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22nd of October 2018


Don’t Succeed at Avoiding Failure - The Good Men Project

The Heroic ManNo, mistakes don’t diminish your manhood, but “fail-fear” inhibits your growth.

Admit it. There have been times when your life could have been the subject of a bad country song: you lost your true love, your dog, and your truck. Everything went wrong.

At some point, it happens to all of us. You tried your best, and you failed. And I bet someone made fun of your failure. Maybe it was a friend trying to playfully “bust your stones,” or an enemy trying to break you down. Or maybe you came down hard on yourself. A lot of the time, we’re our own worst critic.

Men, in particular, are treated harshly in light of failures. It’s as if there’s an unspoken “truism” that failure indicates a “deficiency” in one’s manhood.

Forget all that noise. Because when someone makes light of another’s failure, it just means they’re scared. Scared of their own potential for failure. And that fear keeps them from ever trying to accomplish anything significant in life.

The Atychiphobia Epidemic

There’s a subculture of “failure fear” in this world. Evidence of this can be seen in the never-ending tide of “epic fail” images generated as part of an Internet meme. As if failing wasn’t hard enough, we had to start calling it “epic.” We had to start “fail shaming” each other online. The result? Too many people paralyzed, unable to take action toward their goals for fear of instantaneous electronic ridicule.

Here’s the truth: failing is supposed to suck. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s the pain that’s meant to motivate us. But there’s a disease called atychiphobia that’s spreading among the populace. The major symptom is a tendency to avoid failure at all costs—in school, in the workplace, and even in our personal lives.

We’re so afraid of failure that we lie to ourselves about the true nature of success. Ready for more truth? Success is born from the interplay of our triumphs and our failures. There is no success without failure.

The Price of Avoiding Failure

What’s the price we pay for our atychiphobia? The failure “taboo” contributes to the lack of innovation and creativity many individuals and organizations are lamenting these days. So why do we insist on forgetting that failure and success are inextricably linked? Because of fear. Fear of ridicule, fear of being shamed, fear of rocking the boat (i.e., the status quo). Now more than ever, we need to remember that letting ourselves fall for these fears strangles us.

If you don’t take risks, and risk the potential for failure, then how can you make that next discovery, that leap to the next big idea or invention? We can’t be afraid of taking chances.

You are not Bruce Willis

Most likely, you probably don’t routinely face life-or-death, make-or-break decisions on a daily basis (unless you’re a very “busy” soldier or first responder). However, too often we don’t put things into proper perspective, and turn the events of our lives into high-stakes situations. It’s often the fear of failure that makes us overestimate the importance of every decision.

Listen, you’re not in that Armageddon movie where Bruce Willis has one shot to destroy the asteroid before it hits the earth. When faced with a choice that’s stressing you out, take a step back and consider you might be seeing things in black and white when you should be seeing a rainbow of possibilities.  

Ask yourself: am I avoiding taking action because of fail-fear? If you are, it’s time to work on releasing that negativity and self-doubt. When it comes to your life, failure is ALWAYS an option. Because failure is part of the ongoing experiment we call life. We are here to test, stretch, and explore the possibilities of this world. We were not meant to play it safe.

Rough Drafts of Reality

I want to change your perception of failure: start thinking of your life as an iterative process. You’re the writer of your story, and any author will tell you that all good writing begins with a series of rough drafts.

When you’re pursuing a dream or goal, maybe you’ll need just a couple drafts to get things right. Or perhaps you’ll need a dozen. It doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is the effort, the perseverance, the determination to keep going and get to that final version of whatever you want to create.

If you try and fail, at least you tried. That’s more than a lot of other people can say. And there is no cosmic statute of limitations in the universe that says you can’t try again. But if you don’t make an attempt in the first place, you will definitely fail. Remember the Wayne Gretzky quote about missing 100% of the shots you don’t take.

I’m not saying you should actively seek failure. Rather, failure is a by-product of actively working toward a goal. So go for it, whatever “it” is for you. Ignore all the doubts thrown at you by naysayers and the inner critic in your own head. Get out there and start failing. It’s the only way to succeed.

A version of this article was originally published at

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