Fear of Failure: A Little Embarrassment Can Go a Long Way!

Fear Illustration

Driving a car. Speaking in public. Selling to customers. What do they all have in common?  Other than things we typically fear,  they’re all milestones I hit before ever learning how to swim.

When did I finally learn? In college. Yes, I just admitted that and no, I don’t blame my parents. At every opportunity, I fought the chance to learn.  As a kid, I would scream and wail until whoever was trying to teach me eventually gave up. 

It made sense. I already needed to take an elective course.  Why not Swimming?  So, there I stood before class, one piece of clothing away from being naked, shivering at the side of the pool.  My classmates?  Mostly football players and cheerleaders.  Clearly, so I thought, I was the only person there to learn something!  Was I scared?  Yes, but the risk of looking like a fool made me forget about 12-foot deep water.

That’s when I said “F-You fear!”, jumped in, and became a graceful swan gliding down the lanes!   Just kidding.  Over the next several weeks, I would flail and convulse my way from one end to the other.  Did I feel fear?  Yes, but I kept on going. And yes, it got easier over time.

Ultimately, I learned more than how not to drown.  Here are my three valuable lessons about fear:

  1. Fear is always looking for a good chase.  I was amazed that, when I stopped fighting my body’s natural tendency to sink, the impossible happened – I floated!  If fear was a person, it would be a bully beckoning us for a fight.  What does a bully hate the most?  Being ignored.  
  2. Fear is familiar and easy.  It’s easier to not jump into the deep end, go on the job interview, or ask for the sale.  We feel the apprehension and naturally avoid the risk.  It’s easy to forget that we don’t always need to do what our bullies tells us.  Sometimes, the greatest risk is never taking one.
  3. We don’t want fear to completely go away.  Bravery, is inviting it into our lives for a cup of coffee on a regular basis.  Without fear, we’d walk off a cliff or get hit by a train.  Fear caused me to take the swimming course instead of jumping off the high dive straight away.  For that, I am thankful!

How do we put this into action?  Challenge fear by first, allowing yourself to feel and understand it. Then defy it with every fiber of your being.  Rinse and repeat. 
Finally, don’t forget to re-visit the situations that scare you.  

Fear not only keeps us alive, it helps us feel alive.


Ps:  Check out the following blog post from Srinivas Rao.  It served as the inspiration for this post and, I suspect, others to come:https://medium.com/the-mission/everything-you-fight-has-power-over-you-everything-you-accept-doesnt-9c380d391acb?source=linkShare-b49167681b97-1539890903