You become a dangerous individual, for all the right reasons and in all the right ways, when you can manage your fear of failure. There are numerous articles, blogs and speeches that exist in the world telling you how to overcome your fears. That’s an incomplete charge. There are healthy and unhealthy fears. Healthy fears keep us alive and ahead of risks and problems. They are to be managed. Unhealthy fears are limiting, and often founded in fiction. Overcoming unhealthy fears is a personal effort and something we should work toward every day.
Here’s a Q&A conversation with a great friend on how to lose, or reduce, that fear of failure.
Q: Why is fear important to recognize?
Fear is real. It’s something we need to acknowledge, to feel. It’s a loud voice warning us something is wrong or danger is close. This is healthy fear. And it will save your life.
It’s a small voice whispering “you can’t” or “it will never work.” This is unhealthy fear. And it will rob you of amazing moments and incredible relationships.
Bottom line – fear is as real as the air we breathe. It’s in our world whether we like it or not. And you have to do something with it, develop your own fear management process … because fear will run you or ruin you if you don’t.
One of the biggest fears is fear of failure. It’s an unhealthy fear. It holds you back from taking action and makes you want to back down from high moments and miss incredible views. You shouldn’t want to quit before you try. You should never lose the urge to adventure and risk for the right reasons and in the right ways.
Q: Is it okay if I fail?
Of course it’s okay to fail. Failing is part of learning and and growing. In fact, programming in time to “try, fail, fix, try again” is critical to progressing in any skill or endeavor. When you fail, there are emotions that rise from the ashes of that moment. Anger, stress, disappointment, confusion, exhaustion … a distorted rainbow that can all serve as fuel for the future. We have to inoculate ourselves to those emotions or they will rule us in the moments we can’t fail. In those pivotal moments, there are 2 battles happening: the skill battle, and the primal emotional battle. We win one by developing tactical proficiency in the challenge or event. We win the other by learning to manage the mind as it responds to the anxiety, frustration, and uncertainty of the moment. Understanding failure’s role in refining skill helps us appreciate it for what it is – Resistance, friction, tension. People who feel failure have more motivation to succeed moving forward. It’s imperative that you manage these emotions, otherwise you may sabotage your success. Without making mistakes, without failure, one can’t learn how to be greater and better than they were prior. These actions are how you conquer those seemingly giant tasks set before you.
Q: How can I conquer failure if it happens?
Ask yourself what you want. Ask yourself where you want to be. Ask yourself why. Why do you want what you want? The “what” and the “why” are necessary for you to conquer your fears. Take that “why”, and use it to make you stronger than your obstacle. Then you face the mistakes that you made along the way. Own up to your mistakes and use the lessons learned as you move forward. Those are just the many “whats” between you and the “why”. The key is to never say no for yourself. Let the results say no for you. Once that happens, take in any relevant information and adjust your actions accordingly.
Q: Does losing count as failure?
Losing is a great way to learn. It depends on your perspective if you think failure counts as a loss. In my mind, competition has 3 outcomes: we lose, we get beat, or we win.
Losing is beating ourselves. It’s not doing the work. Not preparing for the moment. Not managing our impulses and emotions during the competition. I HATE losing.
Getting beat is … well … just getting beat. It happens. Someone has the better day, has more skill, or made less mistakes than you (precision) for longer (endurance.) I don’t like getting beat, but I recognize it as part of the price of competing.
Winning is winning. We don’t need to spend too much time elaborating on this outcome. I’ve met a few folks who do have a fear of winning … but those are unhealthy fears based on deeper issues yet to be taken on.
Q: How do you move forward when you still have other fears?
Adversity is a tell-tale sign of growth. To move forward, you must push yourself and those around you. Let me try and describe it this way.
Having right and responsible healthy fears, and learning to manage and control unhealthy fears (like the fear of failure), makes you dangerous in the best of ways. You’re dangerous to the competition, the adversary, the enemy.
Not having right and responsible fears, and not learning to manage and control unhealthy fears, makes you reckless. Reckless is dangerous for sure. But in all the wrong ways and to all the wrong people. We are an omni-directional disaster … regardless of our talent.
Understand your victories and go after them with the confidence that you will win. When you hit the crossroads of adversity and fear, you have to simultaneously accept and plow through them. Even if you fail, you can at least fail forward, getting closer to your destination.
Q: So failure isn’t a bad thing?
Failure is often viewed as highly negative, but when you broaden your perspective of failure, you’ll soon realize that out of failure, and in a real way ONLY through failure, can come the greatest success.