“You have nothing to fear but fear itself!” — Some dumb guru.
You have puhlenty to fear. You can experience one of the worst feelings ever — the feeling of trying and putting your all into something yet still not getting the outcome you want.
That one stings the most because…where do you go from there? You did try, give it your all, and it wasn’t good enough.
Then you have the fear of embarrassment and social rejection. A lot of writers are scared to publish their work because they fear people judging it. Oh, people will judge it. And it feels just as bad as you think it feels. I’ve been called arrogant, dumb, a “privileged white male” (I’m black), a neo-nazi, you name it.
Let’s get this straight right now if you want to do something out of the ordinary, without question people will judge you. You’ll get rejected and experience embarrassment. You’ll want to quit. There will be struggles. You essentially pave the road to a good life with emotional bricks comprised of thick skin.
There are many benefits to staying inside your comfort zone. It feels good! Not challenging yourself and settling into a monotonous groove isn’t all bad. You have endless amounts of Netflix shows. There are drugs and alcohol. I’m not being tongue in cheek.
Escapism isn’t all that terrible of a remedy if you blind yourself from your deepest dreams and desires well enough.
Chasing a dream costs time, money, and even pieces of your sanity.
You should be afraid because it’s going to be scary, stressful, and a totally uphill climb.
So how do you overcome your fear of failure? Is there a way to overcome it?
The First and Most Crucial Step in Overcoming Your Fear of Failure
Stop trying to be not scared.
It won’t work. You’ll never come to a point in your life where you develop this absolute state of confidence in the face of something that scares you.
Quotes about positivity and morning affirmations are not enough to overcome fear. You need is the right mindset and perspective. You can use negative visualization. Picture what you think the worst possible outcomes might be.
Experience them as if you’re there at the moment. Someone does leave a negative comment on your blog post. People find out about your business idea and do laugh at you. You walk up to that pretty person, say hi, and they loudly yell to get the fuck away from them.
Picture it all. And understand you can handle it. First off, the worst scenarios will almost never happen. Second, even if they did, you’d live. That’s what going through these experiences teaches you. You don’t die.
The social rejection you’re afraid of is inevitable. Rejection and ridicule come with the territory if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd. People are going to mock you or talk down to you. Accept that it’s definitely going to happen.
At least now you’ll be able to have the right perspective to make a decision. When you accept that rejection is unavoidable, you can ask yourself whether your goals are still worth pursuing.
If the answer is no, either one of these things is true. Maybe you just weren’t cut out for living a better life. Honestly, some people just…aren’t. I’m not Mr. Rah Rah who believes anyone can put their mind to anything. No. Some people are screwed. It’s sad but true.
On the other hand, most people aren’t in this category. You’re not in this category if you even took the time to read something like this. Look, I can’t cure you. I can’t make the resistance go away.
That’s your fight.
When it comes to a fight, who isn’t a little scared? Only sociopaths. You’re human. It’s okay to be afraid. Actually, it’s good.
Make This Mental Switch in Your Mind
Stop looking at fear as a bad thing.
You’re painting the wrong context over an emotion that can be quite useful. Fear is on the same frequency of another amazing emotion — excitement.
Are you nervous and afraid when you’re going to jump out of a plane? Hell yeah. Does it feel awesome once you jump? Also, hell yeah.
I still remember getting off stage from my TEDx talk. I was so nervous. Even after I was done giving the talk, my heart was thumping out of my chest. Euphoria.
It’s self-improvement nirvana — feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
You have to practice to get this way, but use fear as a signal to act instead of a signal to avoid the action. “Easier said than done Mr. Self-Help Guy!” I know. I hate it, too. But I also love it.
Using fear this way isn’t debilitating or paralyzing. Using fear this way keeps you on constant alert for great opportunities. You see comfort as a sign of stagnation.
Do you want to live in a permanent state of fear and anxiety? No. But, every once in a while, take a hit of that excitement pipe, will ya?
I’ve made a habit of putting myself in situations where I’ll be uncomfortable combined with making it painful to back out. For example, I’m giving a talk in Montreal this April. I haven’t given a talk in front of a big crowd in years. But I committed to doing it for a good friend, so I’d be a jerk to back out. Boom. “Ready, fire, aim.” That’s the motto
You grew up in a very results-oriented manner. The grade you got on the test determined how worthy you were. That’s not how real life works at all. Often, when it comes to something like, say, starting a business or being a creator, getting a “bad” outcome isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes your “failures” bring you closer to the truth.
On top of that, your fear of failure comes from taking life too seriously. Stop looking at every situation as make or break. More and more, I’m adopting the attitude of “screw it, let’s see what happens.” This is called outcome independence.
You’re doing the thing for the sake of doing the thing. You’re getting better for the sake of getting better. Instead of taking tests, you’re running experiments.
You’re the only one who is allowed to decide if you’re a failure. Thomas Edison is said to have tried somewhere between one thousand to ten thousand times to create the light bulb. Was his first try a failure? What about his second? The hundredth?
When scientists are trying to make new discoveries they run experiments. They form a hypothesis and then test it. If their hypothesis was wrong they don’t get upset or discouraged. In fact, they may feel like they’re closer to the discovery because they were able to rule something out.
One of my favorite writers, James Altucher, recently did a Q&A on Twitter. I asked him what to do in years 6–10 of reinvention since I already took his advice and used the past five years to reinvent myself. He said, “Instead of using the 10,000-hour rule, run 10,000 experiments to see what sticks.”
Maybe I’ll write a book in a single week and publish it for shits and giggles. Maybe I’ll film a documentary or become a travel blogger. Who knows. What I do know, is I’m done worrying so much about how well my life is going to work out. I’m the mad scientist of my own life because being a mad scientist is fun!
Successful people believe that their mistakes bring them closer to the result. They treat their path like a sculpture. They start out with a vague idea of what they need to do in order to reach their goals, and they chip away at it with each “failed” experiment.
When Michelangelo was asked how he created the sculpture of David he said, “It’s simple. I took everything away that wasn’t David.”
Your life is a sculpture. Each time you “fail” you take something away that isn’t meant for your dream. You continue to do this until all that’s left is the result you were destined for.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.