Fear of failure is one of the most popular reasons people cite for not doing the things they want.
But, trying to avoid failure is, in fact the one thing that helps us avoid success. That’s what this post hopes to help you understand.
The History of Failures
Firstly, you need to understand that failure is a fact of life. Believe it or not, the most successful people in this world are those who failed the most!
Some of the most brilliant minds of our time got there because every time they failed to achieve the result they wanted, they looked at it as another step closer to getting it right next time.
When Thomas Edison had developed the first truly useable incandescent light bulb, he was asked how he managed to continue in his work when he had had so many failures? His answer was simply that he’d had no failures, but he’d discovered a thousand ways his light bulb wouldn’t work!
It’s very easy to lose heart and give up after your fantastic idea appears to fail at every hurdle, when in truth, the only time you can really fail is when you stop trying.
As an example, let’s use a simple idea that almost everyone has experienced; How many times would you let a baby try to walk and watch them fail, before you stopped them from trying and just accepted that this baby was just never meant to walk?
I assume that your answer would be you’d never stop them trying! So, is it any wonder that babies eventually walk?
So, why is it that as adults we all just stop trying when the going gets tough?
Unfortunately, as we grow older, our parents, our extended family, our friends, our teachers and mentors, etc. all teach us, through their own belief structures (even thought it’s usually not done deliberately), that only a select few will ever make a real success of their lives and everyone else just has to be satisfied with the situation they’ve been given.
Very often as children we’ll hear our parents etc. say things like “children should be seen and not heard” and “You should only speak when you’re spoken to”. Is it any wonder so many of us are introverts with little or no self-confidence?.
You may also hear things like, “money goes to money”, or “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”, or “of course he’s successful, his family have money so everything’s handed to him on a plate”. Get the idea?
The truth however, is that anything that’s been done by anyone previously, can be done by you!
I realise that sounds like a rash and over simplified statement, but think about it. Everybody starts off their lives the same way, they can’t talk, think for themselves, walk, eat without help, or even control their own bladder, yet some become Astronauts, groundbreaking scientists, or World leaders, while others become homeless, or murderers, or drug addicts.
In the main, these people, whichever end of he spectrum they’re at, got there because of three things;
1. The belief structures imposed on them by their family and peers, etc.
2. The decisions they decided to make based on those belief structures.
3. Whether they imagined it would cause more pain than pleasure to change their circumstances.
Oprah Winfrey, was born into poverty, the Daughter of an unmarried teenage Mother. After her birth, her Mother left Oprah with her Grandmother in rural Mississippi and left. Her Grandmother was so poor that she couldn’t afford to buy clothes and Oprah had to wear dresses made from potato sacks. Also, she was often beaten with a stick for not doing her chores, or behaving badly. She freely admits she was raped at eight years old and that she’d been molested by her Uncle, Cousin and a family friend. On top of that, she also became pregnant at 14. When most ‘normal‘ people would curl up in a corner and wait to die, she decided that she deserved better and fought tooth and nail to get herself out of her situation and lead a more powerful existence.
The Forbes’ international rich list has Oprah listed as the first black woman billionaire in world history and in 2013, she regained the No. 1 slot on their ‘List Of The Most Powerful Celebrities‘
Nelson Mandela, or to give him his full Title, His Excellency Nelson Mandela, OM AC OC GCStJ GCH RSerafO NPk,
had a huge advantage on most people’s upbringing. Born to the Thembu royal family, he was afforded many things that were unimaginable to the masses of South Africa at the time. He studied law and became involved in anti-colonial politics, joined the ANC and became a founding member of it’s Youth League. After being unsuccessfully prosecuted for treason in 1961, he was arrested for leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government in 1962 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Even though he spent 27 years in jail for speaking his truth, when he was finally released, he didn’t see his incarceration as an end to his political career, instead he saw it as the beginning of a new one and before he sadly died in 2013 aged 95 years, he had gained international acclaim for his activism and had amassed over 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin.
All of this was achieved because even though he’d been locked away for more than a quarter of a century, he decided that the end result would bring much more pleasure for the masses, than any personal pain he was feeling.
There are some great quotes from some very wise people regarding what most of us refer to as failure;
Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to try again more intelligently”.
Oliver Goldsmith said “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall”.
Michael Jordan when asked about his immensely successful basketball career replied, “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot… and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s exactly why I succeeded.” and finally,
Soichiro Honda said “Many people dream of success. To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection”
The moral here is simple, never give up on your dreams. They may take a little longer to achieve than you expected and you’ll probably have to change your approach more than once to get there (sometimes many times 😉 ), but keep at it, never give up and most importantly, believe in your abilities!
Simple Steps to Embrace Your Failure
1. Simplify the project:
Many times, it’s simply that the project is so big, there seems to be hundreds of ways things can go wrong. Don’t make the route to success so difficult. Break the project down into smaller steps, then break them down even more.
That way, even if you fail at one particular step, the complete project isn’t ruined. You just have to try a different way of completing that step.
2. Accept that you’re going to fail sometimes:
The path to success always comes through failure. No one ever knows the best way to do everything. You can only learn and get better, by looking at your failures and planning new strategies based on your findings.
Everyone fails. The most successful people are the ones that accept the failure and learn from it.
3. Visualise possible obstacles:
Whatever your project is, you probably have a good idea where many of you obstacles are going to come from. Write down as many as you can think of, then think of possible resolutions to them.
With this ammunition already in your arsenal, you’ve already prepared yourself for most of the likely issues.
Do you have any tricks, or suggestions for surpressing the fear of failure? Share your views in the comments, I’d love to hear them.