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Friday, February 13, 2015

How Much Would You Have Tried if Failure Were Not a Concern?


Would you have participated in that tennis tournament if you had not been worrying about failing? Would you have tried out for the spelling bee at school when you were a kid if you had not been worrying about failure? Part of failure is also connected to what we think about what others think of us when we 'fail'.

What about when you weren't accepted into law school? Or med school? Did you give up and accept whatever life had to offer you, or did you try again? Did your conception of failure rule you? Just think about it: how much more might you have done or tried, if you had not been worrying about failing at every step of the way?

Consider some of the world's best-known (for their achievements in any field), or most successful (in terms of money) people now, or from the annals of history: Michelangelo, Copernicus, Fleming (penicillin), Bell (telephone), Galileo, Gates, Jobs, Madame Curie, Einstein, Gutenberg, da Vinci, Edison, the Wright brothers, etc., to mention only a few. What would have happened if their fear of failure and what others might say of them had won precedence over their desire to forge ahead?

Obviously most of us aren't inventors or artists - our lives run in slightly more mundane channels - but what would have happened if your great-grandfather had not persevered and brought the entire family out of Germany just before WWII? Where would you be now - assuming you would be at all? Or what might have happened if your mother had not persevered - in the face of much failure - when she was fighting to offer you and your siblings a decent life? What might have happened if your father had not persevered and figured out a way to go to night school at the same time as working a hard job, in order to progress and offer you and your sisters the opportunity to go to university? Do you think that failure was ever part of their working vocabulary? Of course they might have given it a few moments' notice, but probably brushed it away as unimportant because they realized that this was simply something they had to do. And often what you have to do is less about the money it will afford you, and more about how you will feel about yourself and your sense of purpose in life.

Now back to you and your life in 2015. Perhaps your concerns are less earth-shattering. Or less lofty. That doesn't matter. You could choose to disregard the issues you have in your head regarding failure. Here's the thing: if you don't, you will always do less than you could because what you do dare to try will be conditioned by how you perceive what might happen if you fail. Think of soaring as high as you can and then let failure and all its dreaded connotations leave you. Don't wind up at the tail end of your life regretting all that you didn't try!

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