Being Afraid of Failing is Worse Than Failing

Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team; Colonel Sanders got rejected 1009 times before he got a yes, and it took Thomas Edison 10,000 times to perfect the light bulb.

You have probably heard at least one of these and agree on an intellectual level that failure is common. Why is it so challenging to experience?

There’s an evolutionary reason failure can be so painful for us. If an early human made a mistake, that often meant death, or getting kicked out of the tribe, and then... likely death.

Now, thousands of years later, in a much safer world, when we mess up a presentation, we won’t die, but our brain isn’t great at telling the difference.

This biological programing is why failure can be so uncomfortable. Here are a few ways to look at failure in a more helpful way.

It’s how we learn:

When a child learns how to walk, they fall continually. Failure is the process.

When I was first in a leadership position, I was terrified of things going wrong. When they did, I would get down on myself. As I read more on the subject and talked to other leaders, I learned that failure is part of the process to get to success.

It’s temporary:

One of the most dangerous traps with failure is your internal dialogue around it.

If something goes wrong and you tell yourself that you are a failure, that isn’t helpful at all. That just makes you feel bad about yourself, and fear taking risks. A better viewpoint is to tell yourself “I failed” that is a moment in time, doesn’t define you as a person and makes failure a temporary scenario, not a character trait.

Don’t worry about what other people think:

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Nobody thinks about you as much as you do.

Nothing holds us back from trying new things, like the fear of what people are going to think. I’ve found that most people who really tear others down do so from a place of insecurity. I’ve always subscribed to the Dr Seuss approach. “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter”

Failure isn’t the destination, it’s part of the path to success.

Go get out there and fail.