Failure Is an Option

Today’s confession: I have a deep fear of failure.  And by “deep” I mean “extreme.”  To the point of avoiding certain tasks because I believe I won’t be able to do them.  Not that I won’t be able to do them right (it’s not perfectionism), but that I won’t be able to do them at all.

This was confirmed in a somewhat lame way.  A few weeks ago, I went in for my annual eye exam.  I really like my new provider.  He’s the kind of doctor all health care practitioners should strive to be.  When he was testing to see if my current prescription is adequate, he did that thing where the eye doctor shuffles between two similar lenses and asks, “Is it better or worse?”  As I couldn’t decide, he had me read the letters on the chart.  I couldn’t quite see the smallest line with either lens.  He kept asking me to just read what I saw.  I refused, saying that I couldn’t see the letters.  His answer was, “You don’t like to make mistakes, do you?”

Now, you may think that he was just being a jerk.  Trust me, if you’d been there, you would have seen that nothing could be further from the truth.  And the reality is that he was right.  I didn’t want to read the letters because I knew that I wouldn’t get any of them right.  Fortunately, it didn’t matter.  Nothing was at stake.  The doctor determined that I didn’t really need to read at 20/15 anyway, and that I didn’t need new glasses.

But what about when it does matter?  So often, I worry that I will make some huge, very public mistake.  When that happens, there will be people saying, “I told you so.”  Even though I don’t have any way of knowing that, I still believe it and live by it.  It keeps me from trying new things in front of people, but it also keeps me from failing in private, too.

I’ve been writing for a long time.  It took me several tries before I decided to actually keep a blog on a regular basis.  Even so, I only publish about twice a week.  Sometimes, I write, revise, edit, scrap and rewrite several times before I actually commit to sending it out to the world.  Right now, I have a post in “draft” status because I am hesitant to put voice to something deep that’s been on my heart.  I simply don’t want to fail.

The other day, a writer I follow on Twitter posted a great piece of advice.  I can’t recall the exact quote, but it had to do with not being afraid to fail.  We only see in print what has been deemed successful.  How much more was written before that?

Beyond being good advice for writers (not being afraid to write garbage), it’s good advice for life.  When we live in fear that we may fail, we aren’t living at all.  That isn’t how I want to exist.  If I can’t fail in front of the mirror, how can I expect to pick myself back up when I fail in public?

I’m going to go practice writing crap.


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