I believe that failure is an unhelpful concept. I’m not even convinced it’s a real thing. In my mind, it belongs in the category of make-believe creatures along with unicorns, dragons, and the Easter Bunny.
Recently, Seth Godin (marketing genius and writer whose lessons surprisingly generalize to many areas of life), made a very wise point in his post, Just the good parts. He feels that when you hit bumps in the road, like a bad break or rejection, “It means that you’re doing worthwhile, difficult work, not merely amusing yourself.” I would add to this and assert that you can’t have success without so-called failure.
In my assessment, there is no way to “fail.” Life is not graded. You can’t get an F. There is showing up and participating, making choices, being accountable, and doing our best. Or there is not participating, waiting for others to make choices for us, and claiming that we are helpless. And every shade of gray in between. Trying and having it not work out as we predict or would like is not the same as “failure.”
In my mind, every time you choose to participate and give the best you can in that given moment, you are being your very best self. You can’t really go wrong. Maybe your grade isn’t so great, or the guy you like turns you down, or you didn’t get the job you interviewed for. But that is never failure. And usually, in the end, it works out better than you imagined.
At the end of the day, if we’ve done our best, we have a better sense of self and accomplishment. We can better accept our inherent strengths and weaknesses. We can begin to cope with the many areas of life beyond our control. Participating fully in life as our real selves with all we’ve got is the bravest and most rewarding way to live. Just showing up and learning from all that life has to offer will always be a winning experience.
Fearing failure is devastatingly counter-productive. It keeps us from putting our best, most authentic selves out in the world. We all lose when others hide themselves and their talents. It keeps us withered and tight, unable to bloom and open.
What could be different in your life if you stopped fearing failure?
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I agree with this post whole-heartedly. I don’t believe in failure. Even when things don’t work out like I planned, there’s usually a good reason for it. If we don’t “fail” we’re not doing enough. I’m trying to teach my kids this concept too. That fear of failure can be a killer.
I agree, Jennifer. If we don’t put ourselves out there to have new experiences, we don’t get to have rich learning opportunities. This is what yields personal growth. Fear of failure is stifling. What a good lesson to teach our children early in life!
People always want help with self-esteem and confidence. I say that you don’t get to have these things until you’ve put yourself in situations to gain them. Yeah, it’s hard and scary, but so worth it. There is no playing it safe if you want to have a strong sense of self.