What is failure? To many it is a loss, a show of weakness, and a rejection of our persona so the world perceives an underachiever, or perhaps even a flop. Failure in this context can amplify personal insecurities that can be humiliating in our respective social circles. Not succeeding in something opens the door for criticism, mockery and even “I told you so” remarks. Failure is an emotional fear that strikes at our very core.
Are we born with this fear of failure or do we acquire it somewhere along the way in life’s journey by osmosis, lecture or learning as we interact in our daily social circles? Who have we given the right to have a say in our life?
Babies’ fail hundreds of times as they learn how to walk. Intuitively they know that they can walk so they try, and fall down. They get up and try again only to feel the hard floor again. These babies know they have not succeeded but they also don’t let their unsuccessful attempt deter them from trying to stand up and walk again, and again, and again. As parents we look on, watching their progress with delight, even encouraging them to persist until their equilibrium and all of their tiny muscles are synchronized to maintain balance for forward movement on just two feet. Failure is not an option. These babies don’t have any fear in this process either. Why not?
Failure is a man-made concept. It is engrained as a personal evil in our social talk as we mature so we create barriers and self-imposed limitations to prevent any perceived failures. I often heard in my upbringing:
- You lost
- You can’t do that
- That’s a silly idea
- That was dumb
- That will never work
- You’re not that smart
These remarks can be self-fulfilling prophecies with terminal consequences for our dreams should we choose to take them to heart. Unfortunately, many of the people that we look up to convey these thoughts upon impressionable young minds that cannot put them into proper context. In time, these remarks begin to shape our thoughts, our motivation and our tolerance for risk. The world tells us that risk is bad yet, for the few who embrace it responsibly, it can mean the difference between ordinary and achieving the EXTRAordinary.
In our youth, we believe that we can conquer the world. We don’t know what we want to do but we feel as though we are invincible. Someday we will break loose and become somebody special. As time progresses though, our schools mirror back to us a portrait of how smart we are with our grades in comparison to others, our friends tell us what we can or cannot do and our family attempts to steer us clear into the tried & true patterns of their own experience.
Outside of our social circle, the media portrays successful people who appear to have achieved success overnight. With this imagery, we begin to question ourselves, as we don’t seem to have that magic formula for instant success. We yearn for stardom and acceptance yet our rhythm is not polished and our strengths are not yet honed. Others seem to DO what we want to do so much better and no one is laughing at them. We therefore wait for the right moment, the right idea or the right person who can make our dreams come true.
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will
Social acceptance is often a personal goal. Being a maverick in pursuit of our dreams and freedoms is considered risky behavior that limits our popularity. Consequently, we invariably extract self-worth by being ‘normal’ within the social circle, without pushing the bounds. We are afraid of the risk involved should we fall short. Killing time and being cool are temporal rewards that do not threaten anyone. Yet, we will have truly failed if we do not try.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.
JK Rowling, Harry Potter Author and Billionaire
Failure is nothing more than a stepping-stone to mark where we are and where we are going. Each stepping stone gives us a new vantage point, a new perspective, a new learning and perhaps even a greater strength than we had before. Succeeding means getting in the arena to DO something. Are we willing to forge a new road, can we wash away the obstacles we encounter along the way and persist to reach our own desired promised land?
We can build-up our own self-worth by committing to our own dreams. We stand tall in at least a circle of one while we hone our strengths. After all, it is a good day when you have invested all of yourself for the pursuit of your goal. We need to answer to ourselves first since we are, after all, our own boss forging the life we want to live. Failure is nothing more than a False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR). Our success rate will be the inverse of our failure rate. Increasing our failure rate invariably increases our success potential. Einstein failed a math class yet created one of the most recognizable equations in our century, E=mc2; Edison failed ten thousand times to make the light bulb but you and I use his invention every day; Walt Disney went bankrupt several times but his imagination continues to delight families worldwide; Colonel Sanders (in his 60’s) endured more than a thousand NO’s before someone said yes to his chicken recipe which now feeds millions worldwide. Can you consistently push the limits over time to become the next success?
Leave the naysayers behind who subconsciously try to keep you at “their level.” Hold your head up high and be proud of your accomplishments every day so that in the years to come you never look back with regret, whispering to yourself… “I wish I had.” Business and society need progressive leaders who are responsible, thoughtful and persistent risk takers. Don’t let people stand in your way and tell you what you can, or cannot do. You are the one who has the say on what you can, and will, achieve!
I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept NOT trying.
For more information on failure and how to overcome this self-limiting fear, get my book Wisher, Washer, Wishy-Washy – How To Move From Just Existing to Personal Abundance available on Amazon or at www.WisherWasher.com