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What If I Fall Flat On My Face?
I hope you do. Sounds awful, I know. But I really think the best thing that can happen to you is for you to take a timid little leap and fall flat on your face. Then, I want to see you get back up, evaluate what you did wrong, and jump again. Keep on taking that leap of faith and learning from each and every mistake until you become used to jumping and used to falling. Then, you'll get over the fear of falling and you'll finally begin to concentrate on flying. I want to see you run with everything you have and dive into your dreams with so much passion and fire that you forget all about the possibility of failing. You will never find your wings until you do.
The fear of failure is a cruel and stupid trick we pull on ourselves. The fact that the fear of failure stops us from going after our goals and dreams means that we've already failed. I ask you this, who cares if you fail? Brilliant people fail every single day. Brave tenacious people fall flat on their faces and even get laughed at every single day. Here's an example of a perfectly nice person who has been known to fail, Christopher Reeves. How many mornings did he wake up telling himself that he was going to walk and then went to bed having failed yet again. Great guy, people love him. He's not going to let a little thing like yesterday's failure stop him from working hard again today. He's an inspiration to everyone who knows him. Who ever planted that stupid idea in our heads that we had to be successful at every single thing every single day in order to be likeable?
What is failure anyway? In my eyes, Christopher Reeves is definitely not a failure. Nobody with that much tenacity, focus, and drive is failing. He is a real hero. You haven't failed until you've given up trying. As long as you're still taking leaps of faith, you're still a winner. Failure, like everything else, has its breaking point. At some point, if you hit at it in the same spot over and over again it eventually breaks. How many light bulbs did Thomas Edison make before he got it right? Most people don't know the answer to that because they don't care how many times he failed before he finally succeeded. He kept learning from each attempt, adapting to the knew information, stayed the course, held the dream, and didn't let the fear of failure nor the fear of other people's ridicule stop him.
One of the reasons that I think we hear so many stories of immigrants coming to this country and making it big is because they were raised on stories of the ability to create whatever kind of life you envision for yourself here. It's like all the stories they grew hearing about how everyone has the right to succeed in America overrides any underlying belief that they themselves could fail. They don't have a fear of failure so they just roll up their sleeves and get to work making their dreams come true. Sure they stumble and fall and learn a few lessons along the way, but they certainly don't give up and quit.
Afraid of what other people are going to think of you if you fail? Have you ever met someone who played it ultra safe that was very impressive? People who don't take risks are seldom if ever cheered, admired, or in the limelight. Besides, Americans love an underdog. We love to see some scrappy go-getter who has no business thinking they can win. We love to watch that same person stumble and fall a few times only to pick themselves up and really make something of themselves. It's the American Dream. Hollywood knows it. They've made an entire industry of showing us the stories of underdogs who dust themselves off and finally become winners. Nobody pays money to watch a movie about some perfect person who designs a perfect dream and experiences a flawless life while accomplishing everything they set out to do easily and effortlessly. Boooooring! We don't like people who come across as too perfect anyway. So go ahead and fail, it gives us a reason to pay attention to you, to relate to you, to cheer you on.
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given on this subject was back in high school when I was first learning how to water-ski. I was told, "If you aren't falling down, then you aren't trying very hard. You're playing it safe, staying in your comfort zone. You aren't getting any better." That pushed me to get past my fear of falling. I beat the heck out of my poor body that summer, but I also made impressive gains in my ability to master the sport. Nobody talked about how many times I fell that summer nor how black and blue I was, they only talked about how fast I was learning and what a great job I was doing. My teacher would sit back with this self-satisfied smirk on his face because only he knew how hard it had been for me to push past that comfort zone to allow myself permission to fall down. Nothing beats taking that big bite out of life and having it bite back just a bit! Laugh it off and dive in again.
Are you really going to shelve something so dear to your heart because you might fail? If I could promise you that you'd only fail twice and on the third attempt you would succeed, then would you go ahead and suffer through the first two failures in order to get to that third time? Of course, you would. All that's left to debate is how many times. So go ahead... take that first leap of faith.
Copyright 2004, Skye Thomas, Tomorrow's Edge
About The Author
Skye Thomas is the CEO of Tomorrow's Edge, an Internet leader in inspiring leaps of faith. She became a writer in 1999 after twenty years of studying spirituality, metaphysics, astrology, personal growth, motivation, soulmates, and parenting. Her books and articles have inspired people of all ages and faiths to recommit themselves to the pursuit of happiness. After years of high heels and business clothes, she is currently enjoying working from home in her pajamas. To read more of her articles, sign up to receive her free weekly newsletter, and get free previews of her books go to www.TomorrowsEdge.net.
Illustration by Kevin Van Aelst for The Chronicle Review - Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription)
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