Fear of Failing

02 Dec 2015

I have a saying that people who never fail, never do anything. That’s because failing is inevitable. When I heard a student give a brilliant speech on the topic, I asked him to turn it into an article for you. Here you go. Here is Elijah Petty:

We all have places we’re going, and dreams of who and what we want to grow to be, but most of us will fail before we get there – at least at first.

The fear of this failure can cripple us by keeping us inside our comfort zone, when usually our dreams lie outside of it. Unfortunately, failure is unavoidable.

Nobody gets everything right on the first try, but the way we treat our failures is crucial if we want to succeed in the end.

viewprofileimage.d2lWe’re afraid of failure. It’s discouraging, and the higher the stakes are, the worse the letdown is. I speak from experience when I say nothing’s more demoralizing than spending months of hard work to make the most of an upcoming opportunity, and then showing up and doing my best only to find out that my best isn’t good enough. The fear of that demoralizing failure can sometimes stop us from trying – and also stop us from succeeding, because trying is the first step toward any goal.

On the other hand, failure is one of the best opportunities to learn.

When working on one of his inventions, Thomas Edison said, “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”

If you get something right, that’s great, but where do you go from there? It isn’t always obvious how to make something good better, but if you get something completely wrong, you’ll know for sure that what you’re doing doesn’t work and you’ll have to try a new approach.

If you just keep trying, even if you fail a hundred times, you can know that one day you’ll get it. Sooner or later, even if you screw up in every possible way, you will run out of ways to fail and success will be the only option left. That is how we learn from failure: as long as we don’t make the same mistake twice, each failure is a step toward our goals.

Author and public speaker, Jim Watkins, said, “A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Perseverance is the bridge between failure and success, and everyone that has traveled from failure to success has demonstrated that quality.

Take Stephen King, for example: he’s a household name now, but his first novel Carrie was rejected by publishers over 30 times. And while writing it, he got so frustrated that he threw the entire manuscript in the trash. His wife got it back out and he kept at it; that book launched his career.

The way we see failure impacts our ability to persevere. If we view our failures as barriers and let ourselves think they have the power to stop us from continuing on, it’s easy to believe that there’s no point in trying again.

Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts at building a lightbulb before he made one that worked. When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison replied “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” He recognized failure as a part of the process, rather than an obstacle. This view of failure is much more productive than the view that I think a lot of people hold – that if you fail, you won’t be successful. The path to success is paved in failure.

We tend to think of failure as something to be ashamed of; a mark against our pride, against our character, and a sign that we aren’t good enough.

But if we want to succeed, we have to change that perception.

Even for the hundredth time, failure is not something to be ashamed of, but rather proud of, because every failure means you’ve tried, and that’s always the first step – one that a lot of people never take.

The idea that failure means that you can’t succeed is a logical fallacy known as the perfectionist fallacy. That’s a false dichotomy that tries to say that either something is perfect success, or nothing at all.

Hundreds of successful people that were once called failures have disproved that idea.

When you’re on your way to reach your dreams and goals, you’re going to fail. But that’s okay. It’s rarely possible to be a success without being a failure first, so get used to filling those shoes – but wear them proudly, because you’re on your way up.

Every time the Wright brothers built a plane and crashed it into the ground, it might have looked like they were back where they started. But consider this: each time they got closer to the sky!

Embrace failure as a challenge and a chance to grow, and never let it be a barrier.


Royalty-free image by Sigurd Decroos; retrieved from: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/sign-success-failure-1055756




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