Why are we so scared to fail?

Let me take you to a conversation I had with an acquaintance I had the other day while doing the new job:

Me: Hey Ron, how’s it going?

Ron: Good. Not doing the (business #1) gig anymore?

(Aside, remember I have two businesses that I own. One is very hands off. The other is very hands on and very public. This is the business he was referring to)

Me: Just part time for the time being, but I’m slowly shutting it down.

Ron: Too bad it didn’t work out for you. Failure sucks, huh?

I enjoyed the fact that Ron is up front enough to just throw that out there. How many of you would say the same thing? I’m kind of a jerk and even I would have handled the situation much gentler. It’s actually one of the things I like about this particular person. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

Me: You know what Ron? Sometimes you swing and sometimes you miss. I don’t think the lesson should be never swing.

This gets to the main point of this post. Why are we so scared to fail?

Smart people get it. Seth Godin goes as far as encouraging failure. He knows that for every failure a lesson is learned, experiences are gained and that arms you better for success in the future.

We encourage kids to make mistakes. We tell them not to feel bad, to not get discouraged, to keep trying because mistakes are learning experiences. Why do we have such different attitudes to adults that fail?

How many times have you looked at someone who has failed at something and (figuratively) pointed your finger and mocked that person for even trying in the first place? How many times have you fully expected a business to fail before it even starts? Are we discounting the lessons that business owner will learn? Or are we an early warning system that these future failures should seek out before starting their journey, saving them piles of money and disappointment?

Everyone should be encouraged to start a business, or go back to school, or to try to succeed at whatever they want to do. The only stipulation is that they should be fully informed before embarking on their journey. If they’re setting themselves up for failure, they should be made aware of the odds stacked against them. If they still insist on continuing, one should offer nothing but encouragement and best wishes.

If more people were ready to fail we’d get more contributions to society. Fear of failure is a pretty crummy reason not to start something. And along the same lines, failure is nothing to be afraid of. It is definitely an option. In fact, it’s a pretty good option. It’s just not quite as good as success.

Tell everyone, yo!