Failure is Always an Option

I was talking to another investor the other day about the stress that surrounds the ups and downs of the job--winning and losing deals, and having some companies succeed versus others going south on you. 

I shared with this VC my secret to keeping stress at bay: 

I concede the fact that the possibility exists that I'm not good at this.

My fund performance is positive and things seem to be going in the right direction--I've been fortunate enough to back a lot of interesting companies--but there's a lot of uncertainty still.  The possibility exists that things might not all turn out in the end--that I might very well lose investors' money or underperform the market.  

And that, oddly enough, keeps me calm and level-headed.

I find that if you don't admit that failure is a possibility, you find yourself in a situation where your brain can't process even the hint of failure.  When things don't go right, that goes against a feeling of how things are "supposed to" go and your definition of yourself as one of succeeds.  

Stress comes from your inability to accept.  I tell myself, "Despite the fact that I try hard and follow disciplined thinking, I may not have what it takes to create success--and that's ok." 

If you can't handle that reality, you're going to feel some pretty haywire emotions, start misplacing blame, and generally fail to observe reality as it is happening, resulting in erroneous feedback loops.  

When failure isn't an option, you start doing irrational, and potentially dangerous things for your own health and that of others.  It's always an option, because some things just won't work out and you'll need to figure out another plan.

For now, though--you're not there, and you know that because you can be honest about its existence and identifying what it looks like.  That gives you the confidence and the focus to keep at it when you're not there yet and to improve enough to avoid it. 

I can fail.

I might not be good.

I am trying really hard to be better everyday and too succeed. 

All of these things can be true and are healthy things to tell yourself.