Episode 14: Fear of Failure

 In Blog, podcast

No one likes failing. It’s seems like such an ugly word. People avoid putting themselves in positions where failure is even an option. If there’s a chance they could fail, no thank you. But what if failure didn’t have to mean BAD? What if failure was actually something to embrace and lean in to? What if failure was the ONLY way to success? Tune in today to listen as LDS life coach Hannah Coles talks about what fear of failure and offers three new, inspiring beliefs for you to try on and adopt into your belief system to help you move forward and ditch the fear of failure!

I’m Hannah Coles and you are listening to the Confidence Catalyst Podcast episode 14: Fear of Failure

Fear of Failure

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately. It used to be something that I ran away from or even avoided at all costs. But in my journey as an entrepreneur it’s something I’ve learned to embrace and even appreciate.

I think this is a huge area that scares a lot of people; the idea that you might fail at something and there’s a lot of insecurities and fear and doubt associated with this. So I wanted to hop on today and offer you three new insights into failure, why it’s not a bad thing and why you’re going to want to lean into it after this podcast.

I know, I see all my skeptics out there shaking their heads like, “no. I will never embrace failure” but I assure you, this podcast is painless – this time anyway – and stay with me.

Everyone has struggled and most still do with failure, but what about you? Do you struggle with fear of failure? Let’s take a short quiz to find out. It’s three questions. Ready?


Do you stay away from or avoid situations where you will have to try something new in front of people?

Do you ever procrastinate or put something off because you’re not sure how it will turn out?

Have you ever found yourself putting off doing something that you know will be good for you and improve your life, even though you don’t have any excuses not to do it?

How’d you do? If you answered yes to one or all of the questions, I get it. You’re not alone by a long shot. And today, I’m going to help you out.

A lot of people shy away from trying something new in front of others because they fear failure. They fear they won’t understand it, be good at it, and that others will laugh or judge them. So best thing to do, not do it at all, right? At least, that’s what our minds try to sell us on.

Why do we think we SHOULDN’T struggle?

But do we ever stop to think, why do I have this expectation that I “should” be good at it automatically? Why shouldn’t I struggle? Why do we want to skip the beginner phase?

And we all know why, it’s hard. It’s challenging. We don’t get it yet. We don’t understand it. But here’s what we don’t think about or question, why do you make it mean something negative about ourselves?

For this, let’s explore a bit about where we picked up and learned to fear failure.

Part of our Biology

A part of it is just our biological wiring. We’re hardwired for fear – to stay away from anything that could cause us pain – and not just physical pain, mental pain. Anything that could result in embarrassment, shame, or discomfort our brain is like, no…danger, stay away.

This wiring is a defense mechanism and it is needed to keep us safe from dangers but most of the time it’s acting from false or imagined attacks. So we’re literally going against the grain when we try or think about trying something new.

Cultural Conditioning

Another big reason is cultural conditioning. From a very young and early age we were taught good and bad, right and wrong, yes’s and No’s. Babies and toddlers are always trying new things, they’re not as conditioned yet to fear the imaginary threats so they try new things all the time and it’s not until they interact with others that they start to learn what’s acceptable or not.

Like a toddler, Biting that person seems like a good idea. Let me try that. Then the victim screams, their mother comes over and scolds them and they start learning that that behavior is unacceptable. That was a failed attempt. Biting is bad and it’s here that the line starts to get muddled as to biting is bad vs I am bad.

Then we enter school and we’re taught lots of things and now it’s test time. Grades are given and everyone learns very quickly that you do NOT want an F. F’s are bad. F’s are fails.

So you can see that little by little we started fearing failing. We don’t want to do something that we’ll get scolded at – that didn’t feel good. We don’t want to mess up in school because we could get a bad grade – that doesn’t feel good. And little by little we start creating this fear of failure.

Failure is bad. Success is good. Trying new things could be bad. You could fail. Maybe you shouldn’t try at all. And we start developing and solidifying these beliefs then we subconsciously and habitually operate from them. And this isn’t helpful either.

So how can we turn this around and overcome this fear of failure?

We need to adopt and embrace a new belief system. I say embrace because you can think new thoughts, you can recite mantras and affirmations but the magic happens when you actually believe them and start operating from these new beliefs.

Belief #1: Failure is re-direction

So belief number one I want you to try on: Failure is simply re-direction. Do you remember the days before smart phones? I know, it’s really hard to go back and think of life before our phones but before smart phones to get to a new destination you’d have to rely on other sources. I used to use Mapquest and I’d print out the directions online before heading out and you had to be careful to pay attention to each step or you’d end up in who knows where – which happened quite a bit.

Then we upgraded and had GPS. This was awesome because now you had a voice narrating each turn. But anytime you missed your turn this voice would become incessant, “You have made a wrong turn, turn around, turn around, turn around.” Right? Or Make a U turn, make a u turn – and it would just keep repeating it and I remember talking to it and saying, “I know! I’m trying!”

So I think developers realized it was creating more stress than being helpful so they adjusted it and now you it’s this gentle pop up on your phone that says, re-directing. So you just keep going and sure enough, there’s always another way. Sometimes it adds a bit of time to take this detour but it’s not a problem.

This is how we can choose to look at our failures. They’re not fails. It’s not that you’re failing, that you as a person are a failure. It’s just, this didn’t work, now let’s find another route. And really, that’s what creates the most pain and fear when it comes to failure. It’s what we make that failure mean about us.

We don’t tend to look at it like, that way didn’t work, that way was a fail. Instead we make it mean horrible things about ourselves that we’re a failure. We’re not good enough because we couldn’t make it work.

But try on the thought, re-directing. And notice, you don’t stop. When you get miss that turn you don’t stop. You keep going because you know google maps or Waze or whatever you use is going to come through and hook you up with another solution. So keep going, don’t stop. Don’t make it mean anything about you. It’s simply, well, that didn’t work, let’s find the next turn.

Belief #2: Everything is Prom

Okay, belief number two to try on: Everything is Prom. I know, that one sounds weird but I learned this from Author, Nir Eyal and I thought it was brilliant so I want to share it here too. Do you remember your prom? We make it this really big deal. You spend all this time, energy, money on first, who you’ll go with, how you’ll ask them, or the drama of who is going to ask me? And now this whole scene has evolved from my day of just having that conversation and asking someone to prom, now it’s this huge creative event of how can you ask them in the most elaborate and unique way – which I’m not saying is a bad thing at all! It’s really cute actually but it’s a bigger deal, right?

And in some areas it’s not just prom. It’s breakfast until midnight. It’s a big deal from thinking of who you want to go with to the dress, the tux, the restaurant, the limo, the group, which group you want to go with, the pictures, the flowers, the corsage, the makeup, the hair, the party, the before prom party, the after prom party. And it can be a really big thing that just consumes a lot of their time and energy at the time. You don’t want to mess it up. Everything has to be just so, so you make it this really big ordeal but then years later you realize, it’s not that big of a deal. It was fun. It was memorable. But all the little details you stressed over, not that memorable. It’s not a big deal anymore.

It’s not a big deal a year later, 5 years later, 20 years later. It’s the same thing with our current endeavors. Our minds want to make everything this BIG, scary deal and we fear that we’ll mess it up. We stress about all the details and the ins and outs and really, we see as time passes, it’s not that big of a deal.

I love learning about really successful people’s failures because it’s so inspiring how they kept going, persisting, and eventually succeeding. It’s hard to imagine them failing because of their success now but each one will tell you they had way more fails than they had victories but all we see is the success and fear that we’ll never make it like them.

Famous Failures

We’re totally Harry Potter fan’s over at our house and I can’t fathom how 12 publishing companies turned her down before she found one that would publish it. Or Theordor Gessell, aka Dr. Seuss was rejected from 28 publishers before finding one that would entertain his works. What about Harrison Ford, easily one of the top actors in his field – rejected several times and told that “he’d never make it in this business” – for 9 years he kept trying until he landed his first big role and then the rest is history.

I know you’ve heard several of these but here’s what I want you to think about, how many times are you willing to try, to fail, and to try again? Most of us give up after the first attempt. If it looks hard, it’s like, nope. Or after the first attempt, that’s not for me. But what if there was a magic number that you had to reach for you to succeed? Would you continue until you got there?

Like Harrison Ford, are you willing to try day in and day out for 9 years? Or like Howard Schultz, famous entrepreneur behind Starbucks. He was turned down by 217 of the 242 investors. Would you keep going and be willing to fail if you knew that you had to fail 217 times before succeeding?

I think a lot of us would because we have that certainty it’s going to work out. I just have to keep at it until this number or this time. But we don’t know and instead we let our fear’s that it’s not going to work out derail us and eventually stop us from proceeding. We make each fail or thought of failure a big deal in our minds and so we stop. But what if you could just think, “everything is just prom.” It feels like a big deal today but it’s not really a big deal. Really, I’m going to look back and remember the fun things.

If you notice successful people love to talk about their failures because they don’t make it mean anything about themselves anymore. They don’t make it mean that they’re a failure. That something is wrong with them. They simply know it’s part of the journey. A necessary part of the journey.

Belief #3: Failure is information

Which brings me to the third belief to adopt: Failure is information. I read a quote by Steven Pinker recently that said, “Optimism is the theory that all failures are due to insufficient knowledge…problems are inevitable, because our knowledge will always be infinitely far from complete. Problems are soluble and each problem can be solved.”

Failures are due to insufficient knowledge. There’s always going to be be fails because we’re learning. We’re going to have insufficient knowledge but the good thing and promising thing is that problems are solvable. Marie Forleo says that, “All problems are figureoutable”.

Resist the strong urge to make it mean anything negative about you. It’s just due to lack of information. This is true in fails with relationships, finances, health, weight, and everything. It’s all due to insufficient knowledge. That fail is just information. It’s thinking, “Well, that didn’t work, now what?” And keep moving forward.

Failing in relationships

Failure hurts the most when it’s about something we really value or want. I see this a lot when it comes to relationships. The other person doesn’t come over, call, or reach out the way we hoped they would and so maybe you make the effort and do something to connect only to be turned down and rejected. So instead of looking at it like a fail, information, we tend to make it mean something terrible about ourselves.

We make it mean that something is wrong with us. That we’re failures. That the relationship has failed and isn’t working. Then we draw from the past for information and predictions for the future and the future looks bleak so we don’t try, we don’t reach out, we don’t try again. Thus failing ahead of time. You already think it’s not going to work, they’re not going to listen or care or come, so you just don’t invite, don’t reach out, don’t try again.

But what if you looked at differently? What if you tried on one of these three beliefs? It’s just redirection. It’s just prom – it’s not a big deal in the long run – or at least, it doesn’t have to be if you don’t let it, and it’s just information.

Don’t make it about you and your WORTH

Instead of making it mean anything negative about you, your identity, who you are as a human being. Just remember , it’s information. The reason it’s not working out the way you hoped is because you’re missing something, insufficient information. So you need to step back, look at it from a different light, this one didn’t work, maybe the next, and the next, and the next, and then next.

Keep going for as long as it takes. There is a magic number. There always is. You just have to keep going long enough to find it. Make yourself a goal, I’d shoot for Thomas Edison type numbers, after 10,000 times then I’ll find the right combination, all the components to make it work and then I’ll get there. In the meantime, it’s just redirection. It’s not a big deal. It’s information and the more information you have the easier it is to get there. You already know all these paths didn’t work, so where else can I go, what else can I try, what else can I do.

Failure isn’t the problem

Failure isn’t the problem. It’s never the problem. The problem is our thinking about the failure. It’s what we make the failure mean about us.

Failure doesn’t equal BAD. Failure is knowledge. It’s power. It’s valuable information.

Okay, recap: Three beliefs:

1.) Failure is just redirection
2.) Everything is Prom
3.) Failure is information – insufficient knowledge

Okay, I hope you go out there and fail a lot this week. Fail in attempts to reconnect with loved ones because that means that you’re closer to connection because you know a way that didn’t work and you can try another way.

Fail in trying new things. Let yourself be a beginner! Fall a lot, build up callouses and resiliency to try again. Find that magic number but keep going until you do. As always, I love talking to you all! Please, please, please subscribe and leave a review for me. It’s really important for the show to have those reviews. They really do matter. So I’d appreciate that!

Okay, until next week my friends! Fail on!


I’m currently offering a FREE CONSULT call. If you’re needing help with overcoming your fear of failure book that appointment and let’s talk! You can schedule that HERE!

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