two weeks. It represented 50% of the revenues we had and the workload of about half of my team. I wasn’t prepared for that. In the next two weeks I was able to negotiate with another client to take the workload I was missing with this client and in the end we didn’t lose much. However, those weeks were some of the most difficult ones in my career. In retrospect, I was quite a newbie and naïve and the situation hurt. I did the best I could at that time and we got by that situation. This year, six years after that difficult situation, I’m starting a new business, PitchGrade with the same client (and friend) who had to terminate the contract with us. The lesson I’ve learned from that situation was that integrity and doing the right thing will pay off over time.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
I would advise people to maintain a positive mindset despite the circumstance and always do the right thing. The difficult situation is going to pass and you want to be happy with how you acted during those difficult times.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
I believe we don’t get free from fear of failure, but we can be courageous and move on despite the fear. These are the 5 steps I would follow:
- Identify your purpose: what are you trying to get out of the situation? If you know what you want and you can visualize your purpose, things are going to be easier. I personally write my vision and goals and review them frequently, especially if things aren’t going as I expect.
- Be calm: fear of failure should not get you out of your mind. Being calm and stable is key to take critical decisions. You cannot let your fear take decisions for you. A morning walk, meditation and exercising are my three favorite things to do to stay calm.
- Visualize your goals: having a clear vision of what you need to accomplish is key to avoid hesitation. I like to write my goals in a whiteboard that I can see any time I need it. If you don’t have one, the simple exercise of closing your eyes and concentrating in your goals should be enough.
- Get going you cannot allow fear to paralyze you. If you feel paralyzed, start with a small thing and then continue doing things that position you to get out of fear and towards a solution.
- Ask for help: if you can’t get things done, or if you’re moving too slow, or if you know you cannot solve it on your own, do not hesitate to ask for help. And do it quickly. We can’t let the superhuman syndrome take over. That could only slow things down and make us operate in a bad state for a longer time.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I think that if we take the phrase literally it is wrong. We can succeed in many ways and fail in many ways as well. However, I believe Aristotle, who was far smarter than most of us, is challenging us with this phrase. The meaning that makes sense to me is that we can only succeed by doing things, and that is the one way he’s meaning.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe entrepreneurs are the ones who shape and improve this world. If you want to make a change, become an entrepreneur and create something of value to someone else.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Not really, I reach out or find a way to connect with anyone I need to talk to. Although if Savio Clemente wants to interview me again or needs help, I’m always available.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can visit https://pitchgrade.com to get a their pitch deck reviewed for free, or they can connect with me on Linked in here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucianocolos/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.