This last weekend I had multiple conversations about failure, success, and overcoming the fear of failure. It got me thinking a lot about my battle with the fear of failure and things that have helped me in the past.
For years I wanted to start a business, but was afraid that I would fail. I, just like many others, had heard some of the rumored statistics that the vast majority of businesses fail and was frightened by them. I wanted to step out, but I was longing for some kind of assurance that I would be successful.
Change your perception of failure
The thing that helped me was that I had to change how I perceived failure. I previously thought of it as being black or white. I assumed that you either failed or succeeded and that there wasn’t anything in between.
What helped me was thinking about it with shades of gray. So in terms of this blog – I initially thought that if tons of people weren’t reading it, I would be a failure (black). If they were, I would have succeeded (white). But thinking in shades of gray, the only way for the blog to be a complete failure was that not a single person ever read it. Even if a single person stopped by and read an article, that was a small success, therefore it was a shade of gray. Just having one reader was not my ultimate goal by any means, but it would be enough so that I could say it wasn’t a total failure!
I was intimidated by the big black wall of failure and the tiny white spot of success that I was longing for. Basically what I realized was that I had this very high and lofty goal and in my mind if I didn’t reach it – everything else was a failure. Changing my perception to see shades of gray as varying degrees of success was much more motivating and optimistic.
While it sounds like a minor thing, this mind shift was crucial to me getting over my fear of failure. It was exactly what I needed to take the first step.
Failure is the key to success
We have all heard the inspiring quotes that failure is part of the journey to success, but I am finding that it really is true. This last weekend I was talking to a friend about the success of this blog and he was pretty surprised when I said that it has been just a series of failures. I can’t even begin to tell you all the things I have done wrong with this blog. Any or all of them could appropriately be labeled as a failure – but because of what I learned from them, they are direct contributors to the blog’s “success”.
I am hesitant to use the word “success” because while I reached a major milestone by making decent money with the blog, it is still a work in progress. But the point is that each one of the failures has either taught me what not to do, or what will work better. Honestly, there is no way that this blog would be where it is had it not been for the numerous and continuing failures.
I love (and completely agree) with this quote from IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., “The fastest way to success is to double your failure rate.”
And one more great quote on success and failure…
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
Michael Jordan on failure
I really enjoy Michael’s perspective on overcoming failures. Arguably the best basketball player ever, he was cut from the high-school basketball team. To me, that speaks volumes. When he started, he was not very good – most people who get cut from their high-school teams concede to the fact that they aren’t gifted in that particular sport. Michael chose not to believe that and continued to work at his game – failing, failing, and failing some more. But, he must have failed so much that he figured out exactly how to play the game to be better than the rest of world.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan
For me, part of the process of defeating the fear of failure was making a conscious decision to FAIL. I was so bound up in fear that I wouldn’t take a step forward in any direction. I needed to just a take a step – whether it failed or succeeded, didn’t matter, I just needed to get past the fear of it.
If you are in that situation that I was in, I encourage you to prayerfully look at what God has called you to and don’t be afraid to step out.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7