In our last blog post we discussed some simple steps you can take to getting rid of the fear of failure in your life. For some people the fear is slight and only blocks their ability to take risks in a small way. For others, it can be crippling. It’s important to know where you are on this scale so you can be aware of whether you are missing out on opportunities and development due to fear.

“The worst possible outcome of trying a work task and then failing is probably transient embarrassment. You might be embarrassed for a while, but that will fade. The residue hopefully will be a valuable learning experience. Trial-and-error learning is a time-honoured process and one familiar to most successful people.”

Fred Orr, How to Succeed at Work, Unwin, Sydney, 1987, p.30.

failure 3

It’s a fact

When the famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison wanted to make a nickel iron alkaline battery, we are told he performed 50,000 experiments, and failed 50,000 times. Someone who knew about this asked if all these failures had disappointed him.

‘Not at all,’ replied Edison, ‘for I have learned 50,000 ways it cannot be done, and therefore I am 50,000 times nearer the final experiment!’

And, of course, he eventually did succeed. His failures were simply stepping stones to success.


Here’s an idea

Salespeople can’t afford to throw in the towel when they get rejected. Like the best salespeople, to keep yourself in the right frame of mind at work, remember the letters SW-SW-SW-N. They stand for an old saying in sales: Some Will, Some Won’t, So What . . . Next! If someone says no and won’t budge, deal with the rejection, put it behind you, and move on to the next prospect.

See success for what it is; see knockbacks, even failures, as learning experiences.


Scare yourself – and grow

When was the last time you found yourself in a scary, challenging, or intimidating situation? If you can’t remember, then you’re probably not testing your limits. Chances are you’re just coasting along, content with your lot in life.

But in order to grow professionally, to overcome any fear of failure, we need to break out of such ruts and seek out fresh, difficult challenges. The scarier, the better.

Here are a few tips for facing some typical challenging situations:

  • Tackle your most intimidating task first thing in the morning. Most people put off what they fear until last. Their day is then spent worrying about what’s to come. Get the tough stuff out of the way early to make the most of your day.
  • Channel your fear into positive energy. Fear can cripple, so take action to control it before it controls you. Turn that energy into your favour.
  • Say ‘yes’ to scary situations. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? It’s usually not as bad as you think!
  • Recall past successes. Once, we couldn’t walk, talk, read, ride a bike… and probably didn’t think we ever would. Tackling difficult situations isn’t so different. With practice, tasks that on the surface seem difficult first time round will one day become second nature to us.
  • Learn from mistakes. Learn to laugh at your mistakes – they’re an important part of growing in the job. And, just like muscles, our management skills grow when pushed to the brink of failure.


Hold monthly failure meetings

Once a month, get together with your employees for a “failure” meeting. Go around the room and ask everyone to name their biggest disappointment in the past month. Then, ask them to list five things they learned from the incident. It’s a great way to make sure everyone learns from failures. Those who say they don’t have a failure may not be thinking creatively enough or taking enough risks in their responsibilities. Let everyone know that you expect a certain amount of failure – it comes with the territory if you’re trying to be as creative as possible.


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