The Fear of Failure and How We Overcome

Have you ever found yourself face down on the floor – wind knocked out of you by a heavy blow from life? I have…

At the beginning of my career in Insurance, my manager encouraged me to see every conversation as a wide, fertile, green field ready for harvest!

However, after a year and a half of hard work, my field looked more like a desert. I didn’t sell the minimum number of life insurance policies, so the company took away my subsidy guarantee program. In other words, I no longer received a check.

Eventually, I received a formal letter from the corporate office that said, “It’s time for you to think about another career.” Ouch.

This letter screamed the one thing I dreaded to hear: “Troy, you’re a failure!”

I had embarked on a new, exciting career, and I had failed.

As a young man, I had to come to grips with the fact that if we are ever going to try something big and meaningful in this life, we will inevitably experience some sort of failure.

So what do we do when that moment comes? What will we choose to do when we find ourselves face down in the dirt?

Receiving the letter from my company was a turning point in my career, and it ended up sending me on a trajectory towards success. Since that time, I have learned three valuable lessons about overcoming failure.

FIRST, WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUTH ABOUT WHERE WE ARE.

Failure brings with it a number of emotions, but it is guaranteed to come with disappointment.

As humans, our natural tendency is to run from the pain of disappointment. But what if, instead of running, we mustered the courage to face it head on?

I know of a teacher who was planning a fun, educational field trip for her high school students. She was looking forward to this trip, and her students were looking forward to it even more!

Just a few days before the scheduled outing, it was discovered there had been a paperwork mistake and the trip would have to be moved to a later date.

Understandably, this teacher and her students were incredibly disappointed.

The teacher told her students, “Okay, I’m giving you five seconds to express your disappointment as loudly as you want! But once the five seconds is up, we are moving on.”

For five seconds, the class and teacher yelled at the top of their lungs and pounded their fists on their desks! And when it was over, they laughed a little and continued their day with a positive attitude.   

When we allow ourselves to feel the full weight of our disappointment, we usher in the process of healing. It’s only when we’ve acknowledged the truth about where we are and where we have been that we will be able to move forward.

SECOND, WE NEED TO CREATE AN ACTION PLAN.

For years my sister hung a picture in her kitchen which said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It keeps you busy but never gets you anywhere.

Like worry, the fret and exhaustion of failure can keep us stagnant for too long.

As important as it is to acknowledge the truth about where we are, we must not allow ourselves to idle in our failure.

One of the most important things we can do after experiencing gut-wrenching failure is to create an action plan for where we want to go next.

After I received the confidence-knocking letter from my company, I went straight to Jay Green, my manager at the time, and asked him for a second chance.

Jay put his arm around my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said, “Troy, here are the things you need to do to succeed in this business.”

At that critical moment in my life, Jay worked with me to create a plan for moving beyond my failure and towards success.

Today, figure out the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be!

THIRD: TAKE THE FIRST STEP.

When we’ve failed, we wake up every morning and get to decide if we will continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Many of us are where we are today because we are survivors. We have within us the conviction that when we fail, we must try again.

As a Christian, I hold on to the promise that good will come from whatever situation I may find myself in – even if it’s a negative circumstance of my own doing. What a relief!

If you find yourself at the end of your rope, sitting in the mess of your own failure, I would encourage you today to acknowledge where you are, make a plan for moving forward, and take the next step!

Today is a good day to try again.