Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, The Black Farmer

How do you overcome fear of failure in business?

Mental Wellbeing
With Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE, The Black Farmer


Overcoming fear in business is vital. You need to remove the barriers holding you back in order to find success. Read Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE’s incredible wisdom and expert advice on how to make uncertainty your best friend.

Hols wearing a Brave Khaki Denim & Bone Jacket

Why does courage have an important role in business?

Starting your own business comes with unavoidable uncertainty, but it’s in learning to embrace this and letting go of fear that real success lies. It allows you to make bolder decisions, follow your dreams and achieve what you believe in, even against the odds. Holly spoke to Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE on her Conversations of Inspiration podcast. He’s the founder of The Black Farmer and author of Jeopardy: The Danger of Playing it Safe on the Path to Success, and she wanted to find out why and how we must make friends with this uncomfortable feeling.

Who is The Black Farmer?

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones MBE is the eldest of nine siblings, and arrived in Birmingham from Jamaica when he was just three. The family lived in poverty in a small two up two down. From a young age, he was inspired by his dad’s allotment and decided that, one day — somehow — he would have his own farm. Many decades later, with enormous determination and drive, and by embracing uncertainty, he realised that dream — founding a multi-million pound, award-winning business and becoming a best-selling author too.

With a career that spans the army, catering, politics and TV before pursuing his childhood dream, plus a life changing battle with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, Wilfred is no stranger to uncertainty. In fact he says he, “Loves change because change is where opportunity lies.” So, how does he embrace this feeling that we’re so used to shying away from and how can doing so benefit your small business?

How do you overcome a fear of failure in business?

Wilfred explains, “In my book, I talk about how the biggest problem that most people have in life is that they’re addicted to certainty. And in this day and age, where certainty tends to rule the way that we operate, it is causing the greatest damage to people. They are so fixated on certainty and control that they forget that uncertainty is something you’ve actually got to get used to.”

Taking control of your fear

This is often true for those who run a business, or want to start your own business. Anyone who’s left the security of a reliable salary will likely tell you that the most common reaction they got from colleagues, even friends and family, was along the lines of them being brave or asking, “Are you sure?”. Whether a natural instinct or one society has ingrained in us, fear of the unknown, of leaving the norm behind, can hold us back.

“It is the one thing that stops people from actually doing what they want to do, and if they could get rid of that fear, it will then open up the world. That is what entrepreneurs have to do. They’re in control of fear rather than fear being in control of them.”

And those of us who run businesses all know that to actually get the best out of things, you have to make a friend of uncertainty. Because if you make a friend of it, it will open up things that are beyond your wildest imaginings.

Making uncertainty in business your best friend

None of us feel in control of our fear all the time, but just by having the courage to pave your own way, you’ve given yourself the power to change everything. And Wilfred explains that it is only by embracing uncertainty, becoming best friends with it, that change can happen.

“You have to decide whether you want to be or belong. Belong-ers need to operate by the rules of the community. Be-ers are the people who will take the risk that, by being, it will piss off the people who want to belong. All the fear mongers, all of our systems, it’s all about trying to get people to belong. But every entrepreneur has said, no, I’m not going to belong. I’m going to change the path, change the world as it is. And everything that you see and every progress we have made as a human race is because somebody said, 'No, I think we should do it a different way'.”

If you’re following your passion, doing what you love, you’re not doing it to do things the way they’ve always been done. You’re doing it to build your own 'Good Life'. To have creative freedom and do things the way you think is right. As Wilfred says, just by being an entrepreneur you are, “Challenging the perceived order and having to have faith and belief that what you believe is right and everybody else is wrong” (and for more business advice on this, try our library of articles).

Why it’s vital to trust your gut in business

You need the ability to trust your gut and instincts above all else, because you are simultaneously writing and telling your personal story. And Wilfred reminds us, “Your personal story is what is unique to you and, the more people can actually tap into themselves and the uniqueness of themselves, and then sell that, the more they won’t get clouded by the way bigger companies would do it. The biggest mistake that most people make when they’re starting up is to think, well, I worked in corporate life and that’s how they do it there, so that’s how I should do it. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. It doesn’t work like that.”

Whether you’re on this journey for you personally, your family or the wider community, Wilfred explains that the most important thing about bringing about change is having the courage to dream. “It may seem like a very simple thing, but it’s a very Americanised way of being — the British are very cynical when you start thinking that you could dream beyond your own circumstances — but you have to have the courage to say, right, this is what I want.”

Make a friend of uncertainty print
"The biggest problem that most people have in life is that they’re addicted to certainty. And in this day and age, where certainty tends to rule the way that we operate, it is causing the greatest damage to people. They are so fixated on certainty and control that they forget that uncertainty is something you’ve actually got to get used to."
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
Hand painted decoration, by Amy Swann saying the magic is in you

Overcoming fear of failure in business: key takeaways…

Having the right mental attitude and being alert enough to recognise your own uncertainty will mean you’re far more prepared when it comes your way — and able to challenge yourself to be comfortable taking the path less travelled.

1. Embrace the uncertainty of uncertainty:

If you try to control the impossible, you’ll get caught in a battle you can’t win and it will hold you back.

2. Do things differently:

Isn’t that the whole point of starting your own business? Stay true to you and try something new.

3. Be, don’t belong:

Don’t worry about annoying people. It’s the be-ers not the belong-ers who change the world.

Images: 'Brave' personalised cargo jacket — by Denim and Bone, 'The Magic Is In You' decoration — by Amy Swann.

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