The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Christian Cook.
Christian Cook found her passion during a writing course in Paris. Today she is the author of Growing in the Gray, a poignant coming-of-age story about the ups and downs of college life and pulling on her personal turmoil, the Columbia College Chicago graduate pens the first novel in this thrilling series to bring healing and awareness to the hidden crisis on college campuses.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I am from metro Detroit. My time in college was a winding road with many ups and downs, but I leaned on my faith to support me the entire time because I had nothing else. I went to the city’s top art school, which was costly. My family helped me emotionally, but there was very little financial support.
I was constantly worried about paying rent, paying tuition, etc. I was always under massive financial pressure during that time because my family went through a nightmare where we lost everything. During that time, I decided to concentrate on the future rather than my present pain. This way of thinking helped me get through the time. I had to switch my mind to overcome my feelings, strategize and move to the next phase.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I got a job right after college for a top media distribution firm. I was so excited to be employed. I learned much about media, event preparation, and media outreach’s ins and outs. I learned about data, content, analytics, and more. The tech side was not my forte, but through this intensive training, I learned how the media helps feed the next trends. I am grateful for that opportunity.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Authenticity. I show up in every room as myself. I am comfortable enough in my skin to share my thoughts, ideas, and feedback. I believe in being real.
- Being Openminded. In business, we have challenges and many ways to approach those issues. There is not always a right or wrong way, but I believe there is a SMART way. I encourage leaders to be open to doing something different from the norm.
- Positivity. I lean towards positive thinking. Daily I work to remove negative thoughts and replace them with positive thinking because if you think something can get better, it will get better.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
I think they are afraid because of the gaze of the outside world. People feel high pressure to appear a certain way in front of friends and peers. When you are trying to be perfect, it is hard to show weakness or vulnerabilities; failure can help us explore the unknown and create something new. You are growing and feeling those growing pains.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
The fear of failure ultimately limits you and kills your passion, calling, and dreams. It cuts you off from living. It’s like you are locking yourself inside yourself. People need to be able to live freely.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
It improves your life in so many ways. I graduated high school at 16 and went off to college. I laugh now because there were field trips I couldn’t partake in during my freshman year of school. After all, I wasn’t 18 years old.
I found that I could truly express myself creatively when I was out on my own experiencing life. I remembered as a kid using the Polyvore platform and had an aspiring magazine editor in my bio. So I used it to tell stories through imagery on Tumblr and through fashion sets on Polyvore before it was bought by Net-a-Porter.
Moving away to art school allowed me to blossom in this area. I dabbled in things, traveled the world, and got into something that set my soul on fire. I am grateful I took that leap despite the financial strains and feeling lonely. I didn’t feel like I fit in with people, and I was alone a lot walking the streets of Chicago just to check out neighborhoods. So I firmly believe in trying new things even when the road is way rockier than I could have imagined.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
I see failing and failure a little differently. Yes, I have had setbacks, struggles and trials like anyone else but I see the glass half full. Therefore, I haven’t failed in life yet, but for anyone who has, I would suggest for they to think of failure differently. Did you fail, or can you see this as a learning opportunity to approach your goal differently? Don’t give up on something because it didn’t work the way you thought it would the first time. If we all did that, nothing would ever get accomplished.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
I feel like I have never genuinely failed in life because I can not remember a time when I failed. Of course, I have had hard times and trials, but I always count the wins in tough times.
I think about the times I quit a job before I had another one lined up. It sounds crazy to do that, but I had to leap from a bad situation where I was getting physically sick when I went to the job.
It was not the right fit for me. But, I rebounded by staying focused, tightening my budget, and keeping my eyes on the prize.
It was a lot of prayers; I call it faith mixed with strategy. However, I feel that my nighttime prayers have saved my life.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Get Rid of Doubt. Doubt starts as a thought and transfers to your external life. I suggest you do mind exercises.
- Write out your dreams. I have wanted to become an author since I was a child. I wrote my dreams down in detail. Take the time to write it out.
- Get a Supportive Circle. Surround yourself with people who care and will tell you tough things.
- Focus on the Action. Get out of your head and start. Nothing is perfect, but you can learn about your industry as you go.
- Be Prepared. Use small parts of your day to get knowledgeable about your industry. Take 15 minutes every day to read something about your industry. Immerse yourself in knowledge, and you will be ready for what comes ahead.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I disagree. There is more than one way to succeed in life and it has been proven by anyone who is successful. We all have different backgrounds and unique experiences that can be leveraged to reach the success you desire. The key is to not be afraid to be yourself!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
We need to change the way we do business. That is something I feel like I have been fighting for in every job I’ve had. I think we need to be open and that leadership needs to be available to new ideas and ways of thinking.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I would choose to have lunch with Drake. He is my favorite artist of all time and a very bright creative. He is more than talented. I think he is so strategic in his promotion and lyrics. He knows how to feel the pulse of the people and capture their attention.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.