What is failure? Webster’s dictionary defines it as a lack of success. But is it really a lack of success or a step on the path to success? Failure is part of everyone’s life. If you haven’t failed at something then you haven’t lived and are missing the joys of life. Every successful person has experienced multiple failures and lived on to be a success. It is how we react to the failure that determine’s if we rebound from the mistake or develop a fear of failing again. We encounter small failures everyday in everything we do. We experience them at home, at work, at school, and even in our church life. We don’t realize it but every time an event in our lives doesn’t turn out like we expected, it is a failure to some degree. Some failures are small and we quickly see past the mistake and correct the failure. But some failures are large. These can cause us to throw our hands up in the air and have lasting impact on our personal and professional lives.
There was a time in my life in which I let the fear of failure control my life. When the economy tanked around 2007, I didn’t react in time to catch the falling knife in my contracting business. Banks were pulling construction loans and abandoning commercial projects without completing them. Residential builders stopped building and were filing bankruptcy leaving contractors like me holding the bag. If you were a contractor during this time, this probably sounds familiar. Instead of reacting to the crisis with an open state of mind by negotiating with my vendors for extended credit terms, I hid from their calls and avoided their letters. I was overwhelmed by the situation and was crippled by the fear of failure. I was slow to lay off my employees and cut expenses. This inaction cost me dearly. I could have up righted the ship if I had been quicker to recognize the severity of what was happening. It didn’t end well for my company.
Flash forward to 2019, I have recovered from the crisis and am back on firm ground. I have paid off most of my outstanding debt from this period of time and have been able to re-establish my credit with some vendors. Although I have chosen to take a steady job to rebuild my finances, I still dabble in the contracting realm. I have learned some valuable lessons about dealing with debt, customers, and dealing with bad accounts. I went back to school and got a degree in business. If I do decide to try it again, I think I have a better grasp of business and the natural economic cycles. For several years after the debacle, I suffered from feelings of fear. Fear that I would fail again. What I began to realize is that I fail on a daily basis and how I deal with these small mistakes determines how I can use it to succeed.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. – Henry Ford
The following are steps that I use to overcome the fear of failure. I have found these steps helpful in my pursuit of overcoming setbacks.
- Face the failure. What I mean by face the failure is to recognize that you failed and face it head on. Don’t fear the failure because your life is not over just because you failed. My first marriage failed but that cleared the way for me to meet my soul mate. Good things can come from a big mistake. Face it and move forward.
- Did I learn from the mistake? Did I learn a lesson from the failure or I am going to do the same mistake over again? Analyze what causes the mistake and how you can prevent it in the future. Most failures are just a stepping stone on the path to success.
- Don’t allow procrastination to keep you from moving forward. Has fear ever stopped you from doing something? For years I was scared to fly on a plane. I would vacation to places that I could drive to so I wouldn’t have to fly anywhere. I kept putting off trying flying until I didn’t have a choice but to fly. I was invited on a vendor trip and had to fly to Minnesota. Eventually, I made the flight and have flown several times since. Once I quit putting it off, I quickly realized that I could fly without fear. The same can be said of failure. Quit putting off trying a task again for fear of failure or letting it hold you back from seeking success.
- Face the Fear. Fear can be described in two ways: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything and Rise. For years I was scared to speak in front of large groups. Come to think of it, I hated to speak in front of small groups also. I would avoid anything that required me to voice my opinion in front of people or speak to a crowd. I forced myself to confront the fear and speak even when I didn’t want to. It now doesn’t bother me AS MUCH to speak to a group of people.
- Visualize a positive outcome. Visualize in your mind the task that you are doing. Imagine the worst possible outcome and how you will respond. Think about how you can prevent it from happening. Formulate a plan to ensure a good outcome. Now visualize a positive outcome. Even if you fail, you have laid a foundation to quickly recover from it and move on.
At times in everyone’s lives, we experience a fear of failing but we can’t let it be a roadblock on the path to success. If we recognize that failure is a possibility, evaluate all possible outcomes, formulate a plan to succeed, and quickly move on if we fail, we can confront our fear of failing and succeed in the game of life.
Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.- Marilyn Monroe