Fear of Failure? Learn from Rowling, Shula, Edison and..Steve Smith

Thomas A. Edison once said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Truer words haven’t been spoken. When we achieve something, we feel at the top of the world and our happiness knows no bounds. At the same time, when we fail, we try and brush it under the carpet and make excuses for our failure, attributing external causes to it. Yes, failure is definitely crushing. But sometimes, rather than knowing how to deal with failure, we need to learn to accept it. Not knowing how to accept failure can make us frustrated and can make us do things which we’ll ultimately regret later on. Subconsciously, we all know that failure is an inevitable part of life. We all have to face it and some point or the other but yet, we go to great lengths to avoid it because we associate failure with humiliation. Earlier this year, when Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith sat in a press conference during the test series between South Africa and Australia, and admitted cheating, to gain a possible advantage in an “important match”, after being caught red-handed trying to tamper with the ball, all hell broke loose. But to look at it in the simplest way, it was just a captain who didn’t want to lose, who didn’t want to fail. The fear of failure drove him to do something which eventually ended up tarnishing his reputation along with that of his country and team. Steve Smith lost his captaincy, was banned for a year from playing any sort of international or domestic cricket, lost millions of dollars and  endorsements and lost the good name which he had made for himself, all for what, because he couldn’t accept failure? The whole ordeal was quite sad but it was an important life lesson for all of us. It is extremely essential to aim high and strive hard towards our goals. But in the event that we don’t manage to achieve what we had set out to, instead of getting trapped in the bubble of resentment and constantly obsessing, we should move forward. We should see the failure as an opportunity to rectify what we did last time and learn from it. The past cannot be changed but the future is in our hands. The only way to avoid miserable, crippling thoughts is to look ahead and be optimistic. Often we fear failure because we worry about what others think of us. That’s the one common mistake we all make. We judge our personal “success” and “failure” by the parameters society has set for us. What others think of us often becomes the driving force behind our actions and we need to stop letting others dictating the terms of our life. It’s easier said than done, but living up to the expectations of society is not going to bring us any happiness, whereas fulfilling our own expectations and reaching the targets which we had set for us is what is going to leave us truly happy. Michael Jordan was spot on: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Jordan didn’t hide under the cot when he failed; he just tried harder the next time. We associate failure with deeply negative words such as “dud” and “loser”. Instead of that, we need to see failures from a new perspective. We should see every setback as an opportunity or as a step closer to succeeding, that’s what Thomas Edison did. He said, “I have found 10,000 ways something won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” People often have the misconception that accepting failure is accepting mediocrity, they couldn’t be more wrong. There was once a lady who wrote a book and she was rejected by 12 publishers before she got her work published. That lady is JK Rowling. Did she accept failure? Yes. Is she mediocre? Not in your wildest dreams, no. She just fought harder and didn’t curl up in a ball and cry but decided to push harder till she got what she had set out to get. Don Shula is one of the most successful NFL coaches, holding the record for most career wins and the only perfect season in NFL history. Shula had a 24-hour rule, a policy of looking forward instead of dwelling on the past. The coach allowed himself his players 24 hours to celebrate a victory or brood over a defeat. During those 24 hours, Shula encouraged them to deeply feel their emotions of success or failure. The following day, it was time to put it behind them and focus their energy on preparing for their next challenge. His philosophy was that if you keep your failures and victories in perspective, you’ll do better in the long run.

Failure is an inevitable chapter in the journey of life and sometimes failure or even the thought of can leave us with debilitating thoughts but you know what they say, when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up!

 

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