Fear of Failure

People are afraid of a lot of things:

  • Public Speaking
  • Failure
  • Success (a little baffling, but apparently, it’s a thing)
  • Leadership
  • Making Decisions (and more to the point – living with the consequences)
  • Spiders, Wasps, Snakes, etc.
  • Socializing and Networking

For me, it’s wasps, networking, and failure. I might have thought that after my years at TMC of being knocked down and getting back up, that I was well-prepared for the notion of accepting that some amount of failure is inevitable.

So, fail early and fail often! After all, success is the act of standing on a pile of failures, amirite?! High five!

Top Gun High Five

“Hang in There” Kitty.

All that crap.

I mean, I get it. That’s all kind of true.

But man. Failure feels so personal. It can feel like a passing of judgement. It can make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re in over your head, that you’re not good enough.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re not good enough.”

Maybe one of these days that voice will go away, but I’m starting to think that’s unlikely.

Instead, I try to remind myself that I will fail, I will fail often, and sometimes I will fail publicly.

I will be wrong and people who report to me will be right. I will miscalculate. I will underestimate. I will royally fuck up.

And all of that is the lamest of sauces.

But what’s the alternative? To never take any risks. Never assume any responsibility. Never lead anything. Just sit on the sideline of Life and try to make it from cradle to grave without any scars.

What a waste.

I hate failing, and it keeps me awake at night. But I want the thrill that comes with taking some risks.

So. I’ll make lots of small bets instead of a few big ones to reduce my exposure to large failures, push off high-risk decisions for as long as possible to keep collecting information (“just in time decision-making”), and I’ll resist the temptation to worry about and invest in failures that haven’t even happened yet so that I’m dealing with what has happened more often that what might happen.

And importantly, I give myself permission to fail so that I am less fearful of it.

I will invest heavily in myself so that I am less likely to fail.

I am allowed to hate failure.

But I am not allowed to be afraid of it.

High five, guise.

High Five Fail

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  1. Great post Brian. One of my favorite quotes has some similar themes.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    Theodore Roosevelt

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