I often want to leave my ongoing lucrative & comfortable job and start something of my own. But then I get stopped by the thought that, what if it fails?
What kind of mental trauma / setback one faces when the dreams get shattered and one might have to close that account. Does it affect socially also? I would be more anxious to know any real world experiences; faced by self or friends.
Your question is the primary reason most people don't go to a startup.
If you are comfortable and safe where you are, why risk it, is usually how people deal with talking themselves out of the risk and potential failure.
I have been at 5 start-ups. Two of which failed, two are still around and one got bought. The emotions I went through on the first failure were pretty awful. Most of the feelings centered around my disappoint in my own performance and how others would see me as a failure.
It turned out, I was way too hard on myself.
Those emotions turned out to be self-centered. I was naive as to how others would look at me. It turns out, no one really cared. My real friends were supportive and helped me find another gig. Sure, people asked why it failed and some acquaintances thought I was a loser but who cares. The people that mattered most just wanted to help and see me get back in it.
You realize that most people want to take the risk but are too afraid to try. That's why they might give you a hard time about failure. In reality, they envy you for trying. They rationalize like you did about the "stable and safe job." In reality, none of us are safe in our jobs.
I have countless friends who have been at their "stable" jobs and got laid off. Poof, 20 years at the company gone. The sad thing is, they got comfortable and now finding something new is a lot harder.
Your real friends and colleagues will not think negativity on you if your startup fails. The world is full of failed startups. Every successful entrepreneur has had a flame out -- it's part of the rights of passage.
The potential failure should not discourage you from giving it a shot. It's not how many times we fail -- it how many times we get up and try again that matters.
Don't get me wrong. Shutting down a company is painful but not the end of the world. You learn, you grow and you move on.
I've started two businesses. One that was partially successful for a few years, but ultimately failed, and another that never got off the ground. I'm now on my third business, and hopefully have learned from the pain of the other two.
Making this decision is very personal. It can be very painful. I had a tremendous amount of bitterness from my first failure, and quite frankly, it impacted my attitude at the "regular job" I took afterward. But part of that bitterness is that I felt like I let myself down and went back to a "job," which I had promised myself I'd never do. Being back on my own after almost 11 years has resulted in me being happier than I've been in a couple of decades. It's hard, but it's always been my ambition. I may fail, but I consider my 11 years back at a regular job my real failure.
My point is -- if you really have ambitions to start your own thing, you'll only regret it if you never try. It's way too easy to become comfortably numb (not just comfortable) at a lucrative job. But you can still be miserable inwardly while you appear successful outwardly. You only live once. Plan well, and go for it. The pain of regret is much deeper than the pain of failure. And if you are doing well now, there's no reason you couldn't fall back on another successful "job" if you find yourself between startups.
I've written some articles on my blog somewhat related to this, framed around my own experiences (check my profile for the link).
The only difference - and I mean only difference - between those who succeed and those who don't is that the former let nothing stand in their way. Setbacks are natural and valuable experiences, and the ability to weather those early setbacks and keep going is critical for startup entrepreneurs. Seconding Don Wallace: mental toughness. That characteristic is the #1 ingredient for success.
Just approach it with the patience and work ethic of a 19th-century farmer whose livelihood and family security hinges on the ear's labor. Focus on the work, be pragmatic and if you screw up, try again. That is the most you can ask of yourself.
The pain of failure will be proportional to the amount of commitment you make to your startup. If you want to dance with the most beautiful girl in the room, it may hurt a little if she turns you down. If instead you intend to marry her and she jilts you, it hurts a lot worse. So make less commitment if you want less pain. Wait, that sounds like pretty bad advice (because it is). If avoiding pain is a major issue for you, starting a company is not going to be an enjoyable experience for you and failure would make it downright awful.
If you have no "callouses" from past failures, I can tell you from experience that the first one can be pretty traumatic. Why did I even try again after that? Because I am naturally entrepreneurial. If you are not, that first jolt will send you straight back to working for the welfare department.
People won't think less of you for failing at a start up. They might think less of you for leaving a stable job though. Of course, who cares what they think? If you have the stuff to be an entrepreneur you are already unconcerned about what "they" think. If the opinions of others is that important to you, even a successful startup might be hard on you.
There is no reason a failed startup should be equated to "shattered dreams". Do you really have only one dream/idea? Again, then you are no entrepreneur and this game is probably not the one for you.