I was trying to think of how many times I’ve failed in my life, but who can count that high?
The interesting thing about fearing failure is that most of us do, and most of us pretend we don’t. I have absolutely no data to back up that statement, but I’d still be willing to bet on it.
Do you get up in the morning and think, “I would do X today, if I did not have a fear of failure”? Of course not. Fear of failure insidiously hides in the shadows, and disguises itself in many other costumes.
“I’d like to do X, but I just don’t have the time”.
“I’m going to do X, as soon as A, B, and C are ready and perfect”.
“I might try and do X, but I’m not going to tell anyone in case it doesn’t work out”.
The problem with all of those is that they lead to same result – inaction. X never happens. And you never know what potential wonderful results could transpire if you had just gone ahead with it.
Fear is an obstacle to everything. So here are my top three reasons not to fear failure:
Everybody Does It
Sometimes extraordinary people do extraordinary things, and you can’t help but think “I could never do that”. But failure? Everybody fails at something, as some point. From minuscule disappointments to catastrophic life altering events, failure surrounds us. So what is there to fear? Take comfort in numbers. Try something and risk failure. If the worst happens, so what? You’ll only have done what everybody else has.
Look beyond the surface of some famously successful people and you’ll see a path littered with failure and rejection. Michael Jordan was didn’t make the cut for his high school basketball team. Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school. Walt Disney was fired by an early newspaper editor for “lacking imagination”, and his early businesses went bankrupt. How different their journeys would have been had they let it stop them in their tracks.
It’s Unavoidable Anyway
I was trying to come up with an example of how you could live a life without risking failure. And I just couldn’t get there. Maybe someone smarter than me knows the answer to this. Relationships and careers require leaps of faith and have their own inherent risk of failure. But even the smaller day-to-day details of living involve some risk.
Do you ever cross the street? Even if you limit yourself to well-lit, marked crosswalks, you’re still taking a risk. Is it risking failure? Maybe a careening car comes around the corner, and runs you over. Not your failure. But maybe just after you step off the sidewalk, you glance down at your phone, ever so briefly, just to see who sent that text, and then the careening car comes around the corner, and hits you during a moment of distraction that took away your opportunity to avoid becoming roadkill. Well, then that’s on you.
No Lessons, No Learning
Ever hear the expression, “It builds character”. I used to hate that expression. During certain periods of my life, I recall thinking, “Ok, I have enough damn character now, thankyouverymuch”. But I’ve learned to appreciate the truth of it.
Failing, falling, stumbling and tumbling are how we learn. You see this repeatedly, whether it’s among kids on the playground or executives in the boardroom. Those that took their knocks and got back up again have a resilience and sharpness that is completely lacking in those that led a protected, sheltered, everything-must-go-my-way existence.
Acceptance is Progress
And since everybody fails, and since it’s unavoidable anyway, maybe it’s better to get comfortable with failure. If you never suffer the consequences, how can you ever improve?
“Accept failure, understand it, learn from it, and ultimately, move on from it.”