On Fear and Failure

September 3, 2019
On Fear and Failure

When I was 19, I decided to live on a ship.

I had decided to leave my world behind and venture bravely into a totally new existence, living, studying, and traveling the world. 

From the amazon’s giant water falls to the favelas layered with poverty and people, and from giant golden Buddhas adorned with flowers and incense, to a simple, concrete bench in an intimate little room with nuns praying on the other side of the curtain, and me with two friends and a cab driver we had just met an hour before, sitting quietly with Mother Teresa, gazing at her beautiful and ancient eyes, listening to her talk about our border region between San Diego and Tijuana. 

We had gotten on a plane earlier that morning, not knowing what was in store for us but hoping that we’d eventually end up at the Taj Mahal. We were young, adventurous, and without a plan. And because we had no plan, we could not fail.

It wasn’t until decades later that I began to realize how important failure is to our growth and independence. Failure AND fear, actually.

In all my professional development and personal growth, nothing has taught me more about fear and failure than being a parent. And I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way and I’ll share three of them with you. The first is this:

There is no growth in comfort.

I was recently reminded of this when an unexpected turn of events delayed some of my own plans and projects. I got to completely shift gears, change my thinking, and readjust. It was painful, it was uncomfortable, it was exhausting, AND it was critical for my own learning. 

See, I’m kinda stubborn (ok, really stubborn) so sometimes I have to learn and relearn things until they sink in. The need to do things my own way and be a trailblazer can often lead to failure. Yet had it not been for this situation, I would not have truly realized the importance of self-love and nurturing my own needs. 

I had poured everything into ONE goal and deadline and when that shifted unexpectedly, my whole world titled and I felt my body falling apart. So here’s what I did to recover: I reached out to my mentors for support, I solicited guidance, I walked my dogs, and went swimming. I got back to my most elemental self, sat quietly and meditated, and journaled about my lessons. And then I shared them publicly because I needed to call out that fear. 

We often talk about letting go of fear but I want to encourage all of us to do the opposite - I want you to call it out, name it, and then carry it in your pocket and let that little bit of fear drive you to do the things you thought you couldn’t do, the things people tell you you’ll never be able to do, the things that the world may think impossible. 

And that takes me to the next point:

Do something that scares you every single day.

I don’t mean walk into a scary forest where there may or may not be a guy with a mask and a chainsaw. Or even go on a blind date without telling someone where you’re going. That’s just stupid. 

What I’m talking about is taking risks and trying new things, like playing dare - or even double dog dare - with your dreams. I’m always amazed when I talk with my clients about what their big dreams are and they look at me like I’m crazy because they stopped dreaming a long time ago. And now they can’t answer me. 

I’ve realized that we stop dreaming at a very young age. Our ability to dream is thwarted by the demand to ask for permission. 

We are taught in school to raise our hand to speak, to share ideas, or even to go to the bathroom. Then we plunge into a professional world run by clocks and deadlines and often a lack of human connection. We engage in social media to get approval of our life choices, only to be made fun of or mocked when we are honest about what we really want to do in this world, the impact we want to make. 

So, I dare you to be relentless about your big dream and do something EVERY single day to move the needle on that dream, even if it scares you, and even if you fail.

Which brings me to my last point:

Failure is what allows us to up-level and be the best version of ourselves, to fulfill our purpose.

To all the young people reading this, here’s what I’d like to say to you: Its ok to make a mistake. Its ok for something to go differently than you expected. Its ok for you to fall. It’s even ok for you to stay down for awhile. 

What’s NOT ok is that you stay down and don’t get back up. What’s not ok is for you to always stay in the safe zone because life is not IN the safe zone.

And to all of you adulting in this world right now, here’s what I’d like to say to you:

The same exact thing. 

With one important addition. We must let them - the young people in our lives - we must let them fail. Bubble wrapping, helicoptering, protecting them from life’s hardships - we are causing more harm than good. 

Trust me. I get it. My girls are my life. I absolutely hate seeing my two precious gems feel any kind of pain. It quite literally hurts my heart. 

But I also know at one point soon - sooner than I even want to think about - they will be out in the world on their own, floating on their own ship. And I have made a conscious decision - a determination - to raise two strong, decisive, intelligent, empathic, caring, creative, bold individuals equipped with the tools they need in order to reach their own definition of success. And guess what? That is NOT going to happen if I don’t let them fail.

Growth comes when we get uncomfortable and fear is the thing that can propel us out of that comfort zone, accelerating growth at unimaginable speeds if we are open to it. So in closing, I’d like to ask you...Where are you comfortable; where are you safe and relaxed? Is it time to push some buttons and get some feeling back into your legs? What would happen if you took a new road home or did that thing that’s been nagging at you for months? Go for it! I dare you!

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