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What does 'failure' really mean to you?

We live in a society where we are programmed to push ourselves to the limit, have extremely high standards, and be our own harshest critic.

Now that’s a lot of pressure.

Because of this, a lot of us fear that we may not be able to measure up. Over time, we develop a pretty bad case of the fear of failure.

And what happens when we are afraid to fail? We do nothing.

When it comes to our careers, this fear is only magnified. You hear the all too common scenario of the person who has been in the same role for years; they’ve got the potential, but never quite reach it. They’re stagnant. Motionless. ‘Comfortable’.

This person has a crippling fear of speaking up and commanding authority in a group meeting or presenting ideas that could advance their career.

Then this person starts to give themselves all sorts of excuses to justify their inaction.

‘They’re bound to notice me one day. I’ll just wait for that time and I’m sure they’ll hand me that promotion.’

‘I don’t see the value or point in speaking up. I’d rather stay respectful and not overstep my boundaries’.

‘My intelligence and technical skills are enough.’

‘I am happy and comfortable where I am.’

‘I’ll improve naturally over time.’

They feed themselves all these reasons because they are trying to avoid the truth of the matter. They are afraid of what the consequences might be.


They are afraid to fail.

I hear a lot from my clients (and have experienced myself) that when they feel the fear of failure, they automatically feel anxious, palms get sweaty, chest tightens and they feel an overwhelming sense of doom.

What they are doing is attaching a particular meaning to the phrase ‘fear of failure’, and they experience an overwhelming surge of emotion that prevents them from being able to think logically and rationally.

Then they let this crippling emotion take over, they become paralysed, and they fail to take action. They remain the same as they’ve always been and no personal growth has been achieved.

But before we let this emotion take over, let’s examine a common scenario for a moment and analyse what’s really going on.


You are due to speak in a group meeting and present your brilliant ideas. You’ve worked so hard on them and you are excited and proud to share what you’ve come up with and contribute to your team. The day comes, you get up in front of your team, and present. You feel pressured and put on the spot, and forget a really important point you wanted to share. You stop for a few seconds and try to re-gather your thoughts. You fumble a little, but manage to get a similar point across to somewhat save the moment. Your face feels hot and red, and you beat yourself up in your head. ‘I look so incompetent! Everyone is questioning my capabilities right now’.

Meanwhile, half the people in the room have serious personal issues of their own, so they are off in their own world, your manager notices the slight hesitation but appreciates your overall effort, and the rest of the people don’t even notice.

End scene.

Does this really seem that bad?

Quite often we build up the idea of failure in our head to something that is much larger than it really is. And because of this, we miss key chances and opportunities to develop ourselves and advance our career. Our internal perception is mismatched with the external reality of the situation.

So how can we bring this to more of an equilibrium? To help you move past this feeling, step outside of your comfort zone, and finally achieve the success you’ve been yearning for?