Fear of failure is a major fear among people. In fact, Psychology Today claims that most of us experience it.* This seems especially true among leaders and managers.
Now fear of failure doesn’t rank as high as fear of public speaking on its own, but isn’t that part of that fear? The fear that we are going to completely make a fool of ourself in front of a group of people in an epic fail moment.
Society puts a high value on success, or at least perceived success. As such, nobody likes to fail at anything. Those moments we do fail, our pride gets damaged, we are embarrassed, we try to deflect, hide, or simply ignore the fail.
Failure is not fun. Whether it is a test in school all the way to a relationship or business, failing is miserable.
So here are three surefire ways to never ever fail…
- Always follow someone else. Only do those things which others are doing or have done and proven effective. Whether in our personal lives or our professions, if we stick to time-tested proven strategies and formulas, we will not fail. We will continue to experience the results and success of those who have gone before. If something doesn’t work, followers are rarely if ever blamed or have to shoulder the responsibility. Leaders, front-runners are the ones who bear the weight and responsibility of failure. Followers just do what is in front of them to do. Even in leadership, if we follow others, we don’t bear the same burden as the ones out front forging the way forward.
- Never ask “why?” When we ask why something is done a certain way or why it is done at all, we are stepping into a realm of potential innovation and risk. This is a formula for possible failure. To avoid failure, we must maintain the status quo. Yes, innovation brings new and exciting ways to do things. Innovation leads to convenience and better, more effective solutions. But, along the way to a working and sustainable electric light bulb was thousands of failures. And, Thomas Edison wasn’t the only one to try and fail. In fact, many others had tried and failed enough that they gave up in defeat. When we ask “why?”we are opening up to the possibility that what is being done or how it is being done might not be best and the better way might have to come from us.
- Stay where you are and keep to what you know. It’s a big scary world out there full of risk and opportunities to fail. The more you attempt to expand your thinking and your understanding, the more you open yourself up to exploration. Exploration leads to risk and often involves failure. Venturing out from where you are is risky. You might fail.
Of course each of these is really the same thing – avoiding risk. That is the only truly sure-fire way to never fail. Any time you take any chance there is the possibility of failure, whether it is something relatively small in the grand scheme of life or it is potentially earth-shaking.
This fear of failure keeps so many people from stepping out and doing something significant, something different, something new. Too many times in life opportunities are missed and advancements not realized due to someone letting this fear paralyze them
This is a real fear…
Atychiphobia – the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure.**
Like all fears, it is mostly about our mind convincing us that the risk isn’t worth the reward. That the consequences outweigh the rewards of going for it.
Failure is not really what we should fear. We should fear the regret of not trying. It is worse.
If we take the approach that every failure is a chance to learn and find a new way, a better way, then failure becomes less of a burden. Back to Thomas Edison. He is quoted as saying that he made up to 10,000 attempts at the lightbulb. Actually, he never said that.*** The exact number doesn’t matter, and is not known as he didn’t keep an accurate track. What matters is that he spent ten years and went through failure after failure before he achieved his goal. He didn’t view all those experiments as failures. He saw them as one step closer to success.
Imagine if he and the others gave up and said it was impossible after a year of trying. Imagine if they let the fear of failure keep them from even trying. You wouldn’t be reading this the way you are. The LED technology that is lighting the screen on your device is only possible because Edison found a way to make an incandescent bulb work and over the next 100 years it evolved into other forms of lighting.
Risk is a part of life. There was an element of risk involved in you standing up out of bed this morning. If you drove any where in a car today, you took part in a very risky endeavor.
I have also learned that the only way to experience new and wonderful, to see new horizons and new heights is to take risks. To do that we have to push past the fear of failure.
- * https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/flourish/201101/the-f-word-and-the-c-word
- ** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atychiphobia
- *** http://edison.rutgers.edu/newsletter9.html