How overcoming the fear of failure helped Steve Jobs, Tim Ferriss and Bill Gates succeed

Overcome your greatest fears by using Tim Ferriss' fear setting exercise
Overcome your greatest fears by using Tim Ferriss' fear setting exercise

If the fear of failure is keeping you back from professional goals, you're not alone. Some of the most brilliant minds, including Apple's Steve Jobs, author Tim Ferriss and Microsoft's Bill Gates, have had to address this personal setback.

In fact, they've all proven in their careers that failure is a necessary evil on the road to success. Here's what they've said about the subject over the years:

Steve Jobs said the idea of death motivated him to never fear failure

The late Steve Jobs, Apple founder and former CEO, introduces the iPhone at a conference in 2007.
Getty Images

One of the late Jobs' primary motivations in achieving success, albeit morbid, was realizing that one day he would die. In comparison, failure seemed like nothing. The tech guru even calls death "the single best invention in life" in a 2005 commencement speech.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life," he says. "All fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."

Apple's late founder is arguably the poster child for transitioning from failure to success: The tech mastermind dropped out of college, launched a business, got kicked out of it and later rejoined when it was failing.

Each failure, however, brought Jobs one step closer to Apple's success. The business, which may soon be valued at $1 trillion, has become an iconic brand and was listed as the world's largest tech company, according to Forbes.

Tim Ferriss tackles his fears head on

Author Tim Ferriss
Jemal Countess | Getty Images

The bestselling author, investor and podcast host says he has one simple tool for keeping fears at bay: facing them head-on.

In a June TED Talk, titled "Why you should define your fears instead of your goals," Ferris says, "I created a written exercise that I called 'fear-setting,' like goal-setting, for myself."

Here's how it works: The author documents his fears, lists what may or may not happen as a result of that fear and then writes down what he can do to prevent it. The entrepreneur says that he can trace all of his biggest wins to fear-setting. Why? Because his hardest choices and biggest fears are often what he needs to do most.

In a YouTube post, the author explains what he has learned through all of his experiences: "You need to fail, learn how to fail and condition yourself to fail" in order to find success.

Ferriss says it's important to ask yourself, "Where in your lives right now might defining your fears be more important than defining your goals?"

Bill Gates used failure as a stepping stone

Bill Gates
David A. Grogan | CNBC

The billionaire has alluded to the importance of learning from failure on different occasions and reportedly once said: "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

Gates took an unorthodox path to becoming a sensation in the software world. Like Jobs, he dropped out of college before launching the company that would ultimately lead to his success. But prior to his enrollment at Harvard, the businessman co-founded his first company at age 17, called Traf-O-Data.

Traf-O-Data was a computerized machine company that used a chip to process and analyze traffic data. Although the company was a failure, according to co-founder Paul Allen, the two used what they learned from that experience to create Microsoft.

Microsoft is now valued at $507.5 billion and with a net worth of $89.9 billion, Gates is the richest person on the planet, according to Forbes.

But even at Microsoft, Gates had to repeatedly deal with failure. In 1993, a database project that he thought would be revolutionary didn't work and in the mid-90s, Microsoft's TV-style internet shows on MSN were a flop, he writes in his book "Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy."

The billionaire says that the weight of all of his failures could have made him depressed. Instead, he accepted these challenges and learned from them.

"Once you embrace unpleasant news not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren't defeated by it," Gates says in the book. "You're learning from it. It's all in how you approach failures."

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See also:

The No. 1 reason Apple has been so successful can be traced to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein both attributed their extraordinary success to this personality trait

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