I am a loser
Ever since I can remember, I have always tried to open a successful business. From shoe shining at the early age of 8 years old, then at the age of 11, I ran clandestine burger stand at the corner of my street. Then, later on, I ventured in opening a digital media company at the age of 15, to provide graphics and web templates to people over MySpace (spoiler, that business model died quick). Not to mention the jobs I had while attending school. Needless to say, I have failed in everything that I have attempted. I followed each one of those endeavors until I was forced to stop due to one reason or another. Despite all of that, the one consistent factor in all of my failures was my perseverance.
All of your life you are told that you should not fail. Your peers will use the word “failure” as if it means something bad. Therefore as people grow up, they become fearful of failure. They afraid to fail at anything, because they were conditioned that way. In fact, the fear is so strong that instead of failing, they rather not even attempt whatever it is that they know they are not good at. That is why so many people struggle with simple tasks. The fear of failure will keep you grounded in the same place you are for a long time. Afraid to open up to women because of fear of being rejected. Afraid to start a business because it will fail. Afraid to quit the job you hate because last time you looked for jobs you were rejected by several employers. Regardless of the situation, the reason is the same. People being afraid to fail.
However, the problem here is not the act of failed attempts, but rather the inability to learn from your mistakes. There is nothing wrong with trying and not succeeding. As long as you try again, and adjust your errors for better results. For example, remember the last time you looked for a job? Did you struggle to get employers to call you back? Ever wondered why? Is the market just saturated or did the job get filled? Did you call the employer to find out? Chances are that most people did nothing, despite the fact that all of these things happened. Not because they did not care or were not interested in finding a job, but because subconsciously it was easier to simply accept the lack of information than to face the truth. Because the truth was probably that they got rejected. But what if you didn’t get a call back because the job was filled before they got to your application?
Now, let’s assume that you actually followed up with the employers, and still got rejected. Did you take the time to understand or ask why? Clearly, there was a pattern here, but from up-close in dire need of a job, one might miss it. The pattern here is that you keep getting rejected after sending your resume. It may be easy to overlook, but the problem here may be something as simple as your resume. After all, if all of your variables have changed but that one, then maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy. Because as you may already know, “ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”
The same can be said on everything you feel is holding you down. Because more than often, we tend to know our own faults and vulnerabilities quite well. For example, if you are afraid to start a conversation, you more than likely also know why starting conversations scare you. And yet, you cannot seem to break the habit. In your head, you will play the scenario over and over again. How you will walk up to someone and start a conversation, but when it comes down to it, you freeze. And you know why. Because you are afraid of failure.
So can we really overcome the fear to fail? In a way, yes. While we may not technically get rid of the fear, we can learn to manage it. To think and act better under such distress. Because as humans, we tend to do one of two things when we get scared. We either stay there to see things through, or we run. You may know this as the “Fight-or-Flight” response. And there is nothing wrong with being scared. Fear is a powerful emotion that can make us do things we did not think we were capable of. In fact, as you read this, I am sure you are probably thinking of a time you got scared for one reason or another and overcame obstacles that otherwise, you would not have been able to. In a personal example, I remember when I had just resigned from a job that was physically and emotionally draining me. While it felt good to leave the place, I was now under the pressure of finding a new source of income fast. Mostly because my savings account at the time would only cover me for one month. The fear of knowing that I had less than one month to find a new source of income really forced me to push boundaries I did not know I was capable of crossing. Needless to say, things worked out well in the end. Not because the fear paralyzed me, but rather, it forced me to do things outside of my comfort zone.
So why are we afraid to fail? Honestly, this may vary from person to person, but the common answer is that we were taught to be scared of failure since were kids. By our parents, teachers, coaches, peers, and society altogether. Because if you are not first, then you are last. Because even before you start you knew you would win. Because winning is not everything, it’s the only thing. I am sure you get the point. Those are phrases that I have heard my entire life, and for the longest time, I used to live by them. I used to think that winners never failed at anything because they were better than the rest. I used to get angry and sad if I did not win at something. From simple things like soccer games or bike races among friends. But as time went on, and I became an adult in the real world, I started to realize that everything I thought I knew was wrong.
Perhaps the hardest part about learning to overcome your fears is to think you must not get scared by such things. If we are scared of the dark, we must learn to not be scared of it. But that approach is simply oversimplified. Think about when you were a child and the dark used to scare you. Did you one day just overcome the fear? More than likely you don’t remember the day you were no longer scared. It just kind of happened, but not because you were no longer scared of it. Chances are even today you may get frightened in complete darkness, depending on the situation. The reason you don’t remember the day you were no longer scared of the dark is because you got used to it. Your body and mind were aware that it would get dark every night, so you took actions to ensure you’d be safe. From checking under the bed, or inside your closet, or using a nightlight in your room. Whatever it was that helped you cope with your fear, didn’t get rid of. It simply helped you manage it.
The same or a similar approach can be taken on daily tasks to help you succeed. Think about a project that you have in mind, but for one reason or another, you have not started it. Is the overall task time-consuming? Will it lead to your friends or peers making fun of you if nothing comes out of it? As a personal example, I am going to use to my photography business. Because throughout the years I have heard all of the negative comments one could possibly make. I have been told that it would be nearly impossible to make money since everyone has iPhones, that less than %1 of photographers make a living out of it, that I would not get gigs because I did not have the latest and greatest gear that was available in the market, and so on. I am sure you have examples of comments that your peers have made. And often they will tell you that they’re being harsh because they care for you and don’t want you to fail. And while I appreciate the feedback, despite being harsh, I understand why they tell me such things. For one, they don’t see things from my perspective. Because photography is not their life and passion. And while the journey has been difficult in this field, I do not regret any of the decisions I have made.
Despite all of the reasons I was given to not follow through with my passion for photography, how come I did not stop? Truth be told, I’m still terrified of certain things and events. For example, I hate to do wedding events. They terrify me so much that I do not advertise for them because so many things can go wrong. The pressure of knowing that it is my responsibility to capture one of the most essential and iconic events in the lifetime of the newlyweds simply scares me. And yet, I have booked several weddings in the past. Because despite my fears, I still have a business to run, and a living to make. While I do not go out of my way to seek for wedding events, I do not refuse an offer to participate in one. Despite the fact that I am terrified to mess things up. But at that the same time, it is that fear the pushes me to do better. That fear forces me to double check my gear. Ensure I have extra batteries and memory cards. Make sure my lenses are clean. Make sure I have my flash ready for inside photographs, and so on. The fear of messing things up forces me to pay better attention at the small details. Things that I may otherwise overlook if I were inside my comfort zone because of my own hubris. I mean, I cannot be the only one who has managed to miss small details on certain tasks despite the vast amount of experience we may have. I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten to bring an extra battery with me for menial events or photo sessions because I was extra confident that I was ready. And while it may be embarrassing, instead of panicking we tend to shift our emotions into something else. But from such occurrence, I learned to go over a list before any and every photo-shoot. To ensure similar things do not happen again.
Now, let’s go back to your scenario. Visualize what it is that you want to do. How come you have not started it? Or how come you have not finished it? Are you scared that it may be too much to handle? Or do you know for certain? More than often we get scared of tasks because how big they are. Whether you want to open a restaurant or simply find the courage to ask your boss for raise. Regardless of the situation, the action that holds you back is the fear of failure. So let’s say you are a great cook, and everyone, including strangers, friends, and family tells you so. They have even told you how you should open your own restaurant, and that they would even support if you did. Now, you might think that doing such will be risky. Because you have read everything there is to know about opening a restaurant. How most business will fail in less than 5 years. How you are still going to be responsible for the business loan even if your restaurant closed down. How you will still have to pay to break the lease, and so on. There are more than one thousand reasons to be scared. And yet, the restaurant industry is one of the most ventured business in the United States. with more than 640,000 restaurants across the country. So if the odds are so bad, how come you have so many people jumping into the restaurant industry? Because most of those people are not jumping in blind. They have taken the time research many things. From their own product, demographics, locations, and so on. They did not wake up one day and went to the bank to get a loan, only to have a store open the following week. You will notice that most of the well-established places started small and slowly grew. To keep it local, I will briefly explain the story of Torchy’s Tacos. Mike Rypka, the founder, started his business with just a food truck and a scooter. He knew that his food was good. He knew he had the skills to satisfy the pallets of hungry masses since he earned his way to be a top chef at a different restaurant before starting his own business. Yet, despite having a good, well-paying job, he decided to leave it behind to start his restaurant. Not because it was easy, but because it was his dream. And I can assure you, that it must have been terrifying.
At this point in life, it is essential to understand that fear is not a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with being scared when facing scary or unknown situations. Whether you are trying to start a business, quit your current job to find a better one, or talk to that person you’ve been madly in love with for years. Even if it doesn’t work out at first. Because that is the whole point I’m trying to convey here. Do not fear failure.