Failing My Way to Success

Thanks to Samara Zimmerman for today’s post on overcoming the fear of failure!

Failure – curious word – seems so indistinct and feeble when it slips off the tongue. But its bitter sting is in that very vagueness that masks a word so powerful – because “failure,” “failing,” is truly in the eye of the beholder, and as a result its influence can be very broad and paralyzing.

When we are younger, we are never told that it is ok to fail – that failure is acceptable, that sometimes we fail in order to succeed. No, rather, we are always directed to chose paths, lives, situations that are more guaranteed to direct us away from even the possibility of failure. Failure – it’s like the other F-word – profanity in its own right.

I wish when I was in grade school they stressed the importance of your mistakes and that mistakes are ok, its being afraid of making mistakes, fear of the failure itself, that is not. My entire life I have always been afraid of failure, and in many ways that has hindered me and made me live a very measured life. If I’m honest with myself it is this fear of failure to a certain extent that has stopped me from pursuing the profession I deep down wanted for myself, the relationships I desired, even the lifestyle I crave.

I think that is why I have always been attracted and drawn to people in the arts and entrepreneurs. When I watch my favorite musicians on stage at a concert they look so uninhibited – so free – in their own skin. And when I hear how casually an entrepreneur discusses all the risk he undertook to implement his latest business venture, matter of factly as if he had the power of premonition, I think how wonderful to feel that self assured. I used to think these people were free and unrestricted– perhaps even born special – that they had to just follow their path. But I think I mistook a free spirit for a high-risk tolerance, for people who are not afraid of failure. Because when you are a creative or an entrepreneur, failure and rejection is just par for the course. But it’s the not fearing that failure that keeps them going, keeps them free.

But here is the good news – my own personal fear of failure is a failure in and of itself. What could be good about that you might ask? Because through the miscarriage of fear of failing I have learned a great deal about myself – about what I don’t like about how I’m living my life, about how I really do want to progress through my life, and about the smalls steps I can take to get me to where I want to be. And that collection of knowledge, information learned from my shortcomings, is priceless.

That’s the great thing about failing – it’s like that quote from the movie Vanilla Sky, “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around” – you can take what you experienced from a situation that didn’t work out and use it to maneuver into something that will. Sometimes you fail because you are supposed to fail. It brings the clarity and the momentum to move you from a wrong situation into the right one.

Like Mary Pickford said, “Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” And it’s pretty thrilling to know that life has multiple do-overs that don’t discriminate because of age or circumstance, that new beginnings that can rise up at any point in your life as long as you don’t allow the fear of failure or so-called failure itself stop you from pushing, moving, towards what you want.

I have experienced times where I have failed, and probably will experience such times in the future. While it can be intimidating to admit that to myself – that with life it is inevitable that there will be times of failure – failure itself is no longer as threatening. Rather, I’m failing my way to success!

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