Why failure is nothing to be afraid of

Fear of failure

I have this. You have this. Pretty much everyone around you has it. It’s not about religion, it is not about background. It’s not even about how much money you have in the bank. I’m talking about fear of failure.
It’s always amazing to find out how many people are afraid to do a face plant. Whenever I feel that cold hand sliding up my spine, freezing me to the core, I realize I should try to fail. Or rather, try to do, and if so required, to fail. But we, both you and I, are so very afraid of that failure.

What I realized

The talks I have with my wife are always enlightning to me. She can bring insight into a situation in a way few other people can for me. Recently she said something to me which stuck, and expanded in my mind. Let me set the context:

She recently attended a seminar at an organization we both used to work for. The organization is excellent, but there are, as everywhere, some people that are not as nice as the others. She told me one of our former colleagues had enquired as to how I was, making some disparaging remarks on my recent career choice.

I gave up what some would have considered a potentially highly lucrative career in consulting to work as head of internal audit for the Belgian Development Agency BTC, the Belgian government agency active in bilateral development aid. For me, the job has both an extremely interesting content, a significant human value I craved, awesome and intelligent colleagues and it gives me more time for teaching at a management school I love to work with.

I was very surprised and a little taken aback that this was the first thing this person would have said to my wife after not having seen her for about 7 years. I had not thought about him at all since I left … and this is where she hit me with one of her deep insights:

“You didn’t think about him because he does not matter to you.”

Which is very true. I had not thought about that person for years because he did not matter to me. I did not have the time to think about him. But, and this is the point I want to get at … most people don’t think about me. Most people don’t think about you either.

What does that mean?

So, whenever you feel you cannot go through with something because you are afraid what people may think of you, be very aware that they don’t.

Let me spell this out for you again … they do not think about you … at all. You, and I, are not important enough in the lives of most people but for a fleeting consideration, not in our successes and most certainly not in our failures.

So if fear of the opinions of others is holding you back, don’t hold back. You just don’t matter that much to them. So why shouldn’t you go ahead with what you really believe in? If you do a face plant, you may be surprised that there is not a large group around you, pointing at you and laughing. Much more likely you will find a very small group, huddling around you and trying to help you get up. Because the people that really care about how you fare are the people that care about you.

One life

This is it. Right here, right now. This is the hand you’re dealt, this is the game you’re playing. No exchanges, no money back guarantee. So you’d better make the most of it. The single most heard regret of people that are dying is not having tried. What a waste would it be if you were not to follow your heart.