How Overcoming Fear of Failure Can Inspire You to Greatness

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Can overcoming fear of failure inspire greatness?

Failure.  If you are alive and reading this, you have failed.

You remember your last big mistake.

Maybe it ended a relationship or a job. The more benign mistakes may simply have ended in an argument or maybe caused your kid to cry.

If you meet someone who says they have never failed, run; don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

If you think you have never failed you’re in denial or haven’t dug deep enough.

So how can overcoming fear of failure inspire greatness?  That seems counter-intuitive, right?

In this post, we’ll explore exactly what failure is. But we’ll also explore just how crucial failures are to our personal growth and development.

What causes a fear of failure?

In truth, what is failure?

Failure is trying something we aren’t sure of.

It’s extending ourselves beyond what we know 100% is possible.  In short, it is taking action in the face of uncertainty.

To be sure, some mistakes are wrong.

Everyone reading this has made a choice they wish they hadn’t made.  A choice we knew was wrong but we made it anyway out of selfishness, greed or for purposes of self-gravitation.

Maybe we got hooked on drugs or alcohol.  Or perhaps we cheated on a partner.  Even still perhaps we have done mental or physical harm to others.

How does overcoming fear of failure inspire greatness in situations like that? In short, we’re left with life lessons.

What’s another word for lessons? That’s right; education!

Richard Branson quote overcoming fear of failure Middle Class Dad

You see, if we are paying attention, EVERY time we fail, that’s an opportunity to learn. It is an opportunity to see what worked, what didn’t work and apply what we learned to the next time we do that.

That doesn’t mean the lesson might not be painful, but once the dark clouds pass you will emerge a better person; if you embrace the overcoming fear of failure!

I don’t care if you’re talking sports, relationships, business or anything else.  You will fail.  And if you learn from that failure, the next time you do that, you’ll do it a little bit better.  You’ll be a little bit smarter.  You will score the goal more, have fewer arguments with your spouse or have a more profitable business.

Why failure is a good thing!

So if we learn from every mistake and all of us make mistakes, surely we should all be Einstein-level geniuses by now, right?

Wrong.  The problem, you see, is many of us DON’T learn from our mistakes.  And when we don’t learn from our mistakes, what tends to happen?

When we don’t learn from our failure we tend to repeat it

So the trick then is not to attempt to never make a mistake but to not repeat them.

To not repeat a mistake we have to learn to own, accept and acknowledge our failure.

What then prevents most of us from accepting our failures and taking ownership?  In my experience, both personally and with others, the answer is ego.

Pride is a tricky thing and often the more insecure we are, the bigger the ego; the louder and brasher the braggart.

They say everything you need to know can be learned from Dr. Seuss, and I believe it.  This story, one of the stories in the Yertle the Turtle book, perfectly illustrates my point!

Dr. Seuss book The Big Brag overcoming fear of failure Middle Class Dad

So back to how the loudest, more gregarious guy in the room may, in fact, be the most insecure. That statement too may seem counter-intuitive but I find it tends to be true.  Is the bully at school always picking fights?  The class clown always distracting and creating disturbances? You guessed it; probably insecure.

Some of us withdraw into our shell for safety and support when we feel insecure.  But others try and mask that insecurity with a false exterior that is loud, tough or outgoing.

Why are we afraid of rejection?

Our goal should always to be learning, be growing and improving.  And yet we are afraid of failure and rejection.

Just think how great our planet could be if every person on it committed themselves to be a better human being in a year than they are today!

I’m not for a minute suggesting we can’t simply relax and enjoy the fruits of our efforts and hard work. But the moment we think we’re done learning, we’re done as a person.

That moment we simply say “this is me and I’m not getting any better; take it or leave it” is the moment we’ve accepted mediocrity.  That is the moment we’ve accepted that where we are now is as good as it will ever be.

You see that’s ego and insecurity talking and also low self-esteem. If you struggle with finding effective ways of Boosting Self-Esteem, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out one of my most shared posts on that subject!

If you want to take a break from overcoming fear of failure and just enjoy life, that’s great (although I don’t believe you have to choose one or the other).  But if you make that choice, don’t make it out of fear, laziness, ego or insecurity.

Why do I have a fear of failure?

Acknowledging our shortcomings and putting effort into working on them isn’t the quick and easy route.

For many, it’s far easier to simply come home from a long day, pour a drink and forget about the troubles of the day.  Note: I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with doing exactly that.  I’ve done that many times and I get it.

But that scenario can’t be our answer to everything.

We have to stretch ourselves; to do the work that makes us uncomfortable.  We have to say something to someone that isn’t easy to acknowledge about ourselves.

You see a funny thing happens when we work on overcoming fear of failure.

Every time you focus on improving yourself mentally, physically or emotionally you feel those endorphins kick in and you want more.

A recent study by Harvard University found that “Reflecting on (“the key lessons taught by experience“) improves learning and performance – significantly”.  Upwards of a 25% increase!  So the more we acknowledge failure and learn from our mistakes, the better we’ll get!

Every time you read a self-help book, meditate, listen to a podcast or talk to a therapist you feel better about yourself; more motivated, inspired and excited.  You get excited about yourself!  Not about some achievement that someone said was important to accomplish, but about your own person and future. The same is true when we apologize for a failure.

The huge sense of relief in acknowledging our mistake

black and white photo with the words make mistakes with a lone pencil in color overcoming fear of failure Middle Class Dad

Make no mistake; apologizing to another we have harmed doesn’t mean they will forgive us; especially right away.  But we can only control our own actions and not the actions or reactions of others.

Certainly though, apologizing is the first step in owning our failure.

And the first step in that person possibly forgiving you.  Even if they never forgive you, if you learn from that mistake and don’t repeat it; you have won.  The costs may have been high, but you have won moving forward.

The powerful ways acknowledging failure affects our attitude

So if we know refusing to acknowledge failure is tied to ego.  And we also know ego is tied to insecurity, then how do we learn to move past insecurity?

It can, but if you truly embrace that failure and learn from it, you’ll be surprised how much of a self-esteem boost you will see.  You see when we fail but try and pretend we didn’t, everyone else still knows we did.  We aren’t fooling anyone; only ourselves.  I would even go so far as to argue that we aren’t even really fooling ourselves.

The secret power behind owning our mistakes

What do you think happens when we try and cover up a mistake?  A mistake everyone knows we did and we know they know; but we pretend anyway?  If you’re thinking that actually hurts our self-esteem, you’d be correct.

On the flip side, when we truly own a failure and push past our overcoming fear of failure, that actually gives us power.  If you screw up in dealing with a subordinate at work and brush it off or pretend you didn’t, all you did was make them lose respect for you.

If, however, you go to them and say “hey.  I’m really sorry about losing my temper with you yesterday.  I had no right to blow up at you like that” you will only gain their respect.

Now, if it happens over and over you won’t, but what are we talking about here?  That’s right; learning from our mistakes and not repeating them!

Amy from The Dale Tribe illustrates my points perfectly!

One caveat though is to really own the mistake.  Don’t make it conditional; “well I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t . . . .”  Also don’t tell the other person how to feel about it “well I’m sorry, but it really shouldn’t have been that big a deal”.  Lastly, don’t make excuses “I’m sorry, I just had a long day and my wife put me in a bad mood this morning”.

You did it.  You had a choice.  You made that choice.  Accept it, own it and deal with it.

If you don’t truly own it then that faux apology you just gave is pretty worthless and a waste of both your time.

Thus, acknowledging and truly owning our mistakes does actually improve our self-esteem.

John Wooden quote overcoming fear of failure Middle Class Dad

Overcoming Fear of Failure Can Inspire You to Greatness!

To sum up, just take responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them and acknowledge them to others when you make them.  If you do that, I can almost guarantee you’ll be a better person tomorrow than you are today.

Just imagine where you’ll be in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years??

Did we cover all the steps for overcoming fear of failure you were looking for?

In this post, we looked at why we fail. More importantly, we looked at how our fears hold us back, damage our relationships and limit our potential.

Ultimately we looked at how overcoming fear of failure can create great things in your life and set you up for a better tomorrow.

What is holding you back from learning from your failures?

Feel free to comment here or email me with any questions as I am here to help!

If you like this post, please consider sharing on Facebook, because if it helped you, it just might help someone else!

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Jeff Campbell bio overcoming fear of failure Middle Class Dad

Photo credits (that aren’t mine):
Super hero kid –
Make Mistakes –

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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