Friday, February 08, 2013

Why Do We Fear Failure So Much?

Failure. It is considered to be one bad evil thing to do. Like the worst thing a person can do. As if this is the world’s biggest evil. As if nothing can be more bad than failure. But what exactly is failure and why do we fear this thing so much? Why is it considered such a bad thing?

I think all of us have heard of the age old saying that says, “You learn from your mistakes”. We think that doing mistakes are okay as we learn from them. But failure is bad. You learn from failure too, so why don’t we ever say, “You learn from experiencing failure”.

Yes, I know, and agree, that failure is not a good place to be. Not only does it wreck our own minds with lack of confidence, lack of enthusiasm and lack of self esteem, it may also wreck relationships if we keep on ridiculing the person who has seen hard times, instead of providing the encouragement they need. My personal stance on failure is different than the mainstream view. I don’t view failure as being something that is negative or bad. I think failure is actually a good thing. Failure is a learning experience. It opens our eyes to new horizons.

What got me thinking about this topic and motivated me to write on it was a conference that I attended back in December. The topic of the conference was entrepreneurship, and they had a whole segment dedicated to the concept of failure because unfortunately the vast majority of the people who do engage in entrepreneurship experience failure. The speakers of the conference felt that failure should be embraced and accepted rather than feared, and that idea kind of got hold in my mind as I recalled the times when I personally experienced failure and how I grew and learned from those experiences.

People, from day one, are indoctrinated to fear failure. To avoid failure like the plague. Kids are sometimes afraid to tell their parents they failed an exam. They falsify results to make an A minus look like an A. Like I know of a case where a girl was a position holder in her university class, yet she was too afraid to tell her parents her grades because she had scored fewer points than the parents wanted. Or the case where someone was forced to repeat their math O Level exam to convert an A minus into an A. In this way, we do not teach kids to love success or to work hard and to strive for success. Instead we teach them to fear failure. Which is totally wrong “training”. If a person is afraid of failure, will they take risks? No. If a person is afraid of failure, will they embrace new ideas? No. If a person is afraid of failure, will they ever reach their full potential? No.

Without the possibility and experience of failure, there can never be success. Only if things are tried out will you find out what you are good at and what your true talent and true potential is. If people are constantly going to be like, “Lets play it safe and stay in our safety nets only”, we won’t have cell phones even! Because when cell phones were invented, the guy who invented it was told to not even bother with his invention because nobody is going to want it. But he stuck with it despite the possibility of failure. The rest is history. We all know what is the present condition and future potential of the cell phone.

Instead, the message that we put across should be, “Tough times are a part of life, there is no avoiding them, unfortunately. And success is measured by how to embrace those times and you turn them into learning experiences. Because failure is not the act of going down, failure is the act of going down.”

If failure was feared so much, we would not have a Thomas Edison or an Albert Einstein. Why? They were labelled as failures. They didn’t give up. They refused to be defined by failure. And look what became of them. They became the world’s greatest scientific minds the world has ever known. Thomas Edison had 100 failed attempts. Albert Einstein’s fifth grade teacher said that he can never pass math. If they feared failure, the potentials of their minds would’ve been locked in forever never to be seen of or heard of.

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