Failure and/or the fear of it stops people, progress, and maybe even entire countries from moving forward. I don’t have time to deal with the travesties of the world but let’s talk about you and how failure (or the fear of it) is impacting your life.
Example of High Achievers Dealing with Failure
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about Michael Jordan missing 9,000 shots, losing 300 games, and being trusted to make the winning shot 26 times and missing. But hey, that’s Michael Jordan, right? You aren’t even in the league of Michael Jordan so how can that apply to you?
Or maybe you’ve heard how JK Rowling (the famous Harry Potter author) was basically destitute when she started writing the Harry Potter series, writing plotlines on napkins, and in restaurants. She was turned down 12 times before a publisher finally had some confidence in her. But again, that’s JK Rowling, that’s not you, right?
But Your Different, Right?
You can find countless stories just like these of successful people. But you aren’t Michael Jordan, right? Surely, he had some advantage from birth.
Sure, Michael Jordan and JK Rowling may have had some natural talent in their areas of expertise but the truth of the matter is, what really set them apart is they didn’t let perceived failures stop them. They kept working, kept trying, and kept improving. Michael Jordan didn’t let missing the winning shot stop him from taking another shot. And JK Rowling didn’t let one, five, or ten rejection letters stop her from trying again.
It’s all in how they viewed the event.
That missed shot was a failed attempt at making a shot but it didn’t make Jordan a failure as a human being.
Before I sound like I’m on my high horse schooling you on the power of overcoming obstacles, let me just say, I get you. Like most people, I struggle with this every day. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve changed directions, jobs, and homes in pursuit of finding my way. Or how many hours I’ve spent internalizing “feedback,” “advice,” and the judgment of others. Hey, beyond this tough exterior is someone who desperately does not want to fail at anything. And maybe, more importantly, I don’t want others to think I’m a failure in any way.
I got ya. I get it. It’s a struggle.
A Different Way of Thinking About Failure
Everything is practice. Think about that for a minute. Pretty much everything we do is a dress rehearsal for something else. Even if you think you are making the presentation that will change the direction of your life as you know it, it’s really just practicing for the next presentation you are undoubtedly going to make. The fear of failure comes from putting too much emphasis on a specific outcome or event.
We think if we make a mistake, don’t get the job, try to start a business, can’t make enough money, or don’t accomplish some arbitrary goal we set, we have failed. The mistake is how you are assigning value to something – like there is only one chance to succeed. There isn’t. It’s all practice. Life, and every aspect of it, is a practice game for the next event, whatever that might be.
Making a mistake or even a life choice that doesn’t work out is the practice of making better decisions in the future.
We are the ones who assign value as to whether something is a mistake or a failure. Set yourself up for success by calling everything practice.
Practice makes Perfect . . . or at Least Better
In practice, sometimes you make mistakes. The newer the skill, the more mistakes. A mistake is not failure. It’s a mistake. A mistake may come in the form of a decision or an action.
Maybe I applied for the job of my dreams and didn’t get it. That doesn’t make me a failure or “not good enough.” It just means at this moment in time, that is not the job for me. Move on. Maybe there’s an even better job around the corner. Or maybe I need to start my own business. But if I give up trying to figure it out? Well, that’s another situation altogether.
Yep, maybe I had planned to lose 20 pounds this year and it didn’t happen. That doesn’t make me a failure. It just means however I went about practicing to lose that weight was not working for me. Or maybe I didn’t stick to it long enough. But it doesn’t make me less than anyone else or not capable of making it happen. I just need to find another way to practice.
I’m currently trying to figure out how to start my own business. I’ve figured out a couple of ways that don’t work (or at least don’t work for me). That doesn’t make me a failure. It was just practice. I might even at some point decide being self-employed is not for me. That still doesn’t make me a failure. It just means the practice helped me to determine my next step in life.
How Western Thinking Has Shaped Our Beliefs
In America, we are hyper-focused on achievement. We are taught at an early age there are winners and losers and you should want to be the winner. We value the acquisition of things and wealth above people in many cases. This thinking is ingrained from an early age.
Those beliefs drive the fear of failure because in effect when you fail, you are a loser. I’ll challenge you to take another look at your beliefs and see if they are serving you or preventing you from living your best life. I’ve written a couple of articles about beliefs you can read below. If you want to change your thinking around failure, it starts with taking a good look at your beliefs.
While I may be goal-oriented, I’ve come to realize this focus may not be the point of our earthly existence. I’m not so sure we are here to make as much money as possible in our lifetime. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with making and having money. Like most people, I’d like to have more of it. But the constant pursuit of it makes so many people feel like failures. And if it’s not money, it’s a constant struggle with our bodies and the image we project to the world, our professional status, or the pursuit of the ideal relationship.
Let’s Talk About You
Here’s the thing – YOU are NOT a failure! I looked up the word before writing this blog post and I can assure you that your name did not show up in the definition. Even when you fail (a perception you created) at something, failure is not part of your identity. Failure is a noun. It’s not an adjective, describing who you are as an individual. Everything is practice. Some practice means more to us than others but it’s all just practice.
This is one of the most important life lessons we could ever learn. Think of all we could accomplish on earth if there were no fear of failure.
How many times has that fear stopped you from doing something?
Just for today, whenever you make a mistake or start to beat yourself up about something you shoulda, woulda, coulda – remember, it’s all just practice.