Fear of Failure: Insights (Podcast 1)
Following are some loosely threaded insights from the conversation:
Failure and success are relativistic terms. Social terms. Task and Goal oriented. You set a goal, and requirements on how you want the goal to be achieved. If you achieve the goal the way you required or desired it to be achieved, that’s the pointer for success. If you don’t achieve the goal the way it was meant to be achieved, you say, there has been some failure.
But when you are being truly creative, a rigid goal cannot be set in the beginning, else there is no creativity. You have to keep pivoting, recreating an image of a goal, until you produce a result that perhaps even was not specifically desired in the beginning. Now, because there is no solid goal, failure and success don’t exist here. So, it’s illogical to put creativity, failure, and success in one sentence. They are not related.
There are people out there who do not incorporate failure and success in their lives at all. They do not keep context with these definitions, which probably is an idealistic way to go about life, in fact, the only way a creative life seems possible, which is the ultimate goal, right? This lack of obsession with failure and success removes major psychological barriers, leads to more action, more risk taking, and more creative endeavours.
As a contextual social agreement for a definition, we could define fear as an emotion, a trigger against threats or probable danger.
Threat to what? Threat to the temporary or permanent balance of the ego.
Understanding Fear of failure
We have two elements in this phrase:
- You want to get something done, in the right way.
- And You know, or have enough faith in the idea that you might not be able to get it right.
What is the right?
Whatever is your vision of right, your image of right, is what you want.
Fear and judgement
We often believe the idea that it is the judgement by others, by the society, by family and friends that we fear the most.
But who fears it?
Who is this ‘I’ that fears it?
My personal experience suggests that it is not the judgement of others that is the problem here. Their judgement might trigger another judgement which we have about our own self. And that is our clue to real questioning. That is where our inquiries should begin.
One may ask
How is this image in my head formed? What is the nature of this judgement? And why do I believe the things I believe about the world, myself and my abilities?
All of this relates to what you learn from the world, yes, but It’s not about what the world teaches you, but what you learn.
What judgement you have when somebody tells you, ‘you are not good enough, ‘ is the judgement known only to you.
People might tell you “you did a great job” and you might still hear, “I could have done it better.”
Who is saying that? You.
Exploring Fear of judgement and success
People who achieve success early in life and get appreciated by comrades and family, have even more difficulty giving up the idea of failure. It’s like their ego develops this balance state that they don’t want to mess with, because it feels wrong, it triggers the superego, which is the moral conscience. They hunt for proof of success consistently.
And because, failure is necessary to learn something new, it becomes impossible for them to learn anything new, cause they reject the idea of consistent failures, and never go through the journey of great transformations. They are stuck in a loop of guilt and other unnecessary judgements.
Especially by getting triggered by the outside world for conversations about success rather than failure. Rather than appreciating great failures then, one appreciates mediocre successes.
In the same context, this journey is even harder for people with detailed, subtle, intelligent minds, who take longer to understand things, because they truly want to understand, or experience, which means a lot of failure and a lot of judgement and imbalance, which they run away from, and end up miserable. It’s like the more powerful the mind, the more one suffers.
‘People have always appreciated me for who I am, I cannot disappoint them, that’s why I will do what it takes to make them happy with me.’
When they get disappointed with you, what does YOUR ego say it means?
What interests me here, is how are these thoughts stored and triggered in our mind. We obviously don’t store our thoughts in English Language. They are stored in feelings, in electrical communication, in so many forms we do not yet understand. It is mystifying how language gets translated into our bodies, making our hormones and gut react to things.
There’s some element in us, with infinite form perhaps, that we associate with different words, scenarios, and complications.
It’s like, a gorgeous reasoning going in the background, in our cognition, free from all rational cause and effect reasoning that we use to explain it, which determines all our life choices, including chocolate.
To ask how it works, this link between our mind and actions, is like asking, how do little uncertain quantum particles construct the classical world around us?
So, the true nature of a judgement is not in the language. Language is just kind of a compass, an expression, to something within you, I guess.
And what’s wonderful is- Who knows what happens in your body better than yourself? Who knows better the nature of this image that you want to keep intact inside of you? This balance of ego that you imagined?
Now, the million-dollar question.
How do you change it? How do you beat these right and wrong images and surpass fear of failure?
The most practical solution or hack to this has been, to go out there and do things. If you cannot write the book, well, write the book. Cannot learn how to fly an airplane, learn to fly an airplane. Once you become action-oriented, somehow your association with the world and language changes. You turn a problem-solver. Your body changes, and something else inside of you changes.
But if you are still not able to be the action-first individual, well then, maybe you listen to yourself. Every time something triggers you, you listen not to the trigger, but your body, your mind, and figure out what’s going on. Here, you can use the power of language and conversations.
Here’s another mystifying element of language.
People out there, writing books, hosting podcasts, creating videos, have such musical representation of being, and creating, and producing, and inspiring, that those conversations, stir within you, not only new ways of thinking, but sparks in you the curiosity, that you need to threshold out of your comfortable ego.
I have found, anything that sparks curiosity, shifts your focus towards knowledge creation and action, which again is magical. How can language translate to these myriads of emotions that make us move and create and invent and just, live?
I think reading books, learning something new, listening to people like Naval Ravikant, yeah that’s a good place to start on the internet right now.
I remember a tweet by Ankur Warikoo, I will rephrase it here, it said,
“It is your responsibility to keep yourself inspired.”
So, until you are able to unleash the creative hound, I believe these practical hacks to go out there and seek inspiration on a regular basis could help you combat fear of failure, but the questions still linger.
I think, we also need to study that, rather than dodging the disappointments or learning about ourselves from therapists or motivational coaches, we need to perhaps know, that while listening to conversations that trigger curiosity is important, all of us might be exclusively unique in our thoughts. Like, really unique. We got different DNA’s. Why not different cognitions? Could our self-discoveries be absolutely individualistic?
Failure and Creativity
How does this fear of failure inhibit creativity even though failure and success are not linked to creativity? I think, the problem lies in the lack of understanding of what it means to be creative?
Is absolute creativity even possible unless you are in a deep meditative state or I don’t know, god or something?
When creativity is linked with human actions, it maybe is not absolute, but we can, increase it’s contribution in our undertakings.
Maybe we start things shapeless.
When writing a new story, or painting on a blank canvas, or problem solving for some entrepreneurial question, unless it is formless, and you are the one giving it form, unless its colourless, and you are the one choosing the colour, how could we call something truly creative?
Is creativity related to how much of your individuality you can discover and incorporate in something?
Cause if we are all unique, all new, we all have something exclusive to deliver here on this planet.
It’s so weird.
What’s weirder is, how we bring fear of failure into things that are not even linked to failure. How do we end up so illogical, irrational. Because, if you want to go technical, and link failure and creativity, you could say, your default state is failure. Cause there is no goal, goal is not achieved. So, failure, right?
And yet…and yet…
What is it about failing in the eyes of other people that bothers us more than failing in solitude? Is it merely evolutionary? That we want to belong to the social groups to survive, and failure to do so means death? Or is it also something else?
We cannot do much about evolution, cause it will happen when it happens, we just can keep changing to our bests.
But if there’s something else we do as a society that contributes to this shame that we bring upon ourselves, almost all of us, I think, we could work around it.
Where does this self-loathe come from? How do we learn it? How can we not learn something as illogical as this, so that we don’t have to unlearn it later?
Listen to the entire conversation here:
Thanks for reading.