Is Shame Lurking Around The Corner?

    How to maximise stress in your life? By becoming an entrepreneur? How about moving to another country and starting up there? That’s what I did. I took a leap into the unknown and moved to the UK. Paradoxically, I am not suffering from stress, at least not yet. I am very excited and motivated – most of the time (the short black moments of despair do not count as they are very short).

    Leaving behind a more or less guaranteed monthly salary is of course one of the challenging things in being an entrepreneur. At least inFinland there is however another factor that may be even scarier – that is losing face. Running a business is a risky thing. You may fail, you may lose all your money but most of all, you may look really stupid. Someone who steps out to test her own abilities is an easy target to malicious minds.

    We had a chat in Twitter some time ago whether this shame prospect still applies in modern Finland. One entrepreneur said it definitely does – even if he is most successful and knows what he is doing, he thinks the shame lurks around the corner. I think he is right. Fear of being laughed at keeps us at bay in corporate cubicles.

    Why is it then a shame to fail as an entrepreneur? Shouldn’t you just think it was a lesson learnt if you go bankruptcy? I have a theory. Finland has a very agrarian history – still in the 1950’s majority of the population got their earnings from agriculture. And farmers tended to own their land. If they failed, they lost the land (when paying back debts) – and could no longer be farmers. Thus they lost their place in their community. That would have been the end of the world.

    Maybe we have inherited this concept from our ancestors. Failing in business means losing everything. But it doesn’t! A business is just a business. Of course we invest a lot into it. But our identity should include other things, too. We have other roles, which keep our heads above the surface if the actual start-up fails. At least this is the way I keep myself calm during the short black moments of despair.

    How do you feel about this?

    Editor’s note: Guest post by Riitta Nieminen-Sundell, a self-employed sociologist working with futures. She is a Finn residing in Surrey, UK.