Atychiphobia. Definition: the fear of failure. Even if you don’t have an actual phobia, you can probably relate to the anxiety, disappointment and embarrassment that comes from failing at something after trying so hard to make it work. But was it just a waste of time? Not at all. Michele Meek, author, filmmaker, professor and founder of New England Film, says there’s hidden value in attempts that end in failure. That’s why she started the Mastermind Failure Club, a support network that encourages entrepreneurs and artists to tackle seemingly impossible projects. Now, she wants to offer you a guide to help you build your own club.
“The Mastermind Failure Club provides a brave space where you can take on ambitious goals. You’re not always going to succeed, but you’re ready for that and can rely on community support from the group,” said Meek.
The intersection of business and failure
Meek started the first Failure Club with entrepreneurs and other creative colleagues in 2017 to discuss their outlandish goals. Writing a best-selling book? Making $150,000 in profits this year? Selling your business to Amazon? They’re all on the table.
“By articulating your goal, you start asking important questions. It gets you thinking about what you would need to do to achieve it. It causes you to break it into steps that become a little more manageable,” said Meek. “You might not get all the way there. But you’ll get much farther than if you set a modest goal.”
How the Failure Club works
Meek’s group meets every week for two hours. Together, members provide a space for brainstorming, troubleshooting and accountability. Sometimes, it involves pragmatic conversations – getting feedback on a website or pricing sheet. Other times, members ask for advice on how to grow their customer base or improve their social media marketing. Often, it involves a healthy reality check. Meek said that she found this particularly helpful.
“Early on in the group, I realized that the project that I set out to achieve wasn’t possible because I had way too many projects at the time. I needed to scale back,” she said. “That was a big wake-up call to me. I didn’t need help with succeeding at something – I actually needed help with failing at something and letting go of a project that wasn’t right for that time.”
Creating your own Mastermind Failure Club
Meek wrote “The Mastermind Failure Club,” a short e-book to walk you through the steps of making your own group. In it, Meeks provides tips for gathering members, how to structure meetings and the overall mission of a Failure Club. The goal is to provide regular meetings where you bring whatever you want to the table, no matter how ambitious.
The pandemic inspired her to write the book. Meek saw an opportunity to help isolated entrepreneurs connect. Solopreneurs often have to make decisions in a vacuum without feedback. She compares the Failure Club to a board of advisors ready to help.
“I really do think that this concept is for anyone, but it’s especially important for people who have creative or entrepreneurial endeavors,” said Meek.
Read our feature on “The Mastermind Failure Club” for more details.
Why do we fear failure?
Failing makes us uncertain and defensive. Meek says that it can be hard to get past that block – especially in America, where success is often quantified by money, fame or followers. The problem is that there’s always someone doing better than you. That can leave you feeling inadequate.
Meek also pointed out that women experience failure differently and are under more pressure to succeed. She compared the stories of filmmaker Wes Anderson, who was continually funded despite a box office flop, and Maria Maggenti, who struggled to find investors even after the critical success of “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.” Failing at any point likely would’ve killed Maggenti’s career.
“When talking to women filmmakers, they said that it was hard enough for them to get funding when they were successful,” Meek said. “When a male filmmaker has one or two successes, they’re set up for the rest of their career. If a female filmmaker had one or two films that bombed at the box office, they were ‘off the list,’ even if they had other successes.”
How women can embrace failure without fear
We often hear that an empowered mindset and positive thinking are everything. Meek called this a good first step, but it won’t immediately lead to success. Instead, she felt that having community support was crucial.
“That’s why I think that the Mastermind Failure Club is so essential. Without that, you’re in your head a lot. You’re left with the negative voices that have been passed down to you from society: Can you really do this? What’s your place? Will this make enough money?” she said. “Getting the sense of community replaced all those voices in my head. Instead, I have these other women’s voices who say that I’m doing the right thing, or that I’ve thought this through. I get so many little bits of wisdom from them.”