I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. – Nelson Mandela

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs take risks. In academic literature this is often one of the key characteristics that differentiates and defines entrepreneurs. Overcoming adversity is something entrepreneurs have to do on a regular basis such as risking the steady pay check, sacrificing personal finances and a lot of overtime.

In the midst of all the adversity it is easy to forget that it is the greater risk that leads to even greater rewards. And it is the fear of failure that provokes us to choose the ‘safe’ option. In reality there is no such thing as failure, only learning:

Colonel Harland Sanders (KFC), at the age of 65, wound up living in his car and driving to over 1,000 restaurants trying to sell his chicken recipe. It was only at the age of 75 that Colonel Sanders finally sold his chicken restaurant business for a full $15m.

Walt Disney is the businessman behind the very successful theme park “Disney World“, Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for not having good or imaginative ideas.

Bill Gates’, before being the richest person in the world for quite some time, first company failed because the processor they developed didn’t work.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, who fought for an equal and democratic society for over 50 years, was banished to prison for 27 years by the apartheid government. During this time his mother and eldest son died, he was forced to do hard labour crushing stones to make gravel, and was often locked up in solitary when he protested about the inmates’ ill-treatment. But instead of giving in to failure and fear, Mandela decided to learn Afrikaans – the language of his oppressors, he studied law, Shakespeare and any other materials he could find, he learnt. He explained to confused friends and fellow inmates, that one has to understand his enemy to be able to accommodate him.

The same can be said for any entrepreneur facing adversity in the workplace: each obstacle, every failure, and all the stumbling blocks are opportunities to learn.

Failure is not the enemy, giving up is.