Overcoming The Fear of Failure
During the course of high school, I got my first job ever as a hostess at an Italian restaurant through my friend Jordan. He put a good word in for me with his boss and Jordan ended up training me as well. I recall my first day on the job, I was so nervous because I was afraid to mess up and somehow fail since it was my first job in the service industry. I had made up this notion in my head that within a certain amount of time if I was not able to properly do my hostess job correctly, I would be fired or let go. This instilled a fear in me before I even had a chance to start training. Nevertheless, my training consisted of shadowing Jordan in order to obtain a better understanding of what exactly my tasks at work are, as well as helping my servers and bussers where I could.
It was nice to be training with a friend who I felt comfortable enough to make mistakes in front of. It was also helpful that the staff there were friendly, helpful, and were understanding of simple mistakes I made. Although my training consisted of shadowing someone else, I was nervous for when the time would come that I would have to work without my friend Jordan there to help me. I still lacked confidence in my ability to perform the tasks properly due to fear of failing and I knew this was something I had to overcome.
After a few weeks of shadowing Jordan and asking him various questions, I had completed my training. Yet I still doubted my decisions which resulted in me making mistakes and asking a lot of questions about things in the restaurant I was unsure about. Such as; forgetting to tell the servers when I sat someone at a table, writing order tickets wrong, handling communication with customers on the phone and in-person incorrectly, or putting the wrong prices on takeout tickets. While only focusing on my failures, I started to cloud my judgment with fear.
Something that helped shift my mindset from fear was when one of the most experienced servers working the same shift as I had made a simple mistake of writing an order ticket wrong. At first, my boss thought I had written it, and started to explain how an order ticket should correctly be written. I felt so embarrassed to have gotten something wrong till I noticed that I wasn’t the one who wrote the order ticket. When I told my boss this he said a simple “oh” and looked for the server who wrote it in order to correct them. When I saw how relaxed the server who was getting scolded was, I realized I had let fear cloud my judgment and made my own mistakes appear far worse than they were.
I now had a better understanding of my fear. My fear of being fired for my lack of skills and seeing others do their job effortlessly while still making minor mistakes motivated me to be at a higher standard in work that I knew I could achieve. I began; studying menus, how the dishes are made, learning the plating of the desserts, memorizing the prices, exactly how I could help the servers, and practicing helping guide customers better through communication via phone and in person. After a month, I am now able to confidently go to work and know exactly what needs to be done and how without having to second guess if what I do is correct.
Improving my skills helped ease my worried mind about what skills I lacked. My improvised skill set also helped get the notion out of my head that if I hadn’t reached a certain standard I would be fired. This fear diminished when I learned that everyone including those with the most experience can still make a mistake. Improving my skills and letting go of this fear consuming me, resulted in me growing within my job.
A growth mindset is people who believe their talents can be expanded through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. I now realize I used a growth mindset since I improved my skills through effort and practice. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, researched as well as completed a study on growth mindset including a ted talk The Power of Believing that You Can Improve. She gave a group of 10-year- olds a problem that would be difficult for their skills. Some of the 10-year- olds appeared ready to challenge their skills. They showed they were using a growth mindset since they knew the problem was out of their ability or comfort yet they still tried. Whereas the rest of the 10 -year- olds used a fixed mindset since they couldn’t easily solve the problem, they felt their intelligence was in question. Now knowing this, looking back on my successful strategy I was afraid of making mistakes as I thought I would be fired from my first job.
It wasn’t until I switched my mindset to learning to improve my skills and challenge them. I had practiced a growth mindset when I was a hostess and had lacked confidence in my ability. Instead of blindly trying I looked for ways to better my skills. I studied menus, memorized prices, learned plating and practiced talking to customers. Yet most importantly I switched my mindset from being terrified every time I made a mistake to learning to not let fear cloud my judgment and make my simple mistakes seem far worse than they actually were.
Deliberate practice is the act of practicing with a specific goal with the intent of improving a skill. Two key factors in deliberate practice are immediate feedback and setting specific goals. In the article A Star Is Made by the New York Times, The article explores the research of a psychology professor at Florida State University, Anders Ericsson’s first experiment involving memory, A. Ericsson trained a person to listen and then repeat a series of numbers. “With the first subject after 20 hours of training, his digit span had risen from 7 to 20. He kept improving and after about 200 hours of training he had risen to over 80 numbers,” stated Ericsson. The success of his experiment and later research showed memory is not genetically determined, thus memorizing is a cognitive exercise Ericsson concluded. As stated in the New York Times, “…the best way to learn how to encode information meaningfully, Ericsson determined, was a process known as deliberate practice.” Thus Ericsson and his colleagues have studied expert performers in areas such as; golf, soccer, surgery, piano playing, Scrabble, writing, chess, software design, and darts.
A trait that was commonly found among all these experts was made through hard work and deliberate practice, not just natural-born talents. I was able to use deliberate practice as a hostess by setting specific goals for myself. These goals included studying menus, how the dishes are made, memorizing menu prices, and getting immediate feedback from my boss when a mistake occurs or learning something I may have not been taught yet. By using Deliberate practice I was able to improve upon my skills.
By deliberately practicing my technique I am expanding my knowledge and ability while getting positive feedback from my boss and coworkers on how much my skill set has improved. Resulting in reinforcing my growth mindset. At the present, I now know how to implement a growth mindset into my daily life. For instance, although I may not be the best at playing an instrument such as drums. Using a growth mindset, I have the ability to learn more and expand my knowledge with a better outcome of future situations. In addition to using Deliberate practice to set specific goals for myself, like learning new rhythms or beats and receiving feedback thus improving my skill.
After learning about tools such as growth mindset and deliberate practice, I can use them to further improve my skills. What I have gotten out of actively thinking about how to become successful is not only self-motivation to want to improve myself for the better but also the want to expand my knowledge and rewire my brain to not overcomplicate learning new skills. Now, knowing I can use deliberate practice to go at my own pace. Given this new knowledge, it feels less scary starting a new task and wanting to learn a new skill since I now know about successful strategies.