On The Fear of Failure
“To be an artist is to fail as no other dare fail” - Samuel Beckett
I was sitting at a coffee shop one day, as I paused from a hectic and pressured week. Both personally and professionally, I felt as if I wasn’t reaching my true potential. I felt defeated.
I glanced over to my left to find a young boy. He was around 4 years old. He caught my attention immediately. His face looked as if he was on a mission. He looked determined to attempt what he had never done before; jump to an empty chair so he could sit beside his mum. His eyes focused on the target. He readied himself. He visualized the goal. He knew what success meant. 3…2…1… The boy jumped.
Alas, he jumped too soon. Only half his body was able to make it to the seat of the chair. He tried to cling on, not giving up just yet. But gravity failed him this time. He let go and landed back on his feet safely. I looked on in complete wonder.
Now, you and I both know how we would feel if this had happened to us. Feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, and powerlessness would fog our minds. We would have done the worst act of shame upon ourselves according to society: we would have failed. It was quite the opposite with this young boy. He looked puzzled for a moment, as if unable to figure out what he had done wrong. And just as a lightbulb turning on he found the answer: he just needed to try again, and again. He smiled towards the chair, and instead of blocking himself from this challenge, he welcomed it.
The young boy knew no fear.
Often in our profession, we forget that failure is just as valuable as success. We focus too much on pixels, not on the obstacles they’ve helped us overcome. We fear failure so much we automatically reject a challenge. In our industry, creativity and innovation are born out of disastrous failures. We just have to learn to embrace it. Perhaps the reason you and I feel as if our potential is not being met and exceeded is because we have only just succeeded; we haven’t given ourselves permission to fail.
So go on now… let’s jump.