I’ve been thinking a lot about success and failure lately. I’ve often talked about the idea that success isn’t just about outcomes, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about failure in the same way.
Success and failure are two sides of the same coin
Success and failure are literally relatives to each other. You can’t have one without the other. As a matter of fact, the size of your success will likely be in direct relation to the size of your failures. Failure almost always comes first.
Success is never as sweet unless there has been some big obstacles to overcome, and even some doubt as to whether or not you would get there. Failure always hurts more when you have put your heart and soul into it.
I wrote the quote below several months ago…
“To achieve epic success, it usually means suffering through some epic failures along the way. The question isn’t whether you are afraid to fail, but rather how badly do you want to succeed? Bring it on!” – Kathy Keats
…and I’ve thought even more about it since.
Is failure really that scary?
I sometimes wonder if we make failure scarier than it really is… because we treat it like it’s such a horrible thing, to be avoided and not talked about. I mean, it’s not like we are going to die if we don’t get the job done (at least in most cases). This isn’t the caveman days where failure means we get eaten by a large dinosaur.
There are things that are really scary, but competition for the most part shouldn’t be one of them. So what are you afraid of? What is really that scary?
We never really face the fact that sometimes failure simply means we don’t get what we want or expect, and it hurts and that’s okay. I think it is the pain we are afraid of. It should hurt a bit if we’ve put our heart and soul into it. It means we care. The reason the highs of success can be so high is because the effort, risk and sacrifice is so big. But we are programmed to avoid pain at almost any cost.
Everything can’t be warm and fuzzy all the time. Let’s toughen up a bit. Face failure head on, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. Remember, when you challenge something instead of hiding from it, you take away the power it has over you. Turn failure into a motivator, look it in the face and say ‘bring it on, I’m okay with a bit of pain’, and although this hurts, I will get through it and be better and stronger for it’. It makes failure less scary, makes you more powerful, and sets you up for even bigger successes.
Easy to say, but how do you do that?
How do you make failure less scary?
You need to get out of your comfort zone, and get a bit more comfortable with failure. Top performers never work IN their comfort zone. They get really comfortable with being outside of it. Well, maybe they don’t get comfortable with it, but they do become okay with it.
Top performers are often dealing with levels of risk that would terrify you, but they are also going for bigger successes…and they built up to it, one step at a time. As their skills grew, things that used to be scary became less so because they knew they could handle them. You have to go at it the same way. One foot in front of the other.
How do we get into that mind set of being able to face our fears…?
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt, Former First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt speaks from experience. She did not let her own fears or doubts or the limitations of society prevent her from moving forward and taking action. Each time she did, she became braver and more accomplished. She became one of the most respected and influential people of the 20th century in an era when women were not known for being leaders.
Practice being scared
Do something that scares you every day. Of course, there’s the chance of failure when you do something that scares you, because it IS outside your comfort zone, and it’s probably something you aren’t 100% sure you can do, but learning to tolerate failure in little pieces is what epic success is based on!
Fear grows when you avoid something. The way to face your fear is to confront it, accept the discomfort and move through it and come out victorious on the other side, stronger for it.
Anything becomes slightly less daunting after you have done it once, learned from it, and made it more familiar. That is the trick…things become LESS daunting (notice they don’t necessarily become totally easy) after we’ve done them, but we build up our tolerance in stages.
Fear never goes away
Fear never really goes away, you just learn to manage it better. If you knew in advance you were going to perform well, you would just cast your care and go for it. The unknown is still the unknown, and I think that’s where a lot of the fear of failure comes from.
You will likely always have a sense of nervousness around the unknown, but the more tolerance you develop for the unknown, the less fear you have of it and the more room opens up inside you for challenge and excitement…and SUCCESS.
“Do the thing you THINK you cannot do.”…because YOU CAN.
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