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Posted by Lauren Barham on September 27, 2017

Fear is a far bigger danger to us than what we are afraid of. Fear can stop us trying. Fear can stop us experiencing. Fear can stop us living.

Everyone is frightened of failure. But the amount we fear it can be paralysing. We can continually worry what people think about us, worry about our abilities, believe we will disappoint people and they will lose interest in us. We self-sabotage by telling ourselves and others in advance that there is no chance of succeeding and often put off our preparation so that we do not perform to the best of our abilities. 

This fear is a waste of time. Because however much we fear it, it will not stop us failing. Absolutely no-one gets through life without having failed, without having made a red-face mastake at some point. 

But failure is simply the necessary polar opposite to success. What sets people apart is the way they deal with both the prospect and the reality of failure. As Denzel Washington said in his famous speech to the University of Pennsylvania, “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.  If you don’t fail, you are not even trying”.

We can look at all the famous people who have failed along the way.  Difficult to believe now that Katy Perry only sold 200 copies of her first album and was dropped by three record companies in a row. Strange that Stephanie Meyer had the Twilight series rejected 14 times prior to publication.  Or that Harry Potter was rejected by 12.   Incredible to think that Sir James Dyson persevered through 5,126 failed prototypes before making the one that became the best-selling bagless vacuum in the US and one of the biggest world wide.  It is extraordinary to think that Steven Spielberg was rejected (twice) by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.  Inexplicable that Liv Ullmann was rejected by Norway’s state theatre because she “had no talent”. Or that Steve Jobs was once removed from the company he created.  Look at any successful person and you will find the failures they have overcome along the way.  

We have to reject this notion that we have created that we must be perfect. Perfectionism is now a widespread desire, but we have to accept that we are not perfect. Humans were simply not made that way. And while many of us might yearn to be, the reality is very far from that ideal.  Instead, we need to accept that we will fail and that it is part of living and part of being human. But it is also part of success. When you view fear in a different way, as just a part of the journey to success, it can dramatically change what you are willing to do.

Rather than becoming paralyzed by fear, we need to spend time pro-actively embracing fear, and practice doing something new, every single day, to build our tolerance to both fear and to failing. If you fail, look at what went wrong so you won’t make the same mistake twice, and move on.

This is a core difference between mindful and mindless failure. Failing’s real danger lies in our own capacity to fail to look at the reasons and to go on failing in the same way.  If we are open to failing and embrace it, then we are open to learning from it, and can look at it as a learning process and part of our mindful journey.   

Once we lose all the energy we put into worrying about failure, we have much more available to apply to succeeding. If you are struggling to get past a failure, there are many simple steps you can take to help.  

  • Look again at your reason for attempting it, because if your reason is not good enough, it is virtually impossible to succeed.   
  • Look at the reason you failed and learn from it and celebrate the learning process
  • List out your own strengths and remind yourself that nothing has changed about those
  • List all the good things that have come out of it. If you have made an idiot of yourself in some way, there are always friends to laugh with about it. If you have lost a high powered job, celebrate some of the quality of life you can now enjoy. If you only dwell on the negatives, the experience will remain a negative one. Give yourself a group of positives that other positives can grow from.
  • Having got to grips with where it all went wrong, learn from it, forgive yourself and move on. 
  • Remind yourself that you have the power to let fear stop you, or to go on. You have the power to accept your human frailty and move on.

Always remember that something, somewhere will shift if you keep trying. Never let yourself be discouraged from trying. Never let fear win and stop you from living.

Author: Business woman and female entrepreneur, Jan Cavelle. Jan has started many businesses from scratch and has a proven track record for building to a multi-million mark. She writes prolifically for businesses and business publications, most regularly for real.business.co.uk, the leading digital magazine for SME's. In addition to writing, she coaches SME owners and helps support them in a variety of ways but specializing in sales, for which she herself won the coveted National Sales Decade of Excellence Award - http://www.jancavelle.co.uk


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