Failure. The word alone makes your butt clench up with horror, doesn’t it?
How many of your daily decisions revolve around avoiding failure? How many calls go unmade? How many projects remain dormant? How many big dreams play out only inside the fail-proof space of your imagination? How much bullshit do you endure purely because you know you can be really, really accomplished at bullshit and because it’s reassuring to have your name on an embossed business card with a fancy title underneath:
Managing Director of Bullshit
How to avoid failure.
If you’re determined, you can go to extraordinary lengths to avoid failure. Pursue a boring career and marry a person you don’t love. Add to that a mortgage for a suburban crapbox, car repayments on a 4WD that’ll never leave the city, a few dull friends, and a yappy dog that pees on the carpet, and you can be unpleasantly distracted for an entire lifetime.
Keep telling yourself: “This is good enough, this will do,” and learn to tolerate the chronic sadness that nags from the core of your heart.
That way, you’ll never have to fail.
But really, isn’t your whole miserable life a failure, John Doe?
So ask yourself this:
1. I’m afraid to make a fool out of myself.
Let’s say your epic plan blows up in a spectacular mushroom cloud and now you have to face friends, family, and coworkers with a sooty face and singed eyebrows. Everyone will see you’re a loser. Sucks to be you.
But guess what? Other people don’t care. They’re too focused on their own plans, fears, failures, and shortcomings. Stop playing out cocktail party conversations in your head starring you as the subject of mockery. “What a loser that guy is! Ha-ha-ha! Oh, dear, I just laughed so hard that I squirted Cristal out my nose.”
Nope. That’s not happening in real life. You’re not that important. It may seem earth-moving to you, but your failure will be an insignificant spec of dust among 7 billion people.
Nobody cares. Get it? So remove your tail out from betwixt your thighs and stop rolling around in the stink of your self-pity.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
―Thomas A. Edison Click to Tweet
2. I’m afraid of being wrong.
Perhaps there’s someone in your life who will give you a hard time if you fail: A husband or wife, a boss, a parent, your talking parrot Petey. “Gahhh. Loser! Loser! Gahhh.”
This person doesn’t believe in you and if your plan fails, you’ll give them the satisfaction of being right. Right?
Listen up: These people are assholes. Let them do a pathetic mocking monkey dance until they fall and drown in the cesspool of their jealousy. Their energy is toxic. Associate yourself with positive, supportive enablers, cut the naysayers from your social circle, and practice quick-drawing your middle finger to those who say: “Ha! Told you so!” Read more about naysayers here.
“If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”
― Steven Wright Click to Tweet
3. I’m afraid to discover that I’m not awesome.
Uh-huh! The truth comes out. If you try and fail, you will arrive at an ugly reality: You’re not The Most Amazing Person Who Ever Lived. You’re a standard, floundering, fleshy human being who is not perfect. Fantasy = popped.
You may enjoy telling yourself: “It only appears as though I’m a single guy who sits on the couch all day watching reality TV while scratching my balls, but I’m actually The Most Amazing Person Who Ever Lived. However, I’m just going to keep that little secret to myself.”
You’re fooling nobody—not even yourself. This kind of delusional thinking breeds jealousy and resentment, and in order to feed your starved ego, you’ll end up knocking down others like the naysayers mentioned above.
A failure can be a harsh reality check, but without risking it, you’ll never see what you’re capable of. And if you take a chance and give it everything, you may get a different kind of reality check: You’re more amazing than you ever imagined. So let go of your ego, the TV remote, and your nutsack, and see what happens.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
― Henry Ford Click to Tweet
4. I’m afraid of ending up in a worse place than where I started.
Sure, you can lose the gamble. You can lose your investment, the time, the energy that it took to get your enterprise up and running. That would be a shame. But do you know what’s an even greater shame? You’ll never, ever know true success.
In the end, we’re all going to fail epically. We’re going to die. What you do between now and then will define your time on this earth. Don’t settle for being John Doe, Managing Director of Bullshit so that you can pretend you’ve never failed.
“… rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
― J.K. Rowling Click to Tweet
Here are two people who are not afraid to fail:
Christine and Drew Gilbert are the most ambitious people I’ve ever had the pleasure of stalking online.
With their son Cole (plus a new baby on the way), they travel the world and live in exotic locales while supporting themselves through a range of online projects. They continually bite off more than they can chew, and then somehow manage to chew it. I have no idea how they do what they do. Just watch them pack their suitcases in this Kickstarter video, and tell me you don’t feel like napping afterwards.
Right now, they’re working on a documentary about a new generation of people who are taking their careers online in order to travel the world. They’re asking perfect strangers for $35,000 in order to finalize the project. Clearly, their fundraising plan is idiotic and they’re most certainly going to fail. Nobody can raise that kind of money from strangers and …
… oh, wait, they’re almost there. Help them to the finish line.
*UPDATE* They did it!
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.