Conquering The Failure Complex

May 15, 2014
by Pablo Valdivia

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"-Vincent van Gogh

To try and live free of disappointment is to live free of opportunity. For those who strive for success, falling down is simply another avenue by which you are able to learn something new, grow from it, and teach it to others. Society, be it business leaders, entrepreneurs, students, or the like, often define themselves by their disappointments and failures when they can in fact serve as incubators for future prosperity.

During Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, he stated, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Living your life through the fear of failure can mean never escaping the fence you yourself have built. The world is your oyster, don’t let it become your bubble. Often times we may not enter a new opportunity or build new bridges for fear of collapsing under the weight of change. Adaptability to change is what separates the good business leaders from the great ones. Keep in mind however that this change can very well mean falling flat on your face, which is okay if you have the tenacity to rise from it.  

To rid yourself of all fear is ineffectual simply because fear can be a motivator if you allow it to be one. It’s not a matter of expelling it, but transforming it into something positive and useful. Face the possibility of failure and embrace it. It’s possible that a business plan won’t pan out as expected or a partnership might fall through, but that doesn’t mean standing still will you get you any further than you already are. Accepting the fact that failure is just another temporary aspect of life allows you to envision moments in which those faults won’t matter much longer. It’s these risk takers who drive innovation forward.

Taking risks and learning when to say both “yes” and “no” are vital aspects in the professional world. It is important that you say no to things you are afraid of, and say yes to things you are afraid of. The former means saying “no” to risks in your life that you know aren’t true to your authentic self. Often times we feel pressured to say “yes” to careers or decisions that we know make us unhappy, so saying “no” is a critical skill to hone. The latter means saying “yes” to something you’ve always wanted to do, but have always been afraid of failing at it or looking like a fool. If you fail, at least you can say you tried. If you look like a fool, take a note from Lewis Carroll when he says, “You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Our fear of failing is nothing more than a mental construct; a tape that is subconsciously playing over and over again as we make even the most minute decisions in our lives. It’s about time you bring that thought to your conscious and unravel it. Take a chance and allow yourself to be defined by your triumphs and not by your shortcomings. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that if they allowed failure to paralyze them, they wouldn’t be anywhere near where they stand today.