Conquer The Fear of Failure (And Be Limitless)
One of my MBA students at INSEAD (where I am an Entrepreneur-in-Residence) asked me how she can conquer her fear of failure. She will be graduating in July from INSEAD, one of the world’s top business schools. And yet, she is scared. She is scared to fail. She is scared to make the wrong decisions in life. She is scared to take risks. In a nutshell, she is afraid of life itself. The first thing I told her was that there are no guarantees in life, and that everyone has a fear of failure. However, we are not here on this Earth to succumb to our fears, doubts, and insecurities. We are here to conquer them so that we may unleash our true potential in life. Every day, we have the choice to submit to our fears, doubts, and insecurities, or to follow our passions, inner voices, and truths.
The other thing that I told her was that she should change her perspective on the meaning of failure. Society says that failure is bad. Our parents teach us the same thing. It is reinforced in all of us since birth. For me though, failure is a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve. I have failed at almost everything in life and I have failed many times over. The truth is that I am living the life of my dreams today only because of my failures and the precious lessons they brought me.
She also asked me for advice on how to succeed in life. I told her that the only success worth pursuing is her own definition of success. Everything else is meaningless. I told her to ignore what society wants for her, to ignore what her parents want for her, to ignore what her friends want for her. Life is not about paper qualifications, test scores, GPAs, and fancy CVs. True success is the courage to live a life that ignites your soul. The world does not need more zombies. It needs people who are alive because they love what they do and they make the world a better place. In life, the most important thing is to live your definition of success – whatever it may be.
My advice to her was simple:
1) Find 4-5 mentors who have achieved what you want to achieve in life and/or who are living the life you want. Learn as much as you can through observation on how they do things and the choices they make. Absorb knowledge with questions, phone calls, and meetings with your mentors.
2) Surround yourself with people who make you better and who have similar dreams/goals in life. Immerse yourself in situations that push your limits and that help you to grow. It might be painful at times, but stay focused on your goal of becoming the best version of yourself possible. Pain today is strength tomorrow. Love and suffering are the only true paths of personal growth.
3) Don’t be afraid of tough times. Learn how to conquer adversity. 100% of people want happiness, success, love, etc. Only 1% achieve it all because 99% of people quit when things get tough. You can’t quit your way to success in life. You either learn to be a warrior in life and conquer all adversity, or you learn to be a quitter who quits his/her way to mediocrity. We all have friends who complain about everything, and quit at the first sign of difficulty. The world is not the problem. They are the problem.
4) Be a perpetual learner forever. Read tons of books, meet new people from all walks of life, put yourself in new situations, do things that you fear, study history, watch documentaries, experiment with new hobbies/activities, embrace change as an adventure, travel the world, etc. Knowledge is everywhere.
Ultimately, success is not a one-size-fits-all formula. For some people, it is money, status, and material things. For others, it is love and happiness. And still for others, it is living with passion and freedom to change the world. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. Do whatever it is that ignites your soul.