Ed. note: This is the first in a series of posts by Landon Liga. He is a senior (from Long Island, New York) in the Business Administration program and will be graduating in May. He is an entrepreneur at heart with a passion for marketing. In July, he will be getting married. For fun, Landon likes to read books on marketing as well as restore and repurpose old furniture.
There was this one time I got to talking with a guy at our campus coffee shop. He started to tell me that he was in the process of opening his own coffee shop. At the time, I was already working as a barista and I was looking for a second job. I thought his shop might be the right opportunity; however, I didn’t broach the subject of possible employment and, instead, we continued talking coffee.
Our conversation ended shortly after that and he walked away. I instantly regretted that I did not ask him to keep me in mind when he starts to hire. I finally decided, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I went over to him, gave him my number and said, “I’d be interested in working for you. Give me a call if any positions become available.” In the end it did not pan out. Even so, I realized that I had almost let fear ruin my chance of having an opportunity.
The fear of failing has always held me back from doing things. I always thought I was better playing it safe than to be sorry. Sometimes it might be as simple as answering a question in class–or it might be as big as asking someone for a job. I was so afraid of failing or being rejected that I became reserved and passive.
Last year I was given advice that has completely changed my perspective on fear: I was told to embrace failure. Such a simple concept yet, to me, it was groundbreaking. I started to unpack this advice and realized something else as well: If you continually succeed (which is virtually impossible), how can you ever learn?
James Dyson, the inventor of Dyson vacuums, made 5,127 prototypes of his vacuum before he finally found the one that worked. There were 5,126 failures, each one costing more money, time, and ingenuity. About these failed prototypes, Dyson said, “I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.” Every time we make a mistake there is a considerable risk factor. Reflecting on how and why we failed gives us an opportunity to grow, learn, and ultimately become better in our next attempt.
Most of us grow into this “fear of failing.” Think back to kindergarten. If the teacher asked the students to tell her what they knew about osmosis, every single hand in the room would shoot up. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know anything about osmosis; they’re willing to try. You move on to 1st grade and ask the same question and fewer hands go up. Go on to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade and the higher the grade level, the fewer hands get raised. Some kids might know the answer but because there is still that chance they could be wrong, they play it safe and keep quiet.
This fear of failure that many of us have grown into stems from pride. We become worried about what people may think or say about us if we are wrong. We let that stop us from being bold because it is more comfortable to be safe than to take a risk. By avoiding risk, though, many of us miss out on opportunities daily. We would rather keep our pride intact than take a leap.
Through these next few weeks, I want to share a few stories of failure and show how these people have learned through it. These accounts will come from professors, alumni and staff of LCU. It is my hope that this blog series will push us out of complacency and motivate us to embrace failure.