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The fear of failure is powerful. If we don’t face this fear head-on, it can take our life off course. When I fail, I feel angry and sad. I start to doubt myself and my abilities. Because I don’t like to feel this way, I try to avoid failure. I focus on the things I am good at. I hesitate before trying something new.

Failure as a Writer

A few years ago, I was faced with my own failure in an important area of my life: my ability as a writer. I entered a writing contest put on by The Barna Group, who was publishing a series of books called Barna Frames. The last book in the series was an open contest. Anyone could enter the contest with their idea. I entered and was chosen as a finalist. I wrote an essay describing my idea, and was given the opportunity to present my idea in an interview. They interviewed three people… and I didn’t get it.

Not Good Enough

I was disappointed. I worked long hours writing and refining my idea. I recruited the help of my friends and colleagues to help me edit my essay. I sent out personal messages to everyone I knew, trying to drum up support. I gave it my absolute best shot. And it wasn’t good enough.

Failure: What’s Your Reaction?

So what happened then? When I started to feel those angry, sad, and disappointed feelings associated with failure, I wanted to run away and be by myself. My natural tendency was to hold back, and not try something like that ever again. I wanted to focus on the things I knew I was good at. I wanted to focus on activities that were more of a sure thing. But even though that strategy might have been the safer route, it wouldn’t get me where I wanted to be–a successful writer with a published book.

Success = How We Deal with Failure

I used to think of success and failure as opposites. Because of this, I tried to focus on areas where I thought I could succeed, and avoid areas where I thought I might fail. But now I think about it differently. I don’t think success and failure are opposites. Instead, I think a big part of success involves how we deal with and respond to failure.

The most successful people aren’t always the smartest or most talented. But I have yet to meet a truly successful person who wasn’t tenacious in pursuing their passions and dreams, even when things blocked the way. I think failing at the Barna contest was a huge turning point in my life and career as a writer. What would I do when faced with my own failure? Would I hold back and stick to areas where I felt safe, in order to avoid failure in the future? Or would I learn from the experience and continue to pursue my passion and dream to write?

I want to be the type of person who goes hard after what I want, even though there is a chance I might fail. I want to stay in the game.

Discussion

What is one area of your life where you are letting the fear of failure hold you back from pursuing your passions and dreams?

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