Rock climbers will often tell you that if you don’t fall, it means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. As a (former) climber, I often pushed myself to jump for nearly impossible holds. Most of the time I ended up falling, but sometimes I’d end up getting it. And that feeling of accomplishment was worth all of the failed attempts.
However, unlike rock climbing, I have shaped my entire adult life around the idea of protecting myself from failing at something. I always put up safety nets, choose what makes the most sense, and almost never take risks that have a good chance at resulting in failure. Because I expect so much out of myself, I’m scared of failing. I’m afraid the disappointment will somehow destroy what little confidence I have. Which means, the softer the landing I can provide, the better, and more in control I feel.
But everything changes when we learn to take chances. Life happens. You learn quickly from your mistakes, and a good argument can be made that you learn more from failure than from success. Especially when you’re in your 20’s. Risk is made for young people.
So if we never find ourselves failing at anything, are we really pushing ourselves? And how do we break past the fear of failure?
We set boundaries for ourselves every day. We are taught that success is good, and failure is bad. So we limit what we think is possible, and we go with what is comfortable because it’s easy. You can spend a lifetime telling yourself that you can’t do something. But how do you really know it’s not possible unless you take the time to try? Even the most outrageous goal can be achieved if we are willing to take that risk of potentially failing.
Nearly six years ago, I told myself that I was going to get out of over $20,000 worth of debt in less than 12 months. There was a very good chance I would fail, because I was a complete financial disaster. I didn’t have a plan, but I was going to try as hard as I could anyway. And the thing about not having a real plan is that you stop thinking. You stop trying to convince yourself that you might fail. You stop second-guessing your choices. You stop all of that over-analyzing bullshit, and you just DO. It’s amazing what we can accomplish if we just work hard and let our instincts take over.
Quitting my full-time job to take on a freelancing career is probably the scariest, riskiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Sure, I could end up killing it and becoming a freelancing rockstar. But, I could just as easily fail. The point is, I don’t care. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. So that in the end, if I do end up failing, I’m still really winning.