The Desk

March 6, 2008

Fear of Failure

Filed under: Career Advancement — Yvonne LaRose @ 7:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

“I don’t try to do it because I’m afraid I’ll fail,” admitted Sam (a fictitious name of a friend) as we sipped our beverages. That was also the reason he’d not taken his licensing examination, nor learned and taken over duties on one of the more responsible pieces of equipment at his job, nor many other things. I didn’t dare to ask how far his fear of failure extended and what forms of avoidance he used. But the fact that he was avoiding so many opportunities and damning himself to secondary and tertiary situations pained me. I wondered whether he realized how much loss he suffers from this attitude. Sam is a very intelligent man. He is very talented. And if he would let himself go, he might be more afraid of the amount of power he has compared with the losses he suffers because of what he attempts to avoid.

Let’s get a grip on this concept of “failure.” Some see it as a death sentence. If you fail, you do not succeed. There are no other chances to “do” again and you’re forever cast into the Valley of Nothingness. Wake-up call! Not true. Failure is simply not succeeding on this particular attempt. It means there were other concepts that needed to be explored or discussed. It means too much or too little was done to achieve the goal (and that may have been attention to details). Not enough pressure was used or else too little. The wrong choice of words or the wrong timing could have contributed to not succeeding at this time.

Did not succeed on this attempt. That does not spell “inadequate” nor “mal-equipped.” It does not shriek “stupid” as much as simply say “not ready” and “needs additional training” or “give time for additional practice.” Knowledge of the steps to achieve the goal are what are needed. Then practicing those steps under all types of circumstances come next. It’s good to develop some of your own unique ways of achieving the desired results once you know the traditional steps inside and out. “Did not succeed on this attempt” means practice more and then attempt again.

Practice is something that will insure success in the long run. Practice means allowing your muscles, tendons, brain waves to develop pathways that allow the process to become automatic. Practice allows thought to fall away from the execution; it flows like pouring water. Thought is required to stop yourself from following through once the initial steps are executed. Practice creates a second nature to whatever is done and a comfort zone that exudes confidence. It reveals knowledge and mastery when we no longer consider it to be such.

To refrain from attempting to do something simply because of a fear of failure is to deny yourself to learn what strengths you do have. It may be that what’s being avoided is one of the biggest payloads that could have happened to you and your career. It may be another microbial step on the ladder to anyone else. But for you and coupled with your background, other experiences, and innovative mind, it’s fodder for creating something else (once the skill is mastered) that will lay the foundation for your own empire.

I think about Sam and his reticence and realize one factor that contributes to his sentence of subordination is that his load is quite heavy. But his work ethic is quite strong and carries him far on his path — even if it isn’t his chosen career path. Sam also has an excellent support network; he’s done well in getting himself established and surrounded by the right types of people with similar cultural and social values as his. Additionally, he is good at targeting others who have good, strong ethics to be friends and new social partners. Sam is good at mixing and very outgoing. He has no difficulty with networking. But he masks his abilities by refraining from doing some of the things that he feels will spell “failure” if he does not succeed on the first through third attempts.

Sam’s asset is his creative, innovative mind. He is capable of coming up with alternatives and successfully exploiting them. How is it, then, that he can be so good at succeeding in the uncharted areas but so desperately fear the ones that are clearly established? Perhaps that is the answer in and of itself. The first is of his own making. The other has a template that needs to be mapped. And Sam feels the map must be precise. Those with extreme discipline or were raised under exacting conditions would have this need to be acutely precise. Sam has strengths in areas where there is a template that allows for innovation. It doesn’t seem that he ventures into those areas very frequently.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where compliments don’t fall off the tips of our tongues each and every time someone does something in a superb way. Most likely Sam could use some affirmations as he moves through his various functions and achieves the small milestones that are leading him to his mountain of success. And it could also be that he doesn’t even see his successes because he’s so focused on the path. In that regard, I feel a bit like a failure, because I haven’t had that epiphany until now.

Hey, Sam!

1 Comment »

  1. Please be certain to read the Post Script to this for some additional thoughts on what “failing” does represent.


    Comment by Yvonne LaRose — March 9, 2008 @ 6:31 PM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: