Community//

Fear and Failure: A Toxic Relationship

How to turn failure from foe to friend

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failure try success
failure try success

The perceived inevitability of failure can often totally halt us in our tracks. That gut-wrenching fear that things might not work out. That panic when you’re about to submit your final product. Those feelings can feel like colossal malevolent entities casting deep shadows over any possible positive outcomes. By changing my own perception, I managed to alter the impact of failure on my personal and professional life. Failure is not a foe to be feared, rather a friend to be embraced. 

The first step on any good self-help program will relate to becoming aware of the problem. Realizing that failure is a part of success is key. In fact, failure is so integral to success that, without it, success will likely evade you entirely. Without failure, there are no opportunities for us to improve; no means for us to be made aware of our weaknesses. Failure is a friend, and a dear one indeed.

A person who believes they have never failed in life is either surrounded by sheepish yes-people or lacks the self awareness to recognize a learning opportunity when one presents itself. We all fail sometimes, and I for one find something reassuring about the fact that we can all share in our collective failures. 

Regardless of whether you’re a perfectionist or more spontaneous with your decision making, you’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to fail. A spontaneous person might spend a few months preparing a plan to have it fail upon execution. A perfectionist could spend years fine-tuning every pip and screw of their first foray to have that also fall to pieces upon implementation. Both have learned something from their failures, but the spontaneous person was faster to the realization that failure is a learning process. I prefer the more spontaneous end of the spectrum.

Every failure is an opportunity to make the chances of success even higher in the next endeavour. Take a look at the profile of any of the highest achieving entrepreneurs and you’ll find that it’s smattered with mistakes and failings. Elon Musk, arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time said…

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

Remember that time he threw a brick at an “unbreakable” car window… and the window cracked like an egg? The world was watching as he failed, and the internet had its way with the footage, but what happened to Musk? Did he allow the shadow of failure to consume him and throw in the towel? Of course not. He laughed it off, cringed a little, and then made a better, stronger window. TESLA’s stocks have had a great year despite the calamity of COVID-19; I bet if you asked Musk he’d chalk up every dollar he owns to the lessons he learned from the failures in his past. 

Don’t fear failure, embrace her. She might seem a brash coach in the beginning, but one day you’ll turn back and thank her for all that she taught you.

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