We’re all frightened of failure…

Have you ever reflected on the path of your career and realised that in your formative years someone senior not only saw capabilities in you that you didn’t know you had, but also provided an opportunity for those capabilities to blossom that you did not expect? Have those capabilities been the bedrock of your working life and personal development ever since? If you can relate positively to these questions, then you’re likely to have experienced some success in your chosen career. Why? Because at a formative point early in your career you overcame your trepidation and fear of failure to take the opportunity that presented itself, and you’re likely to have retained that ‘I’ve never done that before, but I’ll give it a go’ attitude ever since.

The Information Badger’s formative point was at a photocopier producing handouts for a presentation. The company CEO, who the Badger had met a few times in meetings, walked by, said hello, then paused and enquired about the Badger’s current assignment. After being told the CEO grinned broadly and said the Badger’s talents were better suited to a leadership role on a major project widely known to be in severe difficulty. The Badger had no previous relevant experience, was somewhat taken aback, and cautiously voiced some concern about failing. The CEO chuckled and just said:

‘My dear boy, we are all frightened of failure, but just think how good you and the rest of us will feel if you succeed’.

The Badger joined the failing project the next day – in at the deep end with responsibility, accountability and authority never previously held. The Badger didn’t look back! The capabilities the CEO saw, and the Badger had no self-awareness of, blossomed generating great personal satisfaction, real career direction and benefits for the company.

The CEO’s words are remembered to this day. Why? Because they’re founded on insight, experience, and an understanding of what makes people tick. The latter is key because everyone has protective ‘I’ve never done that before and I can’t do it’ psychological wiring as a first response. Everyone has an inner fear of failure. If you’re able to recognise and overcome this, then you’re likely to ultimately maximise your personal and career success.

Everyone is different, of course, and success comes in many forms, but if you’re presented with something that’s out of your comfort zone then just remember that you’re wired to think you can’t do it! Parents often use the saying ‘There’s no such word as can’t, try!’ with their young children. Always strive to use this mantra as the starting point for your thought processes when presented with an opportunity beyond your comfort zone or experience. Remember…you’ll never really know your own capabilities, even if others can see them, unless you overcome your fears.

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