Twenty four years back, I attended the first MILT convention at Bangalore, called “Sangam”. Krishnan and I had been married a few months then, and (late) Reddy’s wedding gift was our trip to Bangalore and attending the convention. There were several technical papers presented and one of them was on “fear” and how to be fearless. I had questioned the presenter saying, we do need some fear, because it helps us be better prepared. You fear for your safety at night, and take precautions. You fear for your reputation so you stop yourself from doing something stupid. So fear in small measure is needed … Ofcourse Aporesh tried making me a Miltonian by saying, “she wouldn’t understand, she is not a Miltonian” :):). I did have a private argument with Aporesh later but “fear” as an emotion has always been fascinating.
I came across this poster on facebook and it sums up what excessive fear of failure can do –
As I have grown older, I realise that people fear failure the most after death. Fear of death is the biggest fear out there, and I feel the fear of failure is the next. While growing up, the fear of failure leads to good students actually failing in exams and then committing suicide because they failed. Parents are held responsible and considered a failure if their child doesn’t turn out to be the brightest, smartest, best behaved or with the highest marks. In sports excessive fear of failure leads to bad performance by great sportspeople. In the corporate world the person who has this fear will never earn his team or peer’s respect. Imagine an operations leader struggling to say “no” to a client because he doesn’t want to fail and eventually fails because he/she cannot deliver or a salesman wanting to perpetually shadow his manager because he is scared of taking the blame of the sale not happening, or a leader scared of failing always finding a way to blame “others”….
Fear of failure is crippling. One of my favorite questions in any managerial interview is “what are some of your failures, where did you go wrong, what did you learn ?”. Very often the answer I get it, I don’t have any failures or something so tiny that it doesn’t count !! If you don’t have any failures in life, it only means you haven’t tried hard enough and you haven’t taken enough risks. It could also mean, you will not let your team commit mistakes and will be harsh on them – a clear disaster as a manager.
No one can succeed all the time, Abraham Lincoln, Edison, Einstein, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Gandhiji.. Pick any great man or woman, they all faced spectacular failures right through their life. Imagine if any of these people had the crippling fear of failure, we certainly would not be remembering them because they would have remained another “unlived” life.
Fear is needed, in small doses to get the adrenaline flowing, but not the fear that cripples and stops you from acting. Especially never be afraid to fail or pass up the opportunity to fall down – dust yourself off, laugh with those that laugh at you and get on with what you need to achieve.
The best quote to help those who fear failure is the following one, print it off and stick it on your wall, read it everyday and just keep moving.