Don’t Fear Failure
“Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success…” ~John Keats
Too often in life, we live in fear of failure. Something in life teaches us to be worried about how we look or are perceived by others. Something tells us that we aren’t worth much if we try and fail.
The fear of failure controls us more powerfully when our vision is limited or narrow. We may never, for example, ask out the girl or boy of our dreams for fear that he or she says no. This level of fear comes because our success or failure measurement is based on a narrow view of success – whether one person accepts us or not.
However, if our goal is to find the person that is perfect for us, we do not have as much fear with asking another person out, even if we think that person is perfect for us. If someone says no, it isn’t a failure, it is just a way to know that there is another person we don’t need to consider as we work to find the person that is perfect for us.
Often, our minds form images of the perfect job, or the successful person we know, or the business that is doing well. If we don’t feel that we can live up to everything those views we hold require, the fear of failure may persuade us to not even try.
When I talk to people about why they stay in a job they don’t like, it may be because they are afraid of being able to fit in or make a go of it elsewhere. Or, they may be afraid of what others will think if they leave a ‘good’ job for one that isn’t guaranteed or set. Often, they are simply unsure of whether it will work out, so they stick with something they know (and don’t like), as they would prefer to have something work than to have something that doesn’t.
It has been said that ‘failure is when you give up.’ If you are building a business and are working to secure a new client, you may fail at securing that particular client (when you stop trying to get their business), but it does not mean that you will fail at growing your business. If you define success though with the one client, you may feel like a failure, but if you take what you learned and apply it to getting other clients (and focusing on the bigger goal of building a business), you can still succeed with the business you are building.
Every attempt we make teaches us something. The great baseball players have swung and missed many times. We can’t expect to be good at securing clients unless we swing and miss. We can’t expect to be good at anything without practice or losing along the way.
These losses, misses, or failures are only permanent when we stop trying. We can swing and miss many times. If we have the attitude that we are working for a bigger goal that is defined by more than the person or company we are interacting with, we can view our misses or failures as important steps on the road to success.
Granted, some things merit caution, such as if you are building a rocket to the moon. The rocket should be well tested and tried before putting a person on board. Managing risk is different than never trying though.
Life is full of opportunity, but many of those opportunities require learning something new. To learn something new, we will try and fail, try and miss, and try and lose. Those steps are inevitable.
However, we are human beings with incredible potential and capacity. We can learn more than one thing, and we can learn it well. If we can look at the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish, the misses along the way are less imposing.
In other words, one lost game, one failed sales pitch, one request for a date turned down – these things do not limit our ability to still secure something involved with the bigger picture of what we are working to accomplish. The world is full of opportunity and people. Even if you failed with one or more potential clients, there are quite literally billions of other people with which to interact and try again with.
I have often wondered if one of the traits that defines a successful person is their willingness to try and fail. The road to success is paved with failure, or practice, depending on how you see it.
For example, one of the more famous stories from the Bible is the story of David who fought Goliath, a large giant, with a sling and stone. While David is an example of faith and not fearing failure, there are a few important pieces to note in the story.
David had killed a bear and lion when he was younger. He had other experiences than just fighting a giant. He was also a shepherd boy who likely had to sling many stones during his life. While we do not know for sure, the chances that many of his stones missed their mark is fairly high.
When King Saul gave David armor and weapons to use, David took them off, saying that he had not “proved” them. David though had “proved” his sling, and he knew what he could expect with it.
David did not believe that he would only need one stone to kill Goliath. Rather, he took a number of stones with him, likely because he knew it was possible to miss.
Even though David had likely missed his mark many times as he practiced with his sling, his failures had resulted in successes as well. He knew that given five or so stones, he could hit his mark.
David’s road to his great success in slaying the giant was likely marked with many attempts, efforts, and misses along the way as he practiced with his sling.
It is the same for us. We have to work, we have to try, we have to miss, we have to fail, in order for us to succeed.
We should not fear trying and failing. It is part of the road to success. Success requires a journey. Trying and failing are the steps to our destination there.
Next time you find your mind convincing yourself not to try something, be sure to step up and be willing to try. The fear of failure holds us down. Trying and failing and trying again puts us on the path to success.
At Believe, we are working to build a community of people who are working to change the world, for good. We try, fail, and try again, cheering each other’s attempts, even if not successful in the moment. We would love to have you join us, even if you haven’t succeeded in your goals yet. You still have much potential to change the world, for good.