Although the fear of failure is often romanticised or quoted by famous stars, it can still be a confusing topic that’s difficult to apply to our lives. The impact it has on our mindset is absolutely crucial though, and so it’s a topic which I’d like to explore further in this post.
I’ve always had quite a high risk appetite compared to my friends, having started an electronics company at the age of 12 which I was very proud of. Everything was going very successfully until one point at the age of 14, things went sour with a set of faulty car stereos which cost me about $3000 to refund. Although I had become bankrupt by $500 overnight, I honestly wasn’t too phased. I definitely didn’t cry.
Fast forward to 2014, I’m 20, I’ve been risk taking for years and I’m doing a hoodies order for about $8000. The supplier I had used escaped, left me $8000 out of pocket and without the hoodies. The absolute loss was much greater this time, but the percentage of my wealth lost was actually far smaller.
Both times shared dealing with complaints and having people swear at me for the mistake, but the second time differed that it was with my friends and colleagues. The money didn’t matter at all in fact, but this time with 6 more years of experience, I did cry.
I had a similar experience while creating this blog, where I knew I’d draw criticism for having bought my own domain but thought I was ready for it, until that criticism came from some of my closest friends. It truly did cut me and suddenly raised doubts in my mind, making me question whether I should stop blogging altogether. I realised then how powerful the influence of friends was on me, and I thank my friends for their honest criticism which allowed me to reflect on this.
You see, it’s really for our friends and society that leads us to be afraid of failure, not ourselves. After all, would creating and writing this blog have been so scary if I didn’t dare post it to my Facebook? An anonymous blog would have been so much easier, but would have lost most of its value. Likewise no one’s afraid to lose when they’re playing a video game alone, but bring in just one person to watch or play with them and all of a sudden we cannot risk failure – just look at the amount of drama one Fifa game can stir haha.
We are born as profound risk-takers; screaming, shouting, running and jumping around as soon as we have the ability to do so. Only through our interactions with others are we “taught” not to dare stand out from the crowd or we’ll be punished for it. Consider the ill-fortuned Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” which sadly encourages this bland, uniform society; yet not a single person who has followed this proverb is remembered. Eminem couldn’t stick out more for being a white rapper. Elon Musk couldn’t stick out more by aiming to retire on Mars. And Jesus definitely couldn’t stick out more with His limitless love to everyone. Yes, all three were hammered as the proverb suggests, but they weren’t hammered “down” – they stood for their purpose, remained upright and were remembered for it.
I hope for a day where we can all be nails that stick out without being hammered, and I honestly believe we can do this one person at a time. Firstly, we must not be afraid to stand out ourselves, even if others hammer us. Secondly, we must do our best to not hammer others doing something different – but instead celebrate those who leave the well-treadled path! But finally and most importantly, let’s openly discuss with one another learnings from our own failures without being awkward about it. I honestly feel stronger and braver already for writing to the world about how I cried – I’ve now reflected on it, learnt from it and have moved on.
So go out there and be the nail that sticks out there for whatever you believe in; even if you’re hammered for it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to be able to withstand that pressure, and there is no better way to move our society forward than overcoming the fear of failure for ourselves first!