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Why do we Fear Failure?

adminbmt November 7, 2013

I’ve interacted with plenty of Entrepreneurs & Startups, students & professionals who want to become Entrepreneurs and a peculiar mindset that I have seen among a vast majority is that failure is bad. So many fear failure more than anything else. There are a lot of them who think what I write is absurd because I don’t hesitate to write about my failures. I’ve come across many who don’t attempt anything because they fear failure. I started wondering why we fear failure? Why do we have to think of failure as something so shameful and insulting?

I believe the main reason for this is the emotion we have all attached with failure. From the time we were in primary school, our parents took pride in showing off how well we scored in our exams. Our summer holidays would be all good till the day the results are out. Once the exam score is out, our standing against the rest of the class would determine how the rest of the holidays would be spent. In school, I’ve tried my hand at debates, music, athletics, dance etc and I was horrible at most of it. I was mocked at for failing at all these things I had tried. I would still understand the kids who were really good in those respective fields making fun of me. The irony was that the even kids who did not even try, took the privilege of mocking at me. If I look back at my life when we used to live in an apartment, everyone wanted to be the best at everything. It had to be the best or nothing. The humiliation that the kids who were not the best underwent was pronounced.

Add to this, the fact that the human mind seems to get attracted to anything negative. There was more discouragement for those who wanted to try something. No kid was born with a fear of heights, fear of speech, fear of the dark or fear of failure. As a matter of fact, kids don’t even know what failure is. Ask a kid who is yet to understand the concept of failure, what he/she wants to be. Without a blink, you will get amazing responses like – athlete, doctor, astraunaut, prime minister, actor, etc. Slowly, the society teaches the kid why those dreams are not practical. The kid who wanted to be an athlete tries to run and everyone around shouts – “don’t run you’ll fall”. And the kid does fall. If only they would tell the kid “run hard but be careful”, the kid would not have associated falling with failure. The kid would have associated falling with learning how to improvise. But that is not what our parents, teachers, our friends told us when we fell. They all said “See! I told you, you would fall! You didn’t listen.” Slowly, every time we stumble we think of them as failures not as lessons learnt. Then, we grow up to be adults looking for that safe little corner of ours, that comfort zone where we feel there is nothing to be scared of. We then impart the same mindset to all the people we can influence.

But really, if you look back at it, is failure so bad? I don’t think so. The only problem is that we don’t give as much credit and acknowledgement to success as we give to failure. If only we would celebrate little successes, we would all see how our successes have outnumbered our failures. And those failures are the real teachers. I’ve come across a few people who think what I write about Entrepreneurship is baseless because I have seen my share of failures. This selective lens a lot of people wear tend to think of failure and success as two ends of the spectrum. The fact however is that these two elements are very closely intertwined. Whatever it is that you do, if you are not failing, you are probably capable of achieving much greater success if only you would let go of the fear of failure. I personally believe if you are not failing enough you are not challenging yourself enough.

Think about this:

  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded.
  • Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred playing his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer.
  • Colonel Sanders had the construction of a new road put him out of business in 1967. He went to over 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found a buyer interested in his 11 herbs and spices. Seven years later, at the age of 75, Colonel Sanders sold his fried chicken company for a finger-lickin’ $15 million!
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
  • Charles Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.
  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School. The University of Bern turned down his Ph.D. dissertation as being irrelevant and fanciful.
  • The movie Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th-Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.

Visit to see many more inspirational stories of failures turning to success, compiled from Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen.

So, the point is this – if you think failure is bad, change your thought. It is that thought or the fear, which is going to stop you from being your best!


Contributed By:

Srikanth Acharya


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