Overcoming Fear of Failure
Overcoming fear of failure
crucial for success. For many highly successful men and women who have
accomplished great things in life, failure was merely a stepping stone
to achieving greatness.
Men like Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison understood
that failing to make the attempt is the 'real' failure and that doing
nothing, begets nothing - least of all success.
Likewise, women like Emily Dickinson and Marie Curie did not succeed
initially and had a more difficult time striving towards their
Why then would someone have a fear of failure?
Not knowing what it really takes to succeed.
reason is that many of us are so focused on success and the appearances
of it, that we forget what it really entails. We rarely think about
failure as being a part of life and how many success stories have
emerged from sheer failure. No one talks about how many times Abraham
Lincoln failed at getting elected to office before he ended up becoming
president (8); how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard before
becoming a sensation in the computer world, or how Michael Jordan
failed to make his high school basketball team before becoming one of
the greatest basketball players ever. In these times of fast media and
instant news we often see the glamorous side of success rather than the
obstacles and hard work it takes to get there.
Having unrealistic expectations. We often
expect to succeed on our first attempt at a venture and if we don't, we
think we've failed. How realistic is that? Just because we failed a
test, got passed over for a promotion, or didn't get a 'yes' asking
that cute girl/guy for their phone number, does it mean we will never
succeed at it? Not at all! Yet fear of rejection, or perceived failure,
stops many from trying again.
The same applies in competitive sports. Athletes must learn
to accept loss before they discover what it takes to win. In any sport,
expecting to win from the onset is totally unrealistic. Failure is part
of the process of learning how to win. Likewise, in the entertainment
and music businesses. Most 'overnight' successes take years in the
making before they achieve high levels of success.
In his book Outliers
Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly talks about the "10,000-Hour Rule", in
which he states that the key to success in any field is largely a
matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000
hours. As an example, he brings up that The Beatles performed live in
Hamburg, Germany alone over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing
more than 10,000 hours of playing time. He also points out that Bill
Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when at the age of 13, he spent some
10,000 hours or more, learning programming on a high school computer
that he managed to access.
Needless to say, 10,000 hours of practicing anything would
include many occurrences of failure, some frustration and falling short
Perfectionism. Some of us are afraid of failure
because we believe we must be perfect. If we make an attempt and then
fail at it, we risk looking foolish and therefore feel somehow flawed.
Perfectionists believe everything must be done at a high level
with no room for mistakes. If they can't get something done perfectly,
they'd prefer not do it at all. Unfortunately, this type of thinking
deprives the perfectionist of real learning and the benefits and value
gained from experience.
How to Overcome Fear of Failure
Only by overcoming fear of failure can we achieve success in life. Here
are some tips on how to eliminate fear and focus on success:
- Understand and expect that at times you will fail.
Realize that you are human and humans make mistakes.
Before any of us learned how to walk, we crawled. We got up, fell down,
got up again and continued the process until we could walk expertly.
- Don't take failure personally.
Instead, view it as a stepping stone. Make certain you learn from it
and then apply what you've learned to future situations. Refuse to
consider failing a character flaw or weakness. Doing so will only
prevent you from achieving future success.
- No one succeeds all of the time, probably not even
most of the time. In baseball, star players fail 70% of the
time. Babe Ruth's batting average was .342 which means he struck out
66% of the time. Wayne Gretzky's career shooting percentage in hockey
was 17.57% meaning he missed 82.43% of the time. Wayne is also famous
for saying "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." So it is in
life. You won't fail at anything if you don't make the attempt. You
also won't succeed!
- Remember that 'failure' has produced many
successes. Consider how many people in history had failed
before they became successful and indeed because they failed. Albert
Einstein's teacher told him to quit school because; "Einstein, you will
never amount to anything!" Ludwig Von Beethoven's music teacher said of
him "as a composer, he is hopeless". Henry Ford's first two automobile
- Appreciate the benefits of failure.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "All life is an experiment. The more
experiments you make the better." In other words, your chances of
getting things right on the first try are slim to none. The more
you try, or experiment, the better you'll get at it.
- Believe in yourself. Rather than giving
up when things don't work out, take it as an opportunity to build
perseverance and resolve. Believe that you've got what it takes to work
through the obstacles and difficult times. Remind yourself how many
failures became successful because they wouldn't give up. The wonderful
poem Don't Quit
by Edgar Albert Guest is an inspiring illustration of that
The Benefits of Overcoming Failure
✔ You build valuable experience and knowledge
✔ You build strength of character and focus
✔ You find more ways of being creative and sharpen your problem solving
✔ It gives you an opportunity to redefine your goals
or set upon a new path,
✔ You build flexibility and open mindedness
✔ You increase self-confidence
Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is
achieved." Lao Tzu
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