At some point in your life, you have to take some risks. It is important to understand that we are all going to experience failure—it’s an inevitable and valuable dimension of life. Your focus should not be on failure but on the lessons learned from failure. One cannot allow his or her mind to become so consumed with a fear of failure that he or she never is unwilling to muster the courage to take a risk. In no way am I advocating for you to take risks each day. I am, however, encouraging you to be willing to step out of your comfort zone from time to time and have an openness to try something new, try something that you cannot be certain is going to turn out to be successful.
If you want to move to the next level of success in your life, then you cannot simply sit around and allow doubt to dominate your psyche. You will not be able to experience the fullness of life by simply playing it safe. Life has much more to offer you when experience some things you would not normally do. Many people miss out on life-changing opportunities because they approach most things from “I cannot do it” and “it won’t work” mindsets. You will never be able to be as successful as you can be when you approach most things with little faith. When you give yourself more opportunities to experience success, even if you fail in the process, you increase your confidence in your ability to execute tasks successfully; that is, you increase your self-efficacy.
We can all learn from the examples that entrepreneurs provide us each day. Entrepreneurs take risks every day—they have to take them. All of our great national and international corporations started from a strong belief in the power of the entrepreneurial spirit. Prominent national and international corporations were founded by individuals who had enough courage to not allow a fear of failure to stop them from walking into what is possible. Many lesser known small business owners have just as much or more faith in themselves to take risks than the more well-known entrepreneurs that founded major corporations. These people understand that having a successful business in a capitalist system requires you to take some risks. If you are to be truly successful in a capitalist system, you are going to have to realize that from time to time you must take risks.
Even if you characterize yourself as “not a risk-taker,” don’t allow labels to prevent you from making moves that can significantly benefit you and your family. We often use labels as vehicles for hiding our fear of failure. As we strive to grow into more successful and wiser people, we have to confront our fear of failure more directly. Having a strong fear of failure can cause you to coast through life instead of truly experiencing it.
I am going to be honest with you and tell you that confronting your fear of failure can be quite unsettling. When you begin to wrestle critically with your fear of failure, you begin to understand some ugly truths about yourself that you would rather bury than bring them to the surface to work to improve them. Don’t be afraid of your ugly truths—work to ameliorate the ugly truths that emerge from your critical self-examination of your fear of failure. As long as you continue to live, you are going to fail. Therefore, you should not allow a fear of failure to hinder you from experiencing the success you can enjoy in life. Muster the courage to be the best you can be.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison