Thomas Edison once proclaimed, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work”
Now that’s dedication!
This witty remark is from Woody Allen, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything.”
How’s that for reframing failure.
And Beverly Sills gave this retort, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”
So in other words, fear not and go forth! Failure isn’t a bad thing; it’s a reality of a life fully lived. Don’t let the potential for failure hold you back from creating your dream.
Sometimes, what we intellectually know and what we deep down believe are two different things. I recently realized that while I understood the importance of failing forward towards success I didn’t want to believe that I might actually fail. “Oh no the horror of failing!”
I dream big, but I don’t always step forward into acting on those dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take risks. But setting my sights on a big dream and putting myself out there to potentially fail publicly feels rather daunting (and humiliating). I realize now my predominant thought process went like this, “I’m willing to make mistakes as long as people know I don’t make epic failures.”
How did I come to realize this rather disturbing limiting belief? Well, you know how they say to not take anything personally (and by they I mean Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements). It’s a good rule of thumb because most people’s actions, comments, etc. are not a reflection of you, but are a result of their own insecurities…
One day in the not so distant past I caught myself being pretty critical of others. Not just any people, I was being harshly critical of some entrepreneurs that I know who had dreamed big, got a few years into their journey and failed. As I reflected on my judgmental thoughts (yes, I admit I can be judgmental, but I strive to not be), I realized that I wasn’t just criticizing an element of their business, I was questioning their effort in general; why did they even bother! That’s a rather blasphemous thought for me to have given the values I hold near and dear.
Sure, there might have been problems with their business model, or ways that they led their organization asunder. But I truthfully don’t know that much about their situations to be so discerning. What I do know is that these people had the courage to show up and a willingness to be vulnerable that I’m aspiring to. And that’s the thing about vulnerability, people (the one’s whose respect is worth having) don’t judge you so harshly for “epic failures.” In fact, there’s a lot of respect to be gained from putting yourself out there, taking a risk and going for it. And while my own insecurities caused me to interpret someone’s failure negatively other’s saw character, creativity and strength.
That is how I learned that I needed to shift my perceptions, because acting on big dreams means putting yourself out there without any certainty of the outcomes. I’m embracing failure to succeed so that I may go forth into the unknown world of possibility.
We all have different fears or limiting beliefs that hold us back. I don’t know the obstacles that you need to overcome. But I will encourage you to take some time to develop awareness of how your own fear of failure manifests. Start by reflecting on the moments you find yourself being critical of the “failures” of others. What did they do? Why is their failure such a bad thing? And how does your critique reflect on your own actions or lack there of?