All my life long I was afraid about the events that might happen in the future; I worried about the outcome of my actions and their negative results for my life in the future and I also questioned if I could cope with the challenges I was facing back then. Please don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t a scared-cat at all and my worries never started to take control over my life or reduced my quality of living, nevertheless, negative thoughts remained inside me and often kept me awake for hours in the night; thinking about things I couldn’t control or influence anyways. I was worried about many things, from absolutely minor things such as messing up in school and flunking school (when I was 9), towards worries related to my former job, such as committing major errors with drastic consequences for me (losing my job) or the involved “customer” I was responsible for, when I was approx. 19- 20.
In general, I would say, most of the time these worries can be attributed to only one thing: my fear of failure. All my worries and fears had only this one thing in common: the fear of the possibility of failure.
I wasn’t worried about writing bad marks in school being concerned about what my teachers and friends would think about me; I didn’t fear the possible punishments for bad marks (maybe because I never was punished for bad marks, luckily); I simply was fearful of failing in school, failing classes and being separated from all my best friends. I simply did not want to be labeled as a failure, with my 9 years of age back then.
There is no need to worry about failure!
Suddenly, something became very clear to me when I was facing my darkest hour, at age of 21. There was simply no need for me to continue worrying as I had drawn for me personally a remarkable conclusion (later explained) that would change my life from that point onwards.
I accepted failure as simply that what it is: an inevitable challenge that I would have to face every once in a while in my life. Failure is an omnipresent part of my life, my past, and my present; and each failure helped me to become the man I am nowadays. Every failure was a painful experience and knocked me down in the short run, but in the long run, it helped me to do better in the future, avoid similar mistakes and honestly, most of my failures opened new possibilities and promising chances for me and allowed me to change my life and start over again. Before I forget,… the “remarkable conclusion” I talked about earlier was that I recognized that the only way I could avoid any kinds of failures entirely would be by not even trying, which might as well be comparable with not having lived at all. The attempt to avoid failure down to the ground would cause the biggest failures of all, the irreversible mistake of not having tried at all.
If I was an old man, I would always prefer to choose to laugh about the awkward mistakes and errors I committed and poeticize about the biggest failures in my life and what amazingly refreshing opportunities these brought into my life, rather than having to worry about “what could have happened”, if I would have tried. I do not want to reflect on my entire life and notice all the great opportunities I’ve missed, the glorious moments that could have taken place, the amazing things I would have experienced and the exciting chances I’ve missed, just because I was worrying about the possibility of failing. Not a single second do I want to spend with acknowledging to myself that I squandered all the big opportunities that I was given in life, as this would be more painful for me than actually having failed.
“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’“ ~ John Greenleaf Whittier
There is no necessity of being afraid to fail at all, as in most cases it might just scare you off from doing it; the decision between success and failure lies often beyond your own control when you did everything possible and made above average efforts to accomplish your targeted goal. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that failure is the logical reason for being lazy and it might also occur when you’re not willing to do “whatever necessary”, so make sure to erase as many factors that could lead to a defeat.
Nonetheless, every one of us is going to fail every once in a while, so why worrying about it anyways? When looking at the biographies of extraordinarily successful people you will see that the enumerations of their failures outweigh all their accomplishments, successes and valuable contributions by far.
Here are some famous failures:
- van Beethoven was told that he was hopeless as a composer and started losing his hearing in 1796 but continued to compose masterpieces
- Abraham Lincoln lost his job (1832), failed in business (1833) and was defeated in eight elections (1838 – 1858)
- Thomas Edison’s teacher told him he was “too stupid to learn anything”. Also, he stated that he “discovered six thousand ways that won’t work” while developing the light bulb.
- Walt Disney was fired, as his boss found he “lacked imagination”. Later, MGM studios told him that the idea of Mickey Mouse would not work; a giant mouse would scare women.
- John Grisham was rejected by twelve publishing houses and sixteen agents before his first novel was accepted. Grisham is nowadays a best-selling novelist.
- Steven Spielberg was placed in a class for learning-disabled children before he dropped out of school forever
- The Beatles were turned down by their recording company telling them that “[ . . . ] guitar music is on their way out”.
- Michael Jordan was cut from the high-school basketball team as he was “lacking skill”.
After all, only the failures these successful people had to experience and the mistakes they made in their lives allowed them to become the geniuses, inventors, and idols they have become. Without their failures, they wouldn’t have become the person they are nowadays acknowledged as. Those that never failed in life are the ones that no one remembers of today, the ones that never won as they never tried.
I don’t want to downplay how hard it feels to fail, as some failures can be exceptionally painful and make it extremely difficult for us to stand up again and continue to do what we love. There are failures that might knock you down on the ground and let everything else look pointless. Failures that are so striking that you don’t even see any hope to recover from that defeat. BUT, with every failure we are given the chance to “start from scratch”, change negative patterns, rearrange our lives towards a more successful future AND most important of all: with every failure there comes an important decision. The decision to allow a failure to defeat you once and for all, leaving you behind in a broken down state of mind for the rest of your live, or to pat yourselves on the back for not having squandered an opportunity, for having tried, for having given your best and for having gained some important experiences that could become very valuable in your future. It’s the decision between being left behind on the ground and (figuratively spoken) reaching out a hand to yourself, helping yourself to stand up again, brushing off the dust from your clothes and to continue pursuing the dream you always wanted to realize.
I failed many times in my life and luckily the vast majority of failures and defeats were so unimportant that I either forgot about them over the time or are able to laugh about it nowadays. I’ve nearly failed classes when I was 9 years old and was separated from some of my best friends as I wasn’t entitled to enroll at grammar school, which was only for the brightest and smartest pupils in a class. My class teacher told my parents that I should definitely repeat that grade to close the gaps in knowledge I had. Nevertheless, I chose to march on and so I went to secondary school, my grades improved drastically and two years later I was entitled to enroll in junior high school.
I could go on and write down all the defeats and failures in my life I can remember of, whenever I was turned down, ignored, knocked down on the ground, got dumped, failed at work, saw my plans fail or messed up with my duties, but that would increase the word count of this post into the infinite. Nevertheless, every of these defeats helped me to accept failure as an inevitable part of my life, which took a lot of pressure from my shoulders. It helped me to see more opportunities than before, as I simply had ignored many of them because I estimated them as too risky or to be doomed to fail. It helped me to focus my attention on the things I enjoyed doing – in the one area I knew I belonged – and to strip off what I considered to be dispensable and unnecessary. If everything I did had turned out as a success, I would not have discovered what I truly loved to do and might have awoken one day in a life where I didn’t belong with a job that didn’t fulfill me.
Without my biggest failures, I wouldn’t have concerned myself so much with my personality, faced my biggest fears and discovered my strong willpower, enduring persistence, and my positivity. Every failure taught me – in its very own painful way – things that cannot be found in books, characteristics about myself that cannot even be articulated and friendships whose value lies beyond the imaginable. After the most painful defeats and setbacks I ever had to experience, I arose out of the ashes like a Phoenix, stronger, more knowledgeable and wiser than before, having gained very valuable life experiences. I became more focused on the things I loved most and knew who my true friends were – those that stood on my side, whenever I was down.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan
I can accept the fact that I gave my best and failed. I can accept that all my attempts to achieve an aim were unsuccessful. But the two things I will never accept is not to have tried at all and to remain on the ground after a failure. The fear of failure becomes remarkably unimportant when it’s compared with how painful it is to think about missed opportunities.
Let’s face it; every failure is – when considered in an unemotional context – just a realization that provides us with the knowledge on what didn’t work. Again, it is your choice to make use of this information, find a workaround and/or start something completely new, OR to let yourself getting emotionally affected by that failure and allow it to defeat you, once and for all.
That’s why I stopped worrying about failure and so can you! Just wanted to let you know 😉
A journalist once asked Thomas Edison, an American inventor, for the reason he continued his (unsuccessful) attempts to make light by the use of electricity, when he had failed so many times in the past. Edison replied, “Young man, don’t you realize that I have not failed but have successfully discovered six thousand ways that won’t work!”
As you see, it’s all a matter of perspective! What are your tricks to avoid being afraid of failing in life? We’re excited to hear from you in the comment section below.
I would like to end this article with a fantastic contribution by our reader Tomek, who shared the following (amazingly brilliant) poem:
When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.
Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.
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Cover-Photo by iko