The Corporate Law Group

Fear of What If

Being a Trojan family [please hold the brickbats] we recently listened to Will Ferrell’s commencement speech delivered to the USC class of 2017. Fortunately it was a bit more entertaining than much commencement drivel. But Ferrell said one thing in particular that got our attention.

In telling his story, as an allegory to the future the graduates may face, he says at 17:13 that, “My fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of, ‘what if.’ What if I never tried at all?”

This is a fear that many entrepreneurs have. And it’s a good one. The fear of ‘what if’ causes us to act. To step out onto the water to see what we can do. Sure we might sink but no one has ever succeeded without embracing the fear of ‘what if’ and conquering the fear of failure.

If you don’t try out for the football team or musical production you certainly won’t make it. If you don’t start that company you certainly won’t change the world doing what it intended to do. Yes, you might fail. But like Ferrell, if you don’t try you’ll never know whether there is an Elf, Blades of Glory, or Anchorman in your future.

Others who feared, ‘what if,’ and kept going even in the face of actual adversity include Abraham Lincoln [failed business, unsuccessful political runs], Milton Hershey [two failed businesses before he succeeded in… caramels], and Henry Ford [first automobile company failed]. Thankfully their fear of failure was strong enough to keep them from failing but their fear of ‘what if,’ kept them going pursuing their dreams.

A long time ago an old lawyer told us that, “If you settle all of your cases, and never lose at trial, then you are losing some cases by settling.” In other words, sometimes you need to enter the ring and start punching. That is the only way to know for sure whether you could knock out the opponent. Fear of failure got your down? What you really need to fear is ‘what if’. What if you just go for it? What if you start that venture, go to that audition, or try for that brass ring? You just might make it. And for sure you won’t make it if you don’t fear, ‘what if,’ and give it a try. Like Will Ferrell.