I am not a fearful person, but if I had to list out things that scare me I’d include:
- Big bugs
- Harm to my family
- Being forced to watch soccer
- Being trapped in an elevator with choir students
That last one, failure, is a big one for me.
I don’t like failing. It’s horrible. I love to succeed.
Failing freaks me out.
A few years ago I heard a teaching on leadership that challenged my deeply held fear of failure.
The teaching went something like this:
Failure is a certainty. Get over yourself. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
You can probably guess how I felt after I heard that.
Yep, I felt like a failure.
When it comes to failure, our human nature is to cover up, hide, or deny that it’s happened.
We try to distance ourselves from the sting of not falling short of expectations.
When we fail to fail, we lose out on innovation, progress, and discovery.
I’m glad Thomas Edison didn’t consider himself a failure and give up in his pursuit of making the light bulb.
Edison himself is quoted as saying; “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
I love that.
Failure is required for advancement.
Failure will happen. We have to be willing to take risks in spite of that fact.
I want to create “fail forward” environments for the people I lead. Settings where people feel secure enough to attempt something new, different, even risky, as long as they’re willing to learn from their mistakes along the way.
People that aren’t willing to risk failure don’t really want to move forward.
Edison is also quoted as saying, “Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure.”
Failure is a certainty. It will happen. Being willing to take the risk and move forward regardless of that truth.
“The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” (Proverbs 24.16, NLT)
A few questions for you to consider:
When was the last time you had a major failure?
What did you learn from it?
What risk are you willing to take today in order to see progress?