Nia Davies On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Expectations — managing expectations by not expecting to become free from the fear of failure, but knowing that you will get better at dealing with it.
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 Nia Davies.
Nia is a Welsh-Korean writer from London. She has a BSc in medical science from Imperial College and an Mst in entrepreneurship from Cambridge University. You can find out more about her at niaelindavies.com
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’?
Having left medical school during my finals due to an unhealthy lifestyle and mental health concerns, I became more interested in holistic approaches to personal wellbeing and self-discovery. As someone who’s heritage is Welsh-Korean, this meant integrating Eastern and Western perspectives and finding more crossover in the intersection between mainstream and ‘alternative’ practices.
With regards to the world of work, this hybrid approach translated into carving more creativity and autonomy into my life — which has now become more accessible thanks to the increasing numbers of people having the option to work with the remote model. The pandemic further highlighted that health is the real wealth.
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?
One of the most interesting things that happened to me when I started my new career path was noticing how many doors opened up by simply following my curiosities and interests. I was scared to step into the unknown because I could not have seen or predicted the opportunities that were going to present themselves until I had already taken the leap. I think the main thing I learned is that whether you stay or leave — the only certainty is always uncertainty.
Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Curiosity — this can be tricky because it often means exploring areas where you consistently challenge ‘the norm’. However I would like to think that this has helped me to be less judgmental by having a more diverse array of personal experiences to relate to, while sticking to my core values
- Inspiration — I think that the NHS is such a national treasure that needs protecting at all costs, but it is certainly beginning to feel the long-term strains of increasing systemic pressure and morale was at an all-time low. This made it very hard to feel hopeful and inspired, which are some of the things I love most about the dreamers in the start-up space
- Pleasure in the process — I think we still have quite a puritan ‘no pain no gain’ approach to whatever success or achievement metrics you’re using, and I prefer the ‘no pleasure no treasure’ approach. I also like the notion that wanting is powerful because it makes us do things, but doing without wanting is joyful because it makes us love things.
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 actually had a premonition that I wasn’t going to end up completing my finals after all that time spent doing something I knew wasn’t right for me, and I made that fear a reality! I was afraid for a multitude of reasons — stepping into the unknown, letting people down, not living up to expectations, and sunk cost fallacy being a few of the main ones.
I think we are most afraid of what we think failure says about us — that we didn’t try hard enough, lack something or aren’t good enough. However I think it’s important to separate the event from the individual in that yes we are responsible for our choices and actions, to whatever degree free will is free, but there are also so many external factors beyond our control… and there’s only 1 ultimate end point to this on-going process.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
The biggest limitation it places on us is that we do not try in the first place.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the fear of failure can help improve our lives?
I don’t think it’s possible to become completely free from fear (of failure) because that would probably be some kind of neurological condition, but I think we can become less tied to the fear of the unknown by knowing that we only ever control the process, and rarely ever the outcome.
For me, this helps to relieve some of the pressure of things not ‘going right’ or as expected. Because they almost never will! And that helps me to be more present and to put things into perspective — 2 things that are easier said than done, but which can have a big impact on overall wellbeing and direction.
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?
Being told that I was too ill to re-sit my finals after 7 years and would need to take a year out was a really hard pill to swallow. But after all the stress and resistance, I felt some sense of relief when it was finally time to let go. It was the first big failure I’d ever really experienced. And as far as life paths go, it did have a pivotal impact.
However my worst fears about failure never came to fruition — I thought it would be a downhill cycle from there and that there would be nowhere else to go. It certainly was not an easy transition and I knew the only thing that would really help was time, but I didn’t expect so many other opportunities to open up and it reminded me that my grandfather (who partially raised me) always used to say that ‘when one door closes, another one opens’.
I think the hardest part about failure wasn’t the impact it had on me, because I was ready for change by that point — but it was the impact on those closest to me because there is often very little you can do about that. At the end of the day, it was a learning process for everyone and I know there will be more to come.
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?
Whenever I am going through a period of intense change I find that getting away from the source can help to bring back some perspective. I usually try to go away for at least a little bit, see other people or carve out more physical and mental breathing space if possible.
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.
- Expectations — managing expectations by not expecting to become free from the fear of failure, but knowing that you will get better at dealing with it.
- Letting go — of the need to do everything right, for the process to be perfect, or to tie your worth and who you are as an individual to expectations, results and outcomes. Easier said than done!
- To be present — when my head is spinning into the future with all the fearful possibilities of what could be, coming back to the breath and noticing that nothing major has actually changed in the present and I’m still here can help to restore calm
- Hindsight — is a beautiful thing. Knowing that I’ll only see the blessings in the curse with time.
- To put things into perspective — however high your aims, and wherever you think you’re headed, we all end up at the same ultimate destination at the end of the day ☺
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 suppose that this would mean different things to different people, at different points in time. For me now, without further context, this line would instigate feelings of remaining true to one’s self — for example there is success in failure if the goal is to explore, to learn and to understand more about ourselves, each-other and our places in this cosmos
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. :-)
To improve mental wellbeing worldwide, because I think if we tackle that, then the other compassionate causes may naturally follow. And to remember that self-love is not selfish, just as selfishness is not self-love.
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 love to meet Tim Urban, Emma Watson, and Derren Brown to name a few.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My portfolio is available at niaelindavies.com ☺
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, Food Network, WW, and Bloomberg. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.