The last week, I’ve mentioned fear and how I punched fear a couple times. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s the small little voice in the back of your head. Sometimes it’s an external voice, or what I like to call the negative nellies. Either way, fear tries to sneak in every time you think about trying to do something new, especially when that something new is not your norm and outside of the box.
The biggest fear for most people when wanting to do something new is the fear of failure. Maybe it’s our culture that teaches us to see failure a negative. I don’t know.
But I was also reminded of the number of successful people who “failed,” including:
- Steve Jobs – fired from his own company
- Walt Disney – fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”
- Albert Einstein – teachers labeled him “slow” and “mentally handicapped” because he didn’t speak until age 4 and didn’t read until age 7
- Lucille Ball – told by her agent to pursue a new career
- Dr. Seuss – 1st book rejected by 27 different publishers
- Sir James Dyson – went through 5,126 failed vacuum prototypes over 15 years
- J.K. Rowling – lived on social security and was rejected by 12 publishers
- Steven Spielburg – applied and denied 2 times to the prestigious USC film school (he ended up going some place else, but later USC gave him an honorary degree)
- Michael Jordan – cut from his high school basketball team and admits to missing more than 9,000 shots and losing 300 games
- Jerry Seinfield – booed off the stage his first time
- Stephen King – his first novel Carrie was rejected 30 times, so he threw it away (thanks to his wife for saving it!)
But what is failure? Failure is defined as “lack of success.” Well that’s clear as mud, isn’t it? It all just depends on how you define success. Though I’d posit that most define success on whether or not one reaches a previously defined goal.
But this is where it gets tricky. Because sometimes we don’t realistically define the goal. And many times, failure is what ultimately leads to success, because failure means we tried. If you never try, then you can never succeed.
So maybe in essence, we need failure to really understand what success is. Think about this, an Olympic down hill skier who wins the gold medal – how many times did she have to fall before she made it onto the winter ski team?
So, my suggestion is stop looking at failure in the negative. As I mentioned to one person who admitted that they feared failure, take your fear and think about what is the worst that can happen if you try. So your book may not get published the first go-around. But will your family and friends stop loving you? No. Will you not have enough to eat? Doubtful. Will you lose your home? Probably not. Put the fear of failure into perspective and view failure as positive. Because failure means 1) you took the chance in the first place, and 2) you learned something. How can that be a bad thing?