Thursday, May 1

Going for it

I have a sneaking suspicion that fear of failure is the main reason many people don't succeed. And mostly because they don't even try. Finding that line between a calculated risk and foolishness can be hard for many of us.

There are plenty of self-help gurus who will tell you how to overcome your fears. Easier said than done, my friends. You know that.

Of the list in 5 Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Failure, the last one might be the most relevant to most of us. Or, in the immortal words of the Nike marketing machine, "Just do it." What's the worst that can happen? You'll fail. Sure, you have to calculate the cost and what or how much you can afford to lose, perhaps literally as well as figuratively, but, as they say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

This is a valid question. It gets to the heart of our fear of failure. If we knew we could not fail, what would we do? If we knew we would not get hurt, what would we do? If we knew we would not lose money or reputation or face, what would we do?

I love the idea that failure is a matter of perspective. Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." In fact, in the history of Thomas Edison, failure was one of his best teachers. Failure teaches you to step back and rethink your theory, your process, your approach. Failure teaches you to recalibrate and it just might teach you something remarkably unexpected.

Hemingway reported he rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. Perhaps that's not exactly failure, but it reminds us that success takes effort.

Oscar Wilde wrote, "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." Getting it right takes time. And yes, details matter.

I told my writing students that writing is hard work, that getting the details right is hard, and that at some point, as a writer, you have to choose to be done even knowing that the moment the work is submitted, you'll think of at least one more thing you wished you'd changed. Fear of failure might mean a manuscript or text never makes it to the editor.

There are many ways to overcome that fear of failure. You've calculated the risk, you've put together your plan, you've figured out your goals and made sure they're reasonably manageable. What next?

Whether it's a big or small dream, you can't succeed unless you take a chance. "No risk, no reward." All of these sayings have some truth behind them. But the biggest reason most of us choose not to go for it is the fear of failure. We figure maybe we'll try next year or "some time." Well, there's another adage reminding us that "Tomorrow never comes."

Sure it's May 1. Sure you'd planned to start or launch whatever in January, and then in March. No big deal.

Just do it.


Have a vision.
Know what you want to do or accomplish.
Make a plan.

Then figure out your threshhold for (financial, emotional, or other) pain.

Then get started.

Go for it.

And may you be successful in it!