The fear of failure is the world’s most destructive illusion. It’s not that fear isn’t real—it certainly is—but we oftentimes use its existence as a reason for our inaction, indecision, and ultimately our inability to try something new or believe we can succeed against the odds.
Before questioning the logic, ask yourself: Is failure (or fear of it) what prevents you from doing what you want—whether it’s getting in shape, getting your life in order, or just getting busy? Or are you just making excuses?
I work with people that have a wide variety of goals. Some of them are overweight and looking for hope. Others are the fittest people in the world scratching for that extra edge. As CEO of Born Fitness, I provide business consultations for some of the largest media and tech empires, successful professionals, and small business owners who have “an idea” that just needs an audience to work.
All of them have different motivations, directions, and end-goals. But all are held up by the same problems and same excuses. When I meet with them for the first time, I always ask them to create two lists:
List #1: What are your goals?
List #2: What are your problems?
I then ask them to remove all of the barriers from list #2 that they don’t control and have them rewrite the second list. You know what happens? The majority of the time the list remains unchanged. And it should come as no surprise: most of our frustrations are illusions. They are barriers we create and if we can’t find a scapegoat, we blame something ambiguous such as willpower, lack of ability, or previous failure.
For companies, it’s preventative planning. For individuals, it’s oftentimes a fear of trying something different. And yet, everyone has the ability to create a path to success, push forward, and use doubt and struggles as a positive. It’s the success secret we tend to overlook: choose reward over risk, and never fear testing how high the amplitude can go, even if it means you initially fall short.
The Failure-to-Success Path
When I first walked in the doors as an editor of the world’s largest men’s magazine, I came in prepared—but not in the way you think. Truth is, I wasn’t a very good editor, at least not yet. What made me great at my job and ultimately helped me succeed is that I was prepared to fail. My mentor, the great Ted Spiker, had warned me that the senior editors at the magazine would make me feel like I knew nothing (which, at the time, was accurate), and that the “negative” feedback could easily be processed as reason to believe I wouldn’t be successful (something that was far from the truth).
Spiker’s lesson was that my failures were not designed to teach me that I was bad; instead, they were part of learning how to become better. So each time I was schooled in the world of editorial, I took it as a lesson that would push me one step closer to my goals.
My failures were never roadblocks; they were stepping stones, as long as I took the time to figure out how to make them part of my climb.
When you train a muscle, you break down the fibers, let them recover, and then come back bigger and stronger. Failure is no different, and the endless stories of stumbles and falls of some of the most successful people in the world are proof of concept.
It’s important that you don’t misconstrue the message. I’m not saying achieving goals is a simple process. Whether it’s just dropping 5 pounds or making your first sale, these are difficult processes that can take time. The “just do it” mentality always requires a little bit of elbow grease and the ability to evolve and adjust.
If one plan worked for everyone we’d all be rich and obesity wouldn’t exist.
Once you come to terms with the inevitability of trial and error, then you can choose your course and remove the negative.
Don’t worry about fear. Stop focusing on what you don’t control and instead place all your emphasis on effort. That’s it.
We become bogged down by “doing it right,” mastering the plan, and being perfect that we forget the foundation of all great successes from athletes to entrepreneurs: Effort.
It’s the one thing you can control. It’s timeless and proven to work. If you put in the effort you will succeed—even if the initial successes are just that you tried.
Be honest when you don’t put in the time and push yourself as hard as you can. It’s easy to push the limit when everything is going well. It’s when times are difficult, when you have questions, or when things are bleak that it’s difficult to move. That’s when focusing on effort is most important.
Set your goals, push towards them, assess, adjust, and repeat.
Let effort be your guide. Don’t let failure, or excuses, or perceived lack of willpower stand in your way. View each goal as a launch. Beginnings bring excitement, energy, and hope for new achievements. Do what you can to maintain that feeling. Whether you re-launch every morning, every week, every weigh-in or every quarter, just launch. And keep launching with enough energy to propel you beyond your outermost reach.
Be an owner of your destiny and your desire. Root your foundation in effort. And as you begin to use fears as your fuel, everything you dream of happening will move closer to becoming a reality.