Why are people so afraid of failing? Is it the British Myths that are so ingrained?
I don’t think anyone is afraid of success. We all want to be able to have the money that brings with it freedom (Whatever that might mean to us) and the occasional luxury. We all want to be admired for the things we achieve. I don’t think anyone is afraid of those moments.
But we are afraid to fail. So here’s the problem: The only way to succeed is to fail. I would say success = 1% talent, 20% persistence and preparation, and 70% failure. In order to succeed you have to be willing to fail quite a bit. The other 9% is wondering what the hell happened so you can practice the 4 practices to become the luckiest person in the world.
Failure is horrible. The opposite of of our desire. It’s imprisonment instead of freedom, its people throwing stones and laughing at you instead of people admiring you. It’s work instead of sitting by the river with a cup of coffee at 11 am. It’s fear instead of relief. It’s sickness instead of health. It’s doubt instead of confidence. And yet that is 70% of success, dealing with failure and getting through to the other side.
I’m desperately afraid to fail. I think most people are. But getting through that fear is the only way to succeed.
Do You Make Fear Decisions or Growth Decisions?
I was afraid I was going to lose my biggest client. And my job. So I let him yell at me repeatedly.
I met a friend of mine. She said, “My grandma told me there are only two types of decisions: Decisions made out of fear and decisions made out of growth.”
For instance, do you stay in your job because you are afraid you won’t get another job? Or do you stay in your job because you are excited about the growth potential there? Do you stay in a relationship because you are afraid you won’t meet someone else, or you are afraid it will be bad for your kids, or you are afraid of hurting someone else?
Or do you stay in a relationship because you are truly grateful the other person is in your life (and hopefully, vice versa).
I thought about it. I picked all of major decisions in my life.
- Moving from a secure job option to building up skill set on Global Innovation.
- Being with someone. Splitting up and second time being with them to split up again.
- Travelling to Bangladesh after losing most of my savings on a business idea.
- Trying to sell a company before it had fully bloomed.
- Not taking business trips because I was nervous about what would happen if I left home.
And on and on. Her grandma was right!
Every decision I have made has either been fear or growth.
Not just big decisions but even the smallest decisions. The fear-based decisions never worked out for me. When I made a fear based decision it was always because I was giving power to someone else. I was their slave.
I’d make a fear-based decision out of insecurity. Out of a feeling of scarcity. Out of giving too much power to others so they would control my life. The growth-based decisions all resulted in miracles I could not have imagined.
With growth-based decisions you feel it in your body: an expansion of your chest, ideas in your mind, a feeling of competence increasing. A feeling of freedom expanding. You can't escape it.
A growth-based decision becomes the story of your life later. A fear-based decision turns into regret. In fear-based decisions, you feel it in your head – I better do this…OR ELSE. I listened to one of my first bosses yell at me so many times because I was afraid he would fire me if I argued.
I didn’t want to get fired because I had a company on the side and by full-time job happened to be my biggest client. I had no confidence in my company. So fear of losing a client prevented me from devoting all of my time to the real growth in my life
One time I was scared I was going to go broke again.
So I took a job. I tried to convince myself that it was a growth decision. Maybe I would expand at the job and create opportunities. But the first day at the job I fell straight to the ground for no reason. Everyone laughed and said, “Are you OK?” and I got up because I was ashamed and embarrassed at all the people looking at me. I started to limp because I hurt my leg so badly.
The second day at the job, the boss of the company told me, “Trust me on your salary. We’ll take care of you.”. And I was afraid to point out those points of common sense not being followed. He was the boss.
The third day at the job, I got up and walked out. I didn’t clean out anything. I left my jacket there. I took the elevator down 15 stories. I walked out into the sun. And I never went back. They called repeatedly. Even a year later the main guy was still calling.
My life is better than ever. I never looked back. I left the building and walked to the train station 10 minute walk from my work place. I took the train 60 miles. I watched the leaves turning from green to red along the way across the Themes River then came back home.
I came to my house breathed in the air not knowing how, what, why. Not thinking about money for the first time in months. And then I noticed. I wasn’t limping. My leg didn’t hurt.
Not everything went good for me after that decision. Some pretty awful things happened. My heart tore open more than once. My fears about money came back again and again.
But it was a growth decision. And bit by bit, the growth decisions added up. And bit by bit, I grew to love my life more than I ever had. I realised that most of the things I feared didn't happen. I realised I only feared the thought. I didn't really know what I feared. Never once did I define my fears. I found this worksheet that really worked on how I should define my fears.
Thank you, my friend’s Grandma with her Jedi mind thinking. I learned how to take the plunge: How to master your fear of failure because to Be Afraid Is To Be Alive.
If you are thinking of taking the plunge, here are somethings to consider!
I really hate fear. But then I thought, what if people were never afraid? The ones who were never afraid never ran away from the lions in the jungle.
The ones who WERE afraid became our ancestors. Became Adam and Eve and ran as far as they could from the Tree of Public Education. Adam and Eve were very afraid and then they had babies.
If I was never afraid I probably wouldn’t experience the joy of connecting with others (which probably started off as either insecurity or a fear of being alone). The bliss of doing things that I love (I started off doing them for fear I’d be a useless idiot, which I still often am but at least I’m not afraid of it anymore) .
All of the writing I have done (since I don’t publish a single thing unless I’m afraid to hit the “Publish” button). Here are some things I am afraid of that in the past year have created riches in every way in my life.
I Asked For Help
I’m afraid to ask for help. I don’t want people to think I am weak. Or I am somehow so incompetent that I need help. And maybe deep down I don’t want to feel like later in life I will owe people. I’m afraid of karmic debt. I always want to save. I never want to be saved.
This is a big problem in all of my relationships. Finally, this year I put my hand out. In cases where I was in despair I called a friend and begged to meet just so I could have connection. In places where I needed more help in work, I called people and asked for advice.
As an experiment, I travelled one place and simply asked for a place to stay. People were happy. People want to help. Everyone is told, “Practice random acts of kindness.” But in order to do that, someone has to let them be kind.
I Admitted Failure
To be fair, I’ve been admitting this non-stop since 2011. My grandad died. He kept on winning till he passed away. Eventually everyone dies – so we all eventually fail at living. We live to fail, leading to the biggest failure of all yet in the face of it, we show resilience to have small winning consistently.
Before 2011, I was afraid to do admit failure. I didn’t want people to think I was stupid. Nobody would ask me to go on TV ever again. Which is actually what happened. So what.
Someone told me, “your mess is your message”. My mess has generated 1000 articles, about 8 books and a dozen other opportunities. I’m no longer afraid of my mess now.
So I’m going to repeat it: Your mess is your message
I'm afraid to be shameless
Last year I started a business. When you start a business you sell something and you ask people for money for your service. I’ve started a business many times. The hardest thing for me is when you hit that point where you have to say, “well….it’s going to cost you £X.XX”
And in order to sell something, it means you are offering something that creates greater value for others. If I create value it means I shouldn’t be afraid to be shameless about holding my hand out. I had to keep telling myself that with every business. I was ashamed to ask.
People often don’t value what they don’t pay for. I’d like to give all my books for free, for instance, but then maybe people won’t read them. And I’d rather people read my books then have them just buried on a bookshelf. If you aren’t shameless today you will probably be ashamed of what you didn’t do tomorrow.
Here’s what I think is a cop-out. Cowardice: Radical Honesty. I hate that. Radical honesty is when you have no filter between your brain and your mouth. There’s also a quote I live by that saves my life every day. Whenever someone talks to me I listen for “the good reason” and try to figure out “the real reason.”
Or an employee says using particular new software tool will be too expensive (good reason!) but the reality is he doesn’t know how to use the tool (real reason!).
For instance, a teenager says she wants to study at a library (good reason!) but you know there will be lots of boys there (real reason!).
I like to give the real reasons. Also, honesty doesn’t mean live in a glass house. But everything I write about, I am always dead honest on. Else, I am just living in the nice little safe comfort zone I have carved out for myself and I will never grow and learn and connect with people.
Honesty is about unique and real connection that helps you build bonds with your fellow space travellers on this planet. Or robots. Whatever. The more honest, the more real, the more love.
I cold called, Brian Grazer last week, who has produced movies like “Apollo 13,” “The Doors,” and TV show, “Arrested Development.”
He told me that every two weeks for the past 30 years he has cold-called random people who have impressed him and asked them a ton of questions. He calls them curiosity conversations. Bloody hell, that was indeed a stroke of luck. But I am not the only one!
This is how he met Ron Howard, who he since has gone on to produce $15 billion worth of movies with. This is how he comes up with the ideas for every movie he has ever done. (“What was it like when Apollo 13 broke down?” he once asked astronaut Jim Lovell).
I said to him, “You seem very playful. Like a trickster. You have to be playful to not be annoying to all these people you cold call.”
“I never thought about it that way,” he said, “but that is dead on.”. So you can’t be afraid to be playful when everyone is serious. You can’t be afraid to be curious when everyone else is quiet and afraid to ask questions.
The great mathematician Godel, inadvertently proved that there are more questions than answers in the world. If we live in our safe little universe of answers and facts, we miss out on the far larger world of questions and mystery.
Mystery leads to mastery.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
I was offered a job at BHS once. I really wanted to work there. But I felt like I needed to publish a novel, for some reason, before I took 2 months internal job as a Trends and Innovation advisor there.
I never published a novel.
But finally two years later, I took the job. I wish I had taken it earlier. Don’t give yourself arbitrary goals. Goals are stupid. Just go and have the experience you want, when it is offered to you. There’s no good time. And nobody cares but you.
Be the person you want to be, and then what happens? You suddenly are that person.
I was talking to Todd Herman who specialises in training elite sports athletes. He told me something I didn’t know: that every sports athlete spends hours before a big event transforming themselves into their “alter ego.” Their super hero identity. They do this to shed all of their fears and weaknesses so they can operate at peak performance.
Who is the real secret identity, he asked me, Clark Kent or Superman?
Faking it till you make it turns you into a superhero.
Fear and mystery leads to desire. I want to know! I want to experience what I haven’t experienced before. Desire leads to every part of your body feeling more alive. Every part of your brain on alert.
It’s a dopamine/oxytocin cocktail in your brain.
And the other day I sat in the audience and she was on stage, scared and completely fearless.
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