I just had a conversation with a friend of mine who asked me to write an article for her website. She was a bit timid to ask me because we are friends and what happens so often when you mix friendship with business? Hard feelings erupt. Your friend does some work for you, but it’s not what you expected. How do you tell her? You don’t want to hurt her feelings. Maybe you just let it go, but then you are left with something you don’t feel good about. Have we become so thin-skinned that we don’t want to hear honest feedback on our work? It comes down to the bad feelings we get when we have failed at something. Why are we so unwilling to fail?
Animals at the Zoo
As humans, we tend to fear failure. There is nothing worse than trying something and making an epic ass out of yourself. I take that back. What’s worse than trying and failing is not having tried at all. If we never tried anything new and opened the door to failure we would be no better than the animals at the zoo or fish in a bowl. I often wonder how boring their lives are, seeing and doing the same things every day. Knowing there is a chance for failure often keeps us from trying, none the less. The higher the risk of failing, the less likely we are to do it. So we are stuck pacing back and forth, looking out through the bars believing there is no way out.
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one. -Elbert Hubbard
Belief in Life Outside the Zoo
If magically, we were free of the fear of failing and believed we could escape our self-made cages, the possibilities would be endless. Suddenly, the whole world is opened to us. We would be capable of boundless success, trying this new thing and that new thing with abandon. Sure, we would fail at some things, probably a lot of things, but we would learn from them and move on. Rinse and repeat. In this way, we would become wildly successful.
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill
Do Fish Know They are in a Bowl?
Something I have discovered recently is that I have been afraid of failure my whole life. So much so that I didn’t even realize this was the case. I was just swimming around in the bowl of self-imposed mediocrity. Now I can see that I am the one holding myself back and getting in my own way out of unconscious self-preservation. My own limiting beliefs have stopped me in pretty much every area of my life. Honestly, I have to really watch out for this tendency even now. But, making mistakes is how we learn.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
If you put yourself out there, there is a high likelihood that someone won’t like what you have done. Should that stop you from realizing your dream? Absolutely not. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t try. I wouldn’t even count that as a failure. I told my friend I would be happy to write for her website. If what I submit is not what she wants she can tell me so and redirect me to something she likes better. If this goes against my brand or is inauthentic to me, I will tell her so. In this way, we will decide on a quality product we both can be happy with. The only way you truly fail is to not try in the first place.
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