Fear of failure may stop many from following dreams


Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor


I saw these two questions on the same day from different sources:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  Beyoncé.

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  Robert Schuller.

I saw the first question in a brief item about Beyoncé, the singer and show business power, who was on the cover of Time and listed as one of its 100 most influential people in the world.  The other question appeared on the whiteboard in the lobby of Mesalands Community College.

When you see both questions twice on the same day, it gets past short-term memory and into actual consciousness.  So I’ve been musing about these questions, because it’s way easier than acting on them.

The questions are the same, of course.  Failure is the fear, and fear of failure is right up there with fear of root canals and income tax audits in our consciousness.

Your life can depend not on your answer to either question above, but your response to the question that logically follows:  “Should I?”

Beyoncé and Schuller apparently answered yes.  Beyoncé has landed on the cover of Time magazine.  Schuller built a massive, sparkling glass temple called the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, Calif., not to mention the televangelism empire based on his “Hour of Power” broadcasts.

In my case, I wish I had an inspiring story about saying yes, like:

• I said yes and wrote a best-seller that made John Grisham re-open his law practice and chase ambulances.

• I said yes and now my software-telecommunications empire has driven Bill Gates to running charities instead of Microsoft.

Those are the kind of stories you  dream up when you read the first question in Time magazine.  When you read the question in the lobby of Mesalands Community College, maybe the story you see is more like:

• I said yes and now I see 25 four-legged patients a week as a horse dentist.

• I said yes and now I’m planning my Social Work master’s thesis with my bachelor’s degree all but done.

These stories, too, are inspiring, especially for Mesalands students who are the first in their families to advance their education beyond high school.

I suppose the lesson here is to acknowledge your fear of confronting the Emmett Kelly sad-clown face of failure and go for it anyway.

When I’ve screwed up my courage and said yes in my own small ways, I’ve found that failure is sad but not scary, and that success is fleeting.  That’s just the way it works.

I’ve probably viewed the sad face more often than I’ve seen success, but it gets less and less troubling with every meeting.  It’s what you did to get to either point that counts.

In his poem ”If,” one of Rudyard Kipling’s signs of manhood (to Kipling.  Today we’d say “adulthood”) is,

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same…”

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Why don’t you go and find out?

Why don’t I quit musing and get on with it?





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