Three tips on how to reduce fear of failure - Executips


Monday, September 25, 2023

Three tips on how to reduce fear of failure


When scared to death before presenting to a boss, this is what I tell teammates:

“Nobody’s going to jail.”

It’s my way of saying ” There’s no harm in trying.” I don’t think that the superior or the client will shout “Guard, arrest these fools!”

I remind my team that we must not fear consequences if our intentions are good, and if we truly believe in our idea. If the superior does not approve it for whatever reason, they would at least appreciate our concern and our effort. Some bosses are never appreciative. Don't worry, bosses like them won't last.

To reduce the sting of failure, I also remind myself of a story by marketing legend Phil Dussenberry. When an office staffer was panicking because of an impending deadline, Phil told her, "Relax. They're not taking away your children."

A strong backup

Among magicians and mentalists, there are moves called “bold.”  These are sleights or predictions that have a high risk of failing. But if they succeed, the applause can be thunderous. It’s really a gamble and there’s one thing that can make us overcome the dread: an “out.” The out is a Plan B surprise whose outcome is bullet-proof.

Sometimes, the success of the out is even stronger than the original conclusion of the magical routine. That’s because the audience is thrilled by a triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat.

A strong out is what everyone needs in the office, in church, or in any aspect of life. For example, you have a project that flops. What would you say or do to make the team members passionate about a “revenge comeback?” What better idea do you have in your bottom drawer when the boss says your original proposal is “meh?” Or maybe you pop up a ring in public but the lady rejects your proposal. What wise words would you say, not only to save face but also to finish strong?

Sometimes, the potential impact of an “out” is so tempting that you would wish you’d fail!

Plan for guaranteed success but don’t anticipate it

The great military strategist, Sun Tzu, advised that we should never engage in battle unless we are completely sure of victory. To some, it may sound like cowardice. But Sun Tzu only emphasized the importance of preparation. 

In the office, we cannot always choose our battles or the boss will choose our replacement. 
When we go to battle, we must remember a quote attributed to Prussian field marshall Helmuth Von Moltke: no battle plan survives enemy contact. The military leader knew by experience that battle conditions cannot be totally predicted. The weather may change, the enemy may have a new tactic, your soldiers may be too scared to attack, your deadliest weapon may conk out, etc.

So, we must prepare, prepare, prepare, and have a fallback plan. Not just one out, but many outs because in life as in war, events can be so fluid. As Sun Tzu counseled, “Be ten steps ahead of the enemy."

Failure is not always bad

The fear of failure is one thing that may stop a company or organization from getting better. People may be afraid to innovate, let alone suggest if they will get punished. It is important for leaders to define what is “good failure” and “bad failure,” because good failure can actually be a part of the success process.

You may read:

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Spellbound: Seven Principles of Illusion to Captivate Audiences and Unlock the Secrets of Success by David Kwong.

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