Are you afraid of failure?
I see many people who are terrified of failure. So terrified, in fact that they are too afraid to try anything.
I often see people reacting to accomplished performances by saying something like, “Oh! I could never do that!”. I find this reaction saddening because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you truly believe that you could never do something, then I can truly guarantee that you never will. This attitude is the main reason that most people never accomplish what they would have liked to in their lifetimes. I would even go so far as to call this fear of failure, the Ultimate, Crippling Disability (UCD). All other disabilities can be overcome with hard work and perseverance if you have the will to succeed and the belief that it’s possible. Have a look at the Paralympic athletes if you doubt that.
Another reason that I find this attitude saddening is that it reinforces the myth of the importance of natural talent.
That’s right. It wasn’t a typo.
It’s a myth.
Genetics do play a role, certainly, but your genes are not the deciding factor on whether you are going to succeed at something. You are. There are so many people sitting on couches doing nothing with their lives who are exceedingly gifted. Conversely, there are many people out there doing incredible things who got dealt a bum hand in the genes department.
Good genetics is like a good tennis racquet. If you own a good tennis racquet, it can certainly improve your game. A good racquet can make you a better player but it is not going to do you any good if you never venture onto a tennis court.
Why so afraid of failure?
Our culture is heavily based on appearances and failure has a bad stigma associated with it because failure does not appear attractive. In this environment, it may seem better to appear mediocre or unaccomplished than to try and fail. I think that this may be one of the reasons that most people do not do much in the way of training (physical or otherwise).
The process of training is actually a process of continuous failure. Take running for example. A person decides to train in order to run a marathon. Let’s assume they’ve never run before. They go outside and start running but they can’t run very far because their cardiovascular fitness is not sufficient for the task. Let’s say they only manage 3km. In essence, they have just failed to run a marathon. But they are persistent because they really want to complete a marathon. So they try again the following day and only manage 2.5km because their legs are sore and tired. Failed again.
They could either give up at this point, or they could decide to persevere. If they persevere, their physical capacity will slowly improve over time. If charted, their progress will not be linear. There will be ups and downs. Hills and valleys.
If they persevere, over time the distance that they can run will increase until they will finally be able to successfully complete a marathon. It may take them a couple of years to get themselves into shape depending on how fit they were to begin with. This represents two years of FAILURE! Finally they enter a marathon and the years of hard work pay off for them as they hobble across the finish line. SUCCESS! And all it took to succeed was two years of abject failure.
Without this long process of continuous failure, success would be impossible. In fact, it can be said that success is actually a product of failure and perseverance. Success grows out of the lessons and skills learned in failure.
So, if you truly want to do something with your life, my message to you is to go out there and fail! Fail and fail and fail and fail again. Fail until you’ve learned everything that you can about how to succeed. Fail until you like the taste of it so much that you shout out “MORE!”. Fail until it is impossible for you to fail any more. Fail until the universe kicks you out of the fail bin because it gets so sick and tired of seeing you turn up there time after time after time. Fail until you have no other option but to succeed at your chosen path because you have run out of ways to fail.
Written by SiXiong Lester Walters, Head of Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia
© Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia 2017. ABN 12 792 347 015