First-time failure as an entrepreneur can lead to a successful project

by Ahmed Esmat
Apr 2, 2015 in Digital Journalism

In May 2014, IJNet Arabic launched a virtual mentoring center, choosing eight entrepreneurial journalists in the MENA region in need of financial and digital advice to get their startups off the ground. Two mentors guided the journalists over the course of a year. Here, mentor Ahmed Esmat shares his advice for young entrepreneurs scared of failure.

After completing seven successive months of work for the Alexandria Journalism Forum in April 2014, I was physically and mentally exhausted. My plan was to rest for a full week — until I received an email from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

I was familiar with ICFJ because many years ago, I participated in an ICFJ Anywhere workshop called “The use of digital tools in public service reporting.” ICFJ remembered me and asked me to become a mentor for IJNet's new virtual mentoring center for journalism entreprenuers in the MENA region. After reading the email, my exhaustion faded.

I had a burning enthusiasm to work with young journalists and reporters on projects that support journalistic entrepreneurship, which is very needed in the Arab world. As a mentor, I was responsible for helping young entrepreneurs from the MENA region improve and build upon their innovative journalism projects.

Throughout the process, I realized there are three steps to success: the desire to teach and learn, the spirit of perseverance and having a clear and detailed plan.

In preparation for the mentoring center, I evaluated applicants' projects from Yemen, Tunisia and Morocco. Once we chose eight mentees from across the region, we looked at their projects to figure out how we could specifically design a mentorship plan that would build their managerial, planning and strategic-digital skills. These skill sets were essential to developing their projects.

The most common challenges the mentees faced were fear of failure, lack of managerial skills and financial problems. Here, we are going to discuss the first challenge: failure.

Fear of failure is a double-edged sword. It can trigger adrenaline into your blood stream and force you to work with agility and passion. Or it can have the opposite effect and cause depression, forcing you to come up with excuses for your failure.

I understood what the mentees were going through because I had experienced the same emotions when I started Alex Agenda Magazine and the Alexandria Media Forum.

When I started my project in 2006, I was terrified. I was nervous I would encounter career instability after I resigned from my previous job, and I feared financial losses. I was also nervous that others would pick on me if I failed. Would my project find its place in the market? Is my future secure? I was panicked.

I am certain that you have attended hundreds of motivational lectures on passion, perseverance and courage – things to which I myself always listen. However, my advice is different than most people's and may shock you: “Do fail. Yes, fall down.”

Learn from your mistakes and failures. If you don't fall down and learn from your mistakes, you'll repeat the same missteps in future projects.

Many factors can cause failure. You need to recognize your fears of failure and refocus them as your allies in order to succeed as a pioneer in the field of local or digital journalism.

Here is a short list of what may cause entrepreneurs to suffer from anxiety:

  • Bad temper
  • Work load
  • Unwilling to accept criticism
  • Negative attitudes
  • Making excuses
  • Vanity

You have to accept criticism and listen objectively to points of weakness in your project and work on them positively, seeing them as challenges rather than defects. You should never succumb to obstacles in the way of fulfilling your dream of having your own journalistic project.

Remember, you already possess a quality as an entrepreneur which distinguishes you and also adds to your points of strength – it is your ability to make hard decisions, which you already exercised by deciding to start your first project. Thus, you are capable of making more difficult and firm decisions, which make you impervious to failure or to the fear of failure.   

Don’t forget that you, as an entrepreneur, possess an internal compass that leads you all the way; this compass will lead to the goal you are seeking to achieve. Your project is the guiding beacon leading you through the darkest nights and roughest seas of challenges. Don’t let failure pull you down. Rise up against failure and let your concerns motivate you to brave failure using all your resources, passion and perseverance.  

Follow Ahmed Esmat on Twitter: @ahmedesmat 

This story was originally published in Arabic. It was translated by Shereen Karadsheh.

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Tom Wachtel.