I’ve been talking to a talented runner where I live in San Diego for a couple of years about working with me as her running coach. She says she wants to do it, but she waffles back and forth about going through with it. Part of all her waffling is financial; she can’t afford it. But even when I offer to coach her pro bono because she’s got so much potential, she still waffles and makes a lot of excuses—her busy schedule, her young kids, needing flexibility with her training rather than a set plan, and so on. I finally asked her what all the waffling is about. “I’m afraid to fail,” she conceded.
Although we perceive that external obstacles prevent us from accomplishing things, it’s often the obstacles that lie within us that prevent us from meeting our potential. We let our fears, thoughts, and emotions control our actions. Many of us stop short of pursuing our dreams or following through with something because we’re afraid of failing. With greater success comes greater expectations, and then what if we’re not good enough to meet those expectations? It’s become too easy in our society to be complacent and maintain the status quo. And why not be complacent? Our society rewards mediocrity instead of challenging and inspiring people to be better. ‘No Child Left Behind’ has become ‘Everyone is a Winner.’
People are always impressed when they find out how many books I’ve written, how many awards I’ve won, and how many places around the world I travel for free to speak. What people don’t know is that for every book contract I have received from a publisher, there have been many other publishers who have rejected my proposal. For every award I’ve won, there have been many others I did not. And for every event I speak at, there are many others for which I applied but did not get selected. The truth is, I have failed many more times than I have succeeded.
I’ve always been drawn to people with talent, which is perhaps why I continue to try to persuade that runner in San Diego to let me help her, but I’m even more drawn to talented people who are willing to completely commit to do whatever it takes to accomplish what they want to accomplish, however real the risk of failure may be. While there may be a chance of failing, people take risks because the chance of failing makes success taste even sweeter.
So take a few risks. But don’t take stupid risks. Educate yourself about what you’re trying to accomplish and take calculated, thoughtful risks. And surround yourself with people who will give you the strength and momentum to help see those risks through. If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.