Fear of Failure


“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

– Jack Canfield, motivational speaker & author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”

Everyone experiences fear. It’s built into that ancient lizard part of our brains, and without it our species would have perished long ago. 

It comes in many forms, but there is one that can have a direct impact on your potential for success: fear of failure. However, it needn’t be an obstacle standing between you and your goals. 

Who you are and what you do has at one point or another been influenced by fear. Because I’m a successful entrepreneur and businessman, you might assume that I’m absolutely fearless. Hardly. But one thing I haven’t let get in my way is the fear of failure.

Fear of failure, or atychiphobia (geeky name for it), can cause many more problems. It influences the types of goals you pursue, the kinds of strategies you use to achieve them, and how you view success. What are some of the things that scare us enough to prevent us from trying?

1.  I’m embarrassed

No one is proud of failing, and no one congratulates you for it.

2.  I don’t have what it takes

Many people equate success with their sense of self-worth. To them, means they aren’t smart, skilled or talented enough to succeed.

3.  I’m stuck

We set goals is so that we can control our future. Failure makes the future uncertain.

4.  I’ll become expendable

Because of society’s obsession with success and successful people, there is an implied fear that failure means you’re irrelevant.

5.  I’ve let people down

If you don’t to achieve your goal, you’ll disappoint people.

6.  I have a lot to lose

From a practical point of view, failure translates into actual losses – in time, effort and…dollars.

The alternative, choosing not to pursue these goals, means never giving them a chance to happen. Fear of failure keeps you safe, but you’ll never try new things, never take on new challenges, and never expose yourself to new situations.

The good thing is that we are free to choose how to look at failure. We can see it as proof of just how inadequate we are. Or, we can look at failure as a learning experience. It’s how we grow.

When you were first trying to stand up you tottered – and then you fell down. If you had given up then, you never would have learned to walk! But you didn’t give up. You kept getting up until, one time, you didn’t fall down! You got up one more time than you fell down. Success!

Sir James Dyson, the inventor and founder of Dyson Ltd., once said “The key to success is failure… Success is made up of 99 percent failure.”

He knows what he’s talking about. The inventor of the world-famous bagless vacuum now bearing his name spent his life savings and created 5,127 prototypes. What if he’d given up after the 5,126th attempt? Vacuums would still be inefficient and Dyson wouldn’t be a billionaire. But he kept getting up!

It's easy to find successful people who have experienced failure:

  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach didn't think he had enough skill.

  • Warren Buffet, one of the world's most successful businessmen, was rejected by Harvard University.

  • Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin empire, is a high-school dropout.

  • Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before being elected President and saving a nation.

  • Fred Astaire’s first screen test evaluation read “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.”

  • In his eighth-grade music class, Elvis Presley earned a “C-” and his teacher advised him that he “had no aptitude for singing.”

Life is full of pitfalls and opportunities to easily make bad decisions. What if Michael Jordan had quit basketball when he was cut from that team? What if Richard Branson had listened to the people who told him he'd never do anything without a high school diploma? Think of the opportunities you'll miss if you let your failures stop you.

Let me leave you with this, from someone who “failed” thousands of times before he finally succeeded:

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” 

        – Thomas Edison

So keep failing, keep getting up, and have a great week!

Carly Layne