When fear gets in your way, do you choose to take the risk, or do you choose certain failure?
Me: So, what stops you from launching your blog? You have an amazing story to tell.
Client: Well, I guess I’m afraid that I don’t really have anything interesting to say. That I will fail.
The point that my client was missing was that she couldn't fail unless she even didn't try. Imagine the results if we each committed to do one thing that spikes our fear of failure. Imagine if you were able to complete this statement with a modicum of confidence:
In the next three months I will face my fear of failure and take the following steps to achieve (fill in the blank with a goal that conjures up the fear of failure.)
Now imagine what it will feel like in three months when you've actually done it! (Feels good, right?) So what's stopping you?
The fear of failure is one of the biggest obstacles to success. Yet every successful person I've ever spoken with has battled this fear. What separates them from the rest? Why is it that some of us have the ability to look our fears straight in the eye and others carry the burden of failure without ever giving their dream a chance to develop?
"People who are afraid of failure have confused failure with mistakes," says success psychologist, Ann Vertel. "Mistakes aren't failure, they only feel like failure. True failure is in quitting or not learning, everything else is part of the process of learning and growing."
We have to make mistakes in order to understand what does and doesn't work. And we must continue to push through our barriers to see what we are truly capable of. Vertel gives the example of professional athletes who, she says, take themselves right out to the edge of failure—on purpose. "They do this in order to discover their breaking point,” says Vertel. “Then they train to that point over and over, slowly moving it further and further out. This is called mastery. You can't know your level of success if you don't know how far you can go."
And Michael Jordon is the perfect example, as demonstrated in this popular statement: "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And, that is why I succeed." If Michael Jordon wasn't afraid of being judged, why should we be?
CrowdSPRING co-founder, Ross Kimbarovsky is no stranger to failure. When he and his partner, Mike Samson, launched the crowdsourcing site in May of 2008, their users were frustrated by the crowdSPRING experience; not a problem that a start up, or any other company, wants to face. Poor technology forced them into low budget, temporary fixes on the site and ultimately the entire content management system had to be rewritten, but not before major losses were incurred.
"Successful people are successful for many reasons," says Kimbarovsky. "Successful people look at mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn. People who fear failure rarely have such learning opportunities. And very often, even if they do, the fear of failure completely paralyzes them."
The co-founders learned that failure educates and motivates, and cost-cutting measures didn't save them time or money in the long run. We've all heard the famous Henry Ford quote: "Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." And that's exactly what Kimbarovsky and Samson did. Today crowdSPRING positions itself as the world's No. 1 marketplace for crowdsourced creative services.
So what if you were to actually give yourself permission to fail, recognizing that nearly every other entrepreneur in the universe has made mistakes and learned valuable lessons from them? And, that those lessons are what they cite as the reason for their unlimited success? Wouldn’t you be willing to experience a new learning curve if you knew that success lies ahead?
"To be uber-successful you must give yourself the gift of failing fast and failing often," says Vertel. So why not return to the beginning of this article, fill in the answers to my questions and give yourself the gift of a few big, bold failures? You will find that the act of learning from your mistakes is far more rewarding than doing nothing at all.
You have until February 1 to enter the Wharton School's Brilliant Mistake competition, co-sponsored by Inc. The most brilliant mistake wins a complementary registration for two at Inc’s Growth Companies event in March 2012, free airfare on Southwest, a seat at a VIP seminar with conference speakers, and other goodies. Go to the Brilliant Mistakes Contest website to learn how to enter.
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka