November 17, 2017
    Overcoming your fear of failure

    8 lessons to learn

    By Sheri L. Singer | 09/07/2017

    If you've ever failed at anything in life, you are in good company. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Lucille Ball was told to try another profession, Warren Buffet was rejected by Harvard University. As it turns out, failure is a universal part of life.

    We might have a different definition of failure, but each of us knows how failure makes us feel - fearful, ashamed, guilty, disappointed, sad, hopelessness, vulnerable, even angry. We may believe that our status will decrease; that others will think less of us. Worse, these feelings stemming from failure may erode our self-esteem.

    In our darkest moments, we worry that these feelings are permanent. That makes us hesitate to try anything new where we aren't fairly certain of success. But there are valuable lessons to learn from failure. Here are a few of them:

    1. Do it anyway. Sometimes we just to push through our fear. When I started taking Pilates, I couldn't master the "short spine" - but 14 years later, I do it easily and it's my favorite Pilates exercise.

    2. Trust the universe. I started taking Pilates as a way to fill in an hour while waiting for a workout buddy to finish a class. Had I not been at the gym, had the class not been offered at that time, I may never have tried Pilates. Things work out the way they are supposed to - trust the universe.

    3. Push beyond paralysis by analysis. Did you know there are thousands of neutral paint colors? It's tough to choose one. Sometimes failure is our inability to make a decision - we are paralyzed; we believe we need one more piece of information - but do we? Maybe we're just afraid.

    4. Take action by breaking it down. Ever work on a project where you can't get started because you are so overwhelmed? But once you take that first small step, it makes it easier to take the next one. Before you know it you've completed the project.

    5. Change the storyline. When faced with failure, change the storyline--the way you view the situation. Turn it upside down, inside out, until you see the glass half full. Sometimes, our old storyline just needs a new viewpoint.

    6. Trust your gut. In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell writes about how your intuition is based on data you've absorbed throughout your life. When your "gut" kicks in, says Gladwell, it's your brain retrieving information from old files. Trust your gut.

    7. Just say no. During media training, I told association executives that when a reporter doesn't adhere to the interview boundaries, end the interview. When you recognize that a situation isn't going to be successful, you can walk away. You have power.

    8. Reflect. When we face failure, we tend to rush into problem-solving and don't take the time to reflect. It's important to think about the lessons learned and identify what you can take forward into your successful future.

    Overcoming your fear of failure can help propel us into a successful future.

    This article is based on a workshop at ASAE 2017 annual Meeting presented by Sheri L. Singer, president, Singer Communications. She is vice chair of ASAE's Healthcare Community Committee. Contact her at

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