Growing up, most of us were conditioned to fear failure. Every bad grade on a test meant less of a chance of getting into a good college and  it eroded our perceptions of self-worth.  Of course, in our minds logic follows that If you didn’t get into a good college, then you couldn’t get your dream job and be perceived as successful. And so the perfectionist tendencies are born and bred – better to play it safe and succeed, than play big and fail..

Wow. It’s no wonder our society is filled with so many stressed and anxious people. Essentially, the pressure to perform and meet expectations has existed our entire lives. As adults, this fear-based mentality manifests itself in many different ways. It’s when you avoid trying new things. It’s putting off doing something because you’re unsure how it will turn out. 

And here’s the sad truth: A fear of failure is the number one reason people are afraid to go after their goals. It holds us back from pursuing our passions, tapping into our potential and experiencing all that life has to offer. 

Why It’s Okay to Fail

In the moment, it’s hard to see how our failures will help us, rather than hinder us. With the embarrassment, and wasted time and effort, failure confirms our worst beliefs about ourselves: the belief that we aren’t good enough. After being passed up for a promotion or having an idea shot down, it’s normal to feel disappointed and frustrated. 

However, when the negative emotions pass you’ll be able to see the flip side. Failure is inevitable, and it happens to everyone. Some of the most successful people experienced failure on their rise to the top. The problem is that we see these great leaders at the pinnacle of their success – what we don’t see are the struggles along the way and setbacks behind the scenes. 

J.K. Rowling once said, “it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” 

Did you know it took Rowling 7 years to publish her first Harry Potter book? Twelve publishers turned down her first manuscript (bet they are regretting that decision!) As she was writing the book, she was struggling at a single mother on the verge of poverty. Now, she is one of the most esteemed authors of our time.

Failure is the Birthplace of Creativity and Innovation

“Mistakes are our portals of discovery.” – James Joyce

Many companies promote a performance-based rather than a learning agile culture. But results aren’t necessarily the best indicators of success. 

As a leader, the secret is finding a way to strike the right balance. Empower your employees to push boundaries and create an environment that encourages productive mistakes – the kind of mistakes that foster new ideas and innovation. 

Fostering a learning culture requires following this three-step process: fail, learn and adapt. Many people think success means not failing, and view success as failure’s opposite. But they actually go hand-in-hand.

The greater your success, the greater number of failures you’ve overcome in the past. This is why it’s important to see failure as feedback. With each failure, you’re that much closer to having a breakthrough idea, and resilient enough to overcome obstacles that come your way.

Take Risks and Blaze New Trails

Failure is one of your greatest learning tools. It provides valuable insights that can give you a great competitive edge. These insights can only be created by daring to experiment.  So, what are some key qualities failure can help you build?

  • Resilience & Grit
  • Compassion & Empathy
  • Creativity and Inspiration

And remember, the fear of failure is even worse than failure itself.   By focusing too much on the destination, you forget to enjoy the journey. When all else, fails…fail!