Courage to Fail pt. 2
Last week I wrote about having the courage to fail. I pointed out that we the way we are raised today and the expectations placed on us in our formative years are probably the most significant factor in our fear of failure. Today I want to make it a little more real for us. I wanted to find an example of something that we all have to do, even though there’s an element of risk and failure involved to see what we could learn from it.
My first stop was the baseball diamond. The best hitters in baseball are happy to get a hit 3 hits out of every 10 at bats. In other words, they are doing well when they fail 70% of the time. I’ve heard of supremely talented players who washed out in the minors because they couldn’t handle the failure. But then, most of us aren’t baseball players, so it’s probably going to be too hard to relate to that example. I needed to think of something that was broader. Then I thought about job interviews and the process of trying to get a new job. We all want better jobs right? The interview process is fraught with failure. You never know how many people applied for the job, but it’s a safe assumption that you’re competing against 10 to 20 other candidates before the resumes are culled down into something manageable. Then I started thinking about all of the people who get comfortable in their jobs and stay in them until they are forced out the door. I don’t think it’s the example I was looking for.
Then it occurred to me, the thing that makes the interview process scary is the fear of rejection. The actual process of fixing up your resume and talking to a few people about work isn’t scary by itself. It’s only when there is an element of rejection, the chance that they will turn you down, that makes it so nerve-wracking. That’s when it hit me. There is another place that we all experience the fear of rejection – dating. Others may feel differently, but the act of asking someone out can be much more stressful than a job interview. In an interview they are typically rejecting you based on your experience and career. Also, they rarely tell you to your face that you aren’t the one for them. On the other hand, in the dating scene the rejection is much more personal. They can be immediate, personal and brutal. You can be rejected easily based on your looks or personality.
Let me extend this a little so we don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is only difficult for guys. Ladies typically don’t have to “man-up” and ask their prospective date out for a night on the town. But think about how it feels when you’ve done everything you know how to do to make yourself as attractive as possible. You go on a date and see everything you want to see. He’s sweeping you off your feet. He might even be “the one”! But wait, he doesn’t call back the next day, not even a text. Maybe he’s just playing it cool, but then he doesn’t call at all. You were interested in him, but apparently he didn’t think you were good enough. You’ve been rejected, and you feel exactly the same as a guy feels when they work their nerve up to ask you out and you take a pass on it.
That’s our scenario. Almost all of us should be able to relate to this. Men, if you didn’t have the courage to try and fail then you would never date, you would watch frustrated as a world of relationships based you by. And ladies, if you didn’t have the strength to fail without crumbling then you would never make it past that first broken heart. You would wallow in self-pity, believing that you aren’t good enough for anyone. Some of us have felt that way at some point in our lives. But even those of us who felt that way eventually stood up, dusted ourselves off and decided that it was worth it to try again.
So, why is it possible for all of us to engage in this behavior that subjects us to potential pain and rejection time and time again? I think the first thing that we realize is that it’s worth it. People can spend years alone. They can be frustrated and resentful at the fact that they haven’t had successful relationships or frustrated in themselves for backing down when the opportunity presented itself. But in the end I think people realize that the pain of being alone for their entire life will be much greater than the momentary pain of rejection, even if it occurs multiple times. Man was made to enjoy relationships with each other and all of us feel that pull sooner or later and join the chase.
The second thing we learn jumps out at me from the previous paragraph. The pain of failure is fleeting. In some ways our lives are very short, but in other ways they are indescribably long. In a previous article I talked about the devil’s lies and how one of the ways he tries to trick us is by convincing us that things are going to be “like this” forever. That fact of the matter is that nothing in our lives is forever except for God’s love for us.
I remember when I started about BCBSFL. I was just a 21 year old kid. I fell in with a bunch of other young guys, learned bad habits and made a name for myself as a goof-off and a slacker. My poor behavior and performance lasted 3 whole years! I should have been fired. In conversations with my old leaders I’ve admitted that they should have fired me, I would have. Then I started to grow up and I started to change. But my reputation was set in stone, or so I thought. It took me a year of hard work and good intentions before I was able to break through the reputation I built for myself and start carving a new reputation. Do you know how short that year looks to me now when I reflect on it? It’s as brief as the flight of a leaf falling from a tree. I thought it would last forever, but I was wrong.
There’s one more thing that we can learn from our scenario before I finish up. Sometimes you don’t fail at all! Whenever we’re about to take a risk we tend to focus on the negative and on the bad things that will happen if we fail. You’ll be in pain, you’ll be embarrassed, People will look down on you, etc., etc. But what if you succeed? Remember, we’re not talking about playing the lottery here. The things we’re attempting should have a reasonable chance to succeed, particularly when you give it your best. The only way that a guy wins a date is to ask and be accepted. The only way a girl finds herself in a long-term relationship is to go out and be accepted. The way that you’re going to get ahead in business, to grow in your job or set yourself up for future success is to give it a try and to be accepted. Shoot, even if you try and fail, if it was a good enough try you may not be accepted but you’ll definitely be respected, which is almost as good.
I hope I made my point clearly today. There are opportunities all around us at work and at home. If we are able to overcome our fear of failure and fear of rejection, if we are able to rally our courage and do our best then we have the chance to accomplish great things with our life. If we do not, then we are just like the person sitting alone and watching the world move on without them.
Ok, the next article will wrap up this topic. I want to break down risk taking into a framework that I think fits the concept in an interested way.
Oh, also, I would love to see other lessons that you think we can learn from this scenario. Feel free to post a comment with those thoughts. I love to hear from you.
Until then, be blessed!
PS – The 3 attached link are short but wonderful. I encourage you to visit each.