The word itself is loaded with a multitude of emotions. For some, it’s fear, for others it’s dread, and for one or two of us, it may even remind us of simpler times with our old friends struggle and sacrifice. Whatever feelings the word bring to mind, failing is efficient at cutting to the core of who you are. It allows you to clearly see your strengths and weaknesses more deeply understand yourself.
To manifest your potential, you must experience failure. It’s required. The key is to embrace and understand these feelings rather than avoiding the pain. Only then can you can fully process the lessons from your experience. If you avoid the pain, similarly to beginning a new exercise at the gym, you’ll prolong the process. Eventually, the universe will bring this lesson to you in a different form again and again until you face and overcome your challenges. There’s no shortcut to achieving lasting fulfillment and dealing with those evolutionary experiences. They’re an unavoidable part of growth. The secret is to maximize the positive impact of the lessons learned and minimize the time it takes you to pivot and apply them.
Failure is a dirty word because it brings with it shame, regret, and other negative connotations, but that’s a misleading thought process. When a proactive person fails, with the correct consciousness they’re actually succeeding at their overarching goal, getting closer to the purest manifestation of their purpose. While you don’t want to make a habit of failing, the act itself means you’re trying, that you’re putting yourself out there. When you do something challenging, new, innovative, or special, inevitably you’re going to have to try things that won’t work. Therefore, failing is a vital part of attempting to do something great. The real question you need to ask yourself when you’re presented with the opportunity to fail is, do you have the courage to push through failure, trust your instincts, and arrive at your success? Unbelievable success, innovation, and true leadership all come when your desire is stronger than your self-doubt.
I’ve failed many times and I’m sure I’ll fail many more. But I still have a fear of failure.
For a long time, I didn’t understand why. I knew it wasn’t because failing hurt too much; the act is much less painful than the anticipation. I realized it is because fear is the body’s mechanism to protect itself from danger, which makes it ever-present. This makes fear an unavoidable emotion. Anyone who says they don’t experience fear is lying. If you burn your hand on a hot pan, you’ll inevitably feel some level of fear the next time you grab a pan. So now, instead of avoiding fear, I’m learning to accept it. I’m aware that I’m not doing good work unless fear is present. I’m also aware that I can’t panic and react to my fear. Fear, for better or worse, is my partner on this journey. I just can’t let it drive. Fear’s presence is a clear sign that I’m challenging myself to do my best work, which, more often than not, leads to success. And on the rare occasion fear manifests in failure, I’m able to avoid shame by knowing I pushed myself and gained wisdom.
The legendary director Francis Ford Coppola sums up my feelings about failure perfectly: “the things that you get fired for when you’re young… are the exact same things that you win lifetime achievement awards when you’re old…. So you have to realize, especially when you’re struggling to try to have some sort of success, that the things that get you in trouble are also the things later on that are remembered as being exceptional.”
Exceptional work doesn’t happen without failure. It’s a requirement of the process, and it’s one of the most valuable experiences you can have on your journey.
Never forget, if you are gaining wisdom you are winning.