Dealing with the Fear of Failure

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If failure does not lead to a new product, process, or discovery, it should lead to some type of learning. Leaders with developed character regarding failure have the poise to accept it without condemning themselves. Like a good football coach looking at the game films after the big loss, leaders review their failure with acceptance, but ask themselves and others, “What could we have done better? What was wrong in our analysis or system or process? What can we do to change?”

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~ Denis Waitley

Here’s the deal about winning and losing. The difference between winners and losers is that winners lose well (and learn from it), and losers lose poorly (don’t learn from it, and stay stuck in self-pity). As a result, winners lose less in the future and do not lose the same way they lost last time, because they have learned from the loss and did not repeat the pattern. Losers are more inclined to carry that losing pattern into the next endeavor, job, or relationship, and repeat the same way of losing. When you lose, because you will at some point (if you haven’t already), sit with it, understand it, process it, and LEARN from it before going on. That takes strength and depth of character.

That can be you. That is you. Will you see yourself clearly? Will you admit your flaws honestly? Will you leverage your strengths joyfully and passionately? Will you have the strength of character to get back up and learn from it? Mistakes happen. Defeats occur. Failure is inevitable. None of these are dirty words. Rather, they can be signs you’re doing something tough, exciting, and out of the ordinary. Choose to learn from the failure, and get back up.

Fear of Failure Stops Forward Movement

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Fear is the many-faced god – it can take on different disguises. Fear can look like apathy. Fear can look like snarkiness. Fear can look like perfectionism. Fear can look like boredom. Fear can look like excuse-making. Fear can look like blame-shifting (blame, as Dr. Henry Cloud says, is the parking brake for improvement). Fear can be gazing in the rearview mirror living in the past. Fear can cause paralysis.

“The worst danger we face is the danger of being paralyzed by doubts and fears. The danger is brought on by those who abandon faith and sneer at hope. It is brought on by those who spread cynicism and distrust and try to blind us to the great chance to do good for all mankind.” ~ President Harry S. Truman

Some may maintain the hope of forward momentum, but NEVER follow through. Procrastination robs you of your time, productivity, and full potential. “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” ~ President John F. Kennedy.

In his book, In Search of Excellence, author Tom Peters underlines that there’s nothing more inept than someone who ends his day and applauds himself, saying, “Well, I made it through the day without screwing up.” The reality is, that’s what many people do. Rather than pursuing well-meaning goals, they dodge the pain of making blunders and mistakes. Be brave and move forward. Don’t acquiesce to the voice of fear. You can forge ahead and still be afraid. Being afraid and bravery can coexist. I suppose some are naturally courageous and brave, seemingly carved out of heroic rock with an infrastructure of nerves of steel. The reality is that if you have never known fear, then you have never had a requirement for courage. I’m very accustomed with fear, and courage has often demanded of me more than I have wanted.

Here’s the deal: Courage is not a matter of birth. It is an expression of the heart. “This idea that we’re either courageous or chicken shit is just not true, because most of us are afraid and brave at the exact same moment, all day long.” ~ Brené Brown. The reality is that you can’t evade fear. No magic potion will remove fear. And, you can’t wait for inspiration to accelerate you past the fear. Instead, to overcome fear, you have to feel the fear and take action anyway. Will you allow yourself to sulk in self-pity and doubt, or rise to the occasion when you fail…and move forward? Be focused. Don’t allow fear to allay forward movement. When paralysis wants to settle in – take action. Action cures fear. When the slug of procrastination knocks at your door, don’t answer. Instead, move forward. That’s how winning is done.

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