Jim's Gems: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

If we never dare to fail, our successes will have a low ceiling, and low reward.

January 28, 2013

 

Fear of failure can keep us from achieving our dreams. The fear of failure is perhaps the strongest force holding us below their potential. It has a crippling effect, but it doesn’t have to remain that way. It can only have this effect if we let it.
 
To achieve, we must care enough to make the effort but not so much that we're afraid to fail. The most valuable results are reached by focusing intensely on what we're doing without attaching our sense of self worth to what we get from it.
 
Of course everyone would like to get the results he or she intended. But it's not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. In fact, it is a powerful step in the right direction. No matter what results you get, you are still capable, you are more experienced than ever, and you are eminently worthy.
 
In a world full of uncertainty, a delicate economy, and countless misfortunes that could happen to anyone, it’s easy to see why many people are reluctant to reach out aggressively and are inclined to play it safe. 
 
Playing it safe, however, has its own set of risks. If we never dare to fail, our successes will have a low ceiling, and low reward.  Most of us underestimate our ability to recover from failure, leading us to pass up valuable opportunities. The ability to fail big and fail often has been a mark of the spectacularly successful throughout history.
 
Imagine what you could do if you could do without worry. Think of how effective you could be if you didn't have to obsess over how effective you were being. Those who accomplish much do so by being unconcerned that they might accomplish little. Sometimes all it takes is an adjustment in your paradigm of thought.
 
When ancient Greek armies traveled across the sea to do battle, one of the first things they did after landing was to burn their ships, leaving them stranded in a foreign land. Without a way to return home, the resolve of the soldiers to achieve victory was greatly enhanced. When success and failure are the only options, you have no choice but to move forward and follow through.
 
If you are afraid to commit, force yourself into action by burning your boat, thereby removing your safety net. For students in my advanced quality science courses, course and exam fees are paid up-front. This is a way to  "burn their boats." It serves as commitment or incentives on their parts, which ensures they are dedicated to achieve something significant. Fear of failure diminishes when you realize it can’t save you.
 
Even if you don’t fully accomplish what you set out to do, there is so much to be gained from the effort. After all, failures are but stepping stones on the road to success. You are uniquely worthy no matter what results you get. Keep that in your mind and in your attitude, and you'll surely get truly great results.

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