Failure Is An Option – Fear Is Not

The title of this post is courtesy of James Cameron’s closing words in a recent TED talk. Cameron is of the opinion that failure must be an option-contrary to the NASA slogan, “Failure is not an option.” I am of the same opinion. Failure is OK. It means there is room for intellectual growth. Fear of failure hinders our ability to broaden our mind and innovation. Unfortunately, in social media, “failure” is a term that has been thrown about way too casually.

When all else fails (pun intended), I turn to Yoda:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Our collective fear of failure has turned the social media culture into an extremely negative bubble. Saying something has failed is the new equivalent to “whatever.” When we don’t take the time to learn from our mistakes or to understand the situation before jumping to conclusions, we label the situation/product/brand/company/person as a failure. There is no reflection or analysis; we move on to the next failure/dead meme. Poof! Our fear of failure is causing original thought to become stagnate and our relationships and businesses are suffering.

Failure does not mean we have done something wrong. No, we have done something right by taking a chance and seeking out alternative solutions as new opportunities for growth. We need to foster a culture to make mistakes-not to fail faster, but to fail at the right time.

How can we embrace failure and help end this vicious cycle?

  1.  Experiment: Lessons learned are the results of failures. Our lives are one big experiment. Just think, with this frame of mind, the possibilities of discovery are endless! Ask questions. Go beyond your comfort zone. If we allow our Ego to think we have figured this thing called life out, we are doomed…personally and professionally.
  2. Reach: If we never reach for the stars, we will never know our true abilities. Fear limits our opportunity to take risks. You never know you will not succeed unless you try.
  3. Strengthen: What did your parents always tell you? When you fall, get back up, dust yourself off and try again. Let that childhood lesson remain true into adulthood and in professional situations. Failure builds our character after we have fallen, been humbled and rise back from the ashes.
  4. Embrace: Failure is inventible. Write down your mistakes and failures. Look at your failure as a problem to be solved and break the issue into components that you can analyze and brainstorm additional paths to success. Change your thought process to be solution oriented.
  5. Inspire: Celebrate your failures and use this as an opportunity to make yourself, others and your industry better. Share your stories. Be open about what worked and did not. Accept feedback and ideas other than your own. This is true transparency.

By no means am I an optimist. Those of you closest to me or who have read this blog long enough, know I tend to look at the glass half empty. Despite this, I don’t want to live a life full of regret. Fear of failure will result in a drab existence if we allow this cycle of hate to consume us. Becoming more comfortable with failure builds a tougher skin, boosts courage and gives us the strength we need to pursue and achieve success. Don’t you think triumph is a bit sweeter after we have tasted and overcome the bitterness of failure?

So, before you label something with #failure or proclaim something dead, take a second look. Perhaps what has failed is your ability to see the bigger picture.

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