I have a crippling fear of failure. I’m nearly certain I’ll fail at everything and be ridiculed by all who see me. This fear keeps me from doing a lot of things that I really want to do. I know what you’re thinking. ‘You have to try things. You have to move past that fear.’ I know that. I remind myself of that every time I decide not to try something new.
Failure is part of growth. How many things have you skipped out on due to failure? I had an idea for a business that helped match job seekers with employers. I bought a domain name. I designed the features. I built the algorithm. Then it was time to test it- I decided that I wasn’t going to cold-call local businesses to ask them to test my algorithm. I have friends that are HR recruiters, they’d love this tool (I think). I was embarrassed to ask them to test it. I assumed they’d tell me it was dumb and never talk to me again.
I heard a podcast from James Altucher with Scott Adams. Scott is a hypnotist and a writer. He asked a very interesting question: What would you do today if you knew you wouldn’t fail? His intention was to adjust my mindset (and the mindset of the other listeners). The adjustment should be toward the positive rather than the negative.
I’m reading a book (yes, I read books). It’s titled The Energy Bus (aren’t you supposed to underline book titles, or is it quotes?). The basic premise of this book is that thinking positively will encourage positivity. The example from this book that sticks out to me the most is that of a new car. When you get a new car, that make and model is seemingly everywhere, right? I bought a GMC Terrain back in 2014. They were very new. I’d never seen one until I got to the dealership. It was really hot, new, hip, and other 80’s words for cool. As I drove off the lot, I saw 3 of them on my way home. 2 people at work have them. The guy down the street has one. The point is, when you think about something, it becomes more prevalent in your life.
Stop thinking about failure. Start thinking about success. Stop wondering how bad it will be. Start imagining how great it can be.
Jay Samit once said, “Get over your fear of failure. Failing is the only way to gain success.” Fear of failure is common among humans. But failure is inevitable. I posted this question on simplelivingforum.net “What would you do tomorrow if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Failure is a part of growth. But, how many things do we keep ourselves from doing because we actually fear failure rather than embrace it?”
“What would you do tomorrow if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Failure is a part of growth. But, how many things do we keep ourselves from doing because we actually fear failure rather than embrace it?”
Here are some of the responses I got:
“I would worry that I couldn’t learn from my mistakes.”
Ok- thanks for the “right” answer there buddy. Jeez- first response and the good one’s already taken.
“Life has handed me detours. Lots of them. But I have not felt that I failed as each adventure was a learning step to the next one.”
This is an interesting perspective. She’s already got the positive attitude calling out that failures are adventures and learning steps.
“I would jump feet first into entering a floral design class. I’m already planning to do it, but it still scares me”
This is an amazing example for all of us. She is scared about something, but she’s also doing it. She’ll overcome her fear and take action toward improving her life. This is classic. I wish I had her gumption.
This is my favorite response. It was from Catherine in Central New Jersey:
“This is a great question. I have a history of fearing failure/sabotaging my success. Two examples: I became passionate about the workshops in Theatre Techniques in Education that I had worked with in college, kind of ancillary to my theatre degree. I decided that my life's work was going to go to classrooms and teach teachers how to inject improvisation and creativity into their classrooms.
So the month after I graduated, I got a call from the guru of this area of study offering me a job as an intern with her group. I turned her job and instead worked as an office girl in a dark, dank warehouse!!!
Example Two: Working for NBC in New York, I decided to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement benefit and apply for a Masters in Broadcast Journalism at NYU. I was accepted, but never went, using my impending wedding as an excuse!!!
I count those two instances in my life as regrets that I have--regrets about my fear of failure short-circuiting my hopes and dreams. I did get over it, but hard lessons learned.
So... today... what would I do if I couldn't fail? Now, for me, the question is, what would I do if I could wipe away my debt--because now it's the debt that keeps me handcuffed, not fear of failure. So in that case, I would not work anymore, but I would travel the country and maybe write about permaculture topics and profile people working in it.
Debt aside, the money devil on my shoulder says "You want to send your grandkids to college" and "you want to have a house on the lake in Vermont" and "You want to be able to support causes" and "You don't want to have to worry about money like you used to" So each of those murmurings is a turn in the screws on my handcuffs. “
Catherine. Thank you.
What Catherine did here was give us some great reasons that we should push our fear of failure out of our lives. The fear of failure will keep you constantly wondering ‘what could have been?’ It’s more crippling than the actual fear.
So what do we do?
The first step to concurring our fears is to think more about courage than security. The reason we’re afraid, as Catherine pointed out, is that we’re afraid of losing our security. She was secure and therefore decided to skip out on a Master’s program from NYU.
The second step is to mentally differentiate Fear and Caution. Fear is going to keep you from doing something. But being practical, or cautious, is not a problem. If you are doing your due diligence and determine something is a bad idea, by all means- don’t do it. But if your practicality muscle tells you that the opportunity in front of you is not going to be detrimental to your well-being and you still don’t do it- that’s fear.
Finally, don’t confuse fear with nervousness (they feel the same in your body). Are you afraid of something or are you nervous about it? Make sure that your fear (if sound) is heeded. But if you’re just nervous or anxious, return to step one and take courage.
What are you afraid of? What’s holding you back? What fear is holding you back? What would you do if you knew you would succeed?