Book Extract | Side Hustle: No one cares about your failure – seriously

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Entrepreneur Nic Haralambous has spent 20 years building businesses, learning the hard lessons and figuring out what it takes to launch a side hustle. Picture: Supplied
Entrepreneur Nic Haralambous has spent 20 years building businesses, learning the hard lessons and figuring out what it takes to launch a side hustle. Picture: Supplied

Book Extract

Entrepreneur Nic Haralambous has spent 20 years building businesses, learning the hard lessons and figuring out what it takes to launch a side hustle. In this book, he helps you take the first steps towards that side hustle you’ve been dreaming about.

In this extract, Haralambous talks about failure and how “failings” or “mistakes” are in fact not the end but rather the middle or beginning of something great.

Nic will be giving away R1 000 a day for anyone wishing to start a side hustle.­ Enter here:   

How to Start a Side Hustle: A playbook for a new economy

By Nic Haralambous

Tafelberg/nb Publishers

180 pages


Reframing failure

Lots of people are afraid of failing. In fact, this is probably one of the main reasons you are reading this book. Fear of failure can be crippling and prevents millions of people from starting something new every day. Fear of failure is the reason you don’t tell that guy you’ve loved since high school that you love him. It’s the reason you don’t pitch a great idea to your boss, the reason you don’t speak up when you have something to contribute and the reason you seek comfort instead of discomfort.

Humans are scared of failing.

I don’t particularly understand this experience of life. Living with a fear of failure is akin to living with a fear of breathing for me. Failure is not something that I see as a negative and this is a key framing that helps me move on when something doesn’t work.

I recently launched a podcast called The Curious Cult Show. In it, I interview incredible and accomplished people about their curiosity. One of the questions that I ask every guest is how they cope with failure as an integral part of curiosity and innovative invention.

Almost everyone so far (the founders of Electronic Arts, Moz, Starbucks, Prometheus Fuel and many more very successful people) have stated that they don’t really see 125 mistakes as failures. They see mistakes or “failings”, said another way, as learning experiences. I love this perspective and it shines through when you speak to people who push the boundaries of normalcy and aim for something new and different in their lives.

Read: Book Extract | Towards inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship

The most accomplished, brave and incredible people I know don’t see failure in the same way as most people. Failing is merely the step before learning and improving. Here are some of the ways in which you can deal with what would traditionally be thought of as failure:

Your self-worth is not your work

You are not the work that you do. You are not the idea that fails. You are not the side hustle you build. If your work implodes, your company goes under, you suffer a professional setback or something goes awry it is not an indictment of your personal worth. It’s just the next step in the process of evolving your side hustle and refining your skills.

When your self-worth is pegged to the work that you do, you are destined to feel like a failure because every side hustle suffers setbacks (what others might call failures) and when you do eventually fail you believe that this is a reflection on your self-worth when it isn’t. Your self-worth should not deflate when you don’t succeed. Remember, failure is not the opposite of success – not trying is the opposite of success.

Avoiding failure because you are trying to protect your self-worth runs deep into how you value yourself. When you avoid failure because the only way to feel valued is to succeed, you start to verge into the territory of ego...

Your ego is your issue

When you do make a catastrophic mistake (and you will), you think that people will look down on you, mock you and berate you. You believe your ego will be damaged. You believe that people will second-guess your choices and they’ll make you feel like crap if you let them. That’s on them, not on you. That’s their shit, not yours. Feeding your ego is a good thing but you must feed it with learnings, experience and effort, not with the validation of people who aren’t even trying in their own lives. Don’t take criticism from people not being brave with their own lives.

You let these things damage your ego because you define your self-worth by your work. If you do this, your ego will be damaged when your work suffers a setback.

It’s imperative that you understand that making mistakes is part of the process. A life lived without failure is a life lived in caution, without risk and without giant leaps of progress. A life lived without failure is no life at all.

Read: Akosua Acheaw: Beauty business boss

Rethink failure

Failure is not an end point. Failure is a through point.

Mistakes, missteps and negative results are simply the next step in the direction towards success. Here’s a thought experiment to help you rethink the impact of failure on your life.

Ask yourself: Will I die if my side hustle fails?

I mean that in the most literal sense of the word “die”. If you start your side hustle and it fails, will you die in the instant that you realise you have failed? It’s unlikely – and, if you will die, I suggest you think of a different side hustle to start.

It feels like “you’ll just die” if this doesn’t work out but trust me, I have failed a lot and I’m writing this book. I didn’t die and you’re reading this book of mine. I dusted myself off and learnt the lessons that led me to my successes.

Think long-term

When you think short-term, everything can seem like a failure. If you set your goals in longer batches of time, like quarterly, annually or even in years, then the day-to-day mistakes and failures seem less important as definitive failures and more relevant as learnings.

If you think today matters more than any other day, you’re placing too much importance on a single move, a single day, or a single mistake. Success is the culmination of a collection of moves, corrections, lessons and mistakes that you actually make. Remember, the opposite of success is not trying. Success is not one big move, it’s not one big exit, it’s not one of anything. It’s lots of little things that accumulate over many years of consistent hard work.

Set your sites on where you want to be in five, 10, 20 years and then start making moves in that direction.

No one cares about your failure – seriously.


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