Fear of Failure

Some of the best advice out there is to take risks and be willing to make mistakes. But, for someone afraid of failure, how exactly do you do that?

As a young adult in the still early stages of my career I look for, and get, a lot of good advice. I read a lot of the “The best advice I ever received” articles and the “The greatest lessons I’ve ever learned” articles. 

You see a lot of the same things:

“Do what you love”

“Be yourself”

“Never give up, be resilient”

“You can do anything you set your mind to”

“Listen more”


And you tend to see a lot of contradicting pieces of advice.

“It’s about who you know” / “It’s about the choices you make”

“Always trust the numbers” / “Numbers don’t mean anything”

“Be patient” / “Be impatient”

“Trust your gut” / “Do your homework”


But, one of the most widely given pieces of advice that is rarely ever contradicted is

“Take risks, Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, Don’t be afraid to fail, Get out of your comfort zone.”

It is great advice; after all, the things with the greatest impact aren’t born out of maintaining the status quo. It is advice I want to take to heart and follow. The only problem is, I don’t know how.

That may sound weird but I have always been the type of person to play it safe. I am a perfectionist and as such I don’t like failure. Mistakes and rejection come with a negative connotation. Nevertheless, I want to do great things with my life. I want to make an impact and inspire people. So how do I become the type of person who embraces risk and doesn’t fear failure?  

Is it as simple as redefining the words mistake, rejection, and failure? Somehow that doesn’t seem like enough. 

Do I have to push myself totally outside of my comfort zone? I have been trying to do that.  I took a job in Chicago for a year where I knew basically no one.  I have decided to go to graduate school in Syracuse. It will be the farthest away I have ever lived from my family and, once again, I will know basically no one there. It is a start but still doesn’t seem like enough to classify myself as someone who is willing to take risks. Or at least not one who would be willing to take big risks with a lot of someone else’s money on the line.

Can only people who are natural risk takers be the ones to do great things and inspire change?  I’d like to think not.

Or do I one day have to just consciously take the plunge and hope that I don’t get fired or ripped apart if it doesn’t work out?

How have other people learned to become risk takers? How have you learned to get over the fear of failure?