Overcoming Your Fear of Failure

Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”– Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’ve met a lot of people who live their lives in fear. They’re afraid to take chances. They’re afraid of what could happen. And they’re afraid of looking like a fool.

Bottom line is many have a fear of failure.

Nobody wants to look stupid. And for some it’s better to not try something than to run the risk of looking incompetent.

Me? I’m a little different. I have fears like everyone else. But unlike a lot of people, I resign myself to knowing that I’m going to fail. So instead of worrying about overcoming a fear of failure, I simply know that it will happen and accept that it’s a normal part of the learning process.

A Quick Story…

As you’ve heard me mention before, I recently ended a relationship which was a complete disaster. At one point though, I was still putting all of my energy into fixing it.

Now during the late fall, I was talking to my buddy John. He was trying to figure out why I still kept trying when most could see this relationship was going to fail. My response to him pretty much summarized my entire philosophy of life…

I said “I would rather fail forward, than fail backwards.”

My point was simple. I would rather know that I put 100% effort into the relationship than live my life with regret because I didn’t take action.

Yes, the relationship ended pretty badly. But at this point, I know I did everything humanly possible to make it work. I can look back with very little regret.

Two Types of Failures

In my opinion, there are two types of failures…

The first one is “failing backwards.” This is what most people do. Many live in absolute fear of failure. So they try to avoid failing by taking no action.

This is failing backwards because they have dreams and aspirations that they’re too afraid to go after. They think they’re stationary, when in fact, they’re moving further and further away from what they truly want.

The second type of failure is the one I spoke of before: “failing forwards.” This is having the mindset where you know you’re going to fail, but you keep trying.

I’m a firm believer in failing forwards because I know that the best things in life usually result from making a ton of mistakes. In fact, I can honestly say I’ve succeed at 20% of the things I’ve tried. If I was a baseball player, I would have been benched a long time ago.

For instance, it took me almost five years to support myself full-time with an online business. During this process I failed more times than you could possibly imagine.

And five weeks from now, I’m going to go on a pretty long vacation through Europe. I know I’m going to make a bunch of mistakes during this time. But I’m not going let a fear of failure prevent me from chasing after a dream.

Overcoming your Fear of Failure

The title of this post promised a way to overcome your fear of failure. So here’s my simple, but effective solution…

Accept that you’re going to fail.

That’s it. Whenever you feel scared about trying something new, tell yourself that you will fail. You’re going to make mistakes. And at some point you’ll probably look foolish.

The good news is this happens to everyone. Nobody is born awesome at everything (well besides Chuck Norris)

Just remember that making mistakes is what helps you grow as a person. So it’s important to never fear failure. Instead, learn to fear not trying at all.

Take Action. Get Results.

14 thoughts on “Overcoming Your Fear of Failure”

  1. Steve,

    A very enjoyable post; I like how you’ve related your own experiences to your theories. I agree failure is inevitable; so why fight it. Just let it happen and learn to deal with it.

    Our biggest obstacle to our success in inside our own head.

    Good luck luck on your travels.



    • Failure is part of the process. And it’s sad that many are afraid to try something simply because they’re too scared of looking like a fool.

      I agree with you that our biggest obstacle is what goes on inside our head.

  2. I like that ‘going to give it everything I’ve got before I quit’ attitude. It can’t always be easy though as you describe. You still have the problem of knowing when it is really time to stop. What is it that tells you?

    • I do believe in giving it all and leaving no stone unturned. To answer your question… It’s often a gut-check moment when you realize that enough is enough. My problem is often attack a problem beyond the point it’s fixable. Sometimes, it takes an “intervention” from those closest to me to remind me of the importance of moving on.

  3. Steve,

    I love this post! It’s a real eye-opener. That’s what my grandmother used to tell me all the time in fact, that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. That’s true. We know we’re going to “fail” or make mistakes but if we keep going, that’s what makes it all worth it. And in order to keep going it only makes sense to learn from our mistakes.

    Wonderful post. In fact, I’m bookmarking this actual post.

    • Hey Eric! Welcome to my site.

      Glad you found this post useful. Like I said, failure is actually good thing. It simply teaches us another way to NOT do something.

  4. I tend to give myself a hard time if I ‘fail’, and I always fear it. But it doesn’t stop me just the same. I fear every time I make a new post on my blog and I fear just being myself, but after several weeks I am finally finding my own.

    Great post Steve, happy to hear your trying to move on and staying positive.

    • Don’t worry Maria, I think we’re all go through the “what will they think when I write this post” kind of mindset. But eventually you learn to have confidence in what you’re presenting.

  5. I like this post. My question is, however, how do you accept something you don’t accept?

    I can say to myself that I accept failure, but I know in my heart that isn’t true. How can I make myself accept things? Is there some sort of technique I can use? Or do I just have to wait for it to happen?

    • Thanks for the comment Marthe! There really isn’t a special technique…just adopting the mindset that you will experience some form of failure and just know that it will happen.

  6. This post reminded me of one of my ‘uplines’ in my timein network marketing. he used to regularly do a ‘training session’ about the importance of taking action and failing forward, and used to quote Yoda a lot in in (“Do or do not. There is no try.”)
    To make his point he used to ask everyone in the room to ‘try’ and stand up. Those who had never been to the training before would stand up, and he would ask them why, and they would inevitable say, “Because you told us to.” to which he would reply, “I told you to try, you didn’t try, you did it, you suceeded.” Then he’d explain how the very idea of trying to do something predicted failure, hence the Yoda quote. He’d do it again and every time I was the only one on my feet. He used to get really annoyed with me, and ended up asking me why I was standing up every time, and every time I’d tell him “because I’d rather try and suceed than not try and fail.” As far as I was concerned at that point everyone in the room should be on their feet, but he never did see it my way, and neither did anyof the others.
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..Investing in Junk Coins by Keith Hamburger =-.

  7. I’m a casual lurker on your blog, but this post really struck home for me, Steve. It’s an attitude that I feel is especially prevalent where I’m from as our culture generally promotes playing it safe and by the book all the time, in almost every aspect of life. I myself am in the middle of beating my head against a pretty solid wall in life, and it’s truly a draining experience. But like you said; if I get past this it’s all good… if I don’t, at least there’ll never be a ‘what if’. Just going in with that in mind makes it so much easier to keep slogging forward.

    Thanks for this post.

  8. Steve,

    I just came across your blog from your Twitter post. Honestly, I don’t remember when I started following you, or why exactly, but I’m glad I did. I’ve subscribed to your blog, I like a lot of what you have to say here.

    Your points about failing forward are nice, but I wonder if it works better for some people to just remove the word ‘fail’ from their vocabulary altogether. The way I see it, there really is no such thing as failing. Think about it, who defines whether you really failed at whatever it was? Take your situation with your so-called ‘failed’ relationship. It wasn’t a failed relationship, otherwise, it wouldn’t have turned into a relationship in the first place, that would have been a failed relationship. Instead, the relationship was a success, it just ended earlier than you might have wanted or thought you wanted it to. That’s a rough example, but maybe you see what I’m getting at…

    One commenter asked how to believe in the idea of knowing they’re going to fail, when in their heart, they didn’t believe it. I think by not believing anything is really a failure, and instead believing that everything is a success (borrowing the famous words of Thomas Edison, “I didn’t fail 10,000 times, I just found 10,000 solutions that don’t work” – not exact, but the point is there), just maybe not in the way that others around us see it, really helps for people that have that type of concern.

    All the same, thanks for sharing your take on this. I’m glad I saw your tweet.

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