(BLOG 13) Fear of Failure

Check out a quick video regarding this topic:

Continuing on a similar thread as last week’s blog on Mistake Making, this week we tackle the Fear of Failure.

1) The first idea to keep in mind when dealing with students’ or adults’ fear of failure is to acknowledge that we live in a culture where failing is most often not an option.

What are students trying to avoid in the classroom and hallways? Failure.

What are adults trying to avoid in the workplace? Failure.

What is the worst thing you can do as an athlete? Fail.

Our current society is one where failing at something is about the worst result you can get. Acknowledging the reality that it is not a commonly accepted endgame is the first step.

When I listen to students in the hallways or on the playground, the word “fail” is thrown around as commonly as “stupid.” It’s the new response students use when someone “can’t do something.” This reality is something to pause on. I literally heard a 2nd grader laughingly yell “FAIL” to another 2nd grader on the playground when they tried climbing up a slide.



The concern is that the normalization of this word/action as something that isn’t an option is scary. Why is it scary? Well, it’s scary because it starts as a message that has the potential to form a belief in that 2nd grader. Negative messages that eventually become beliefs is a TOP CONCERN for us at Top 20 Training. We would rather nurture cultures that launch Positive messages that eventually form themselves into beliefs for students and adults. The idea is very similar for adults in the workplace as well.

2) The second idea to keep in mind has to do with students’ or adults’ comfort zones. Everyone has a comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Our comfort zones are places where we’re safe and most often our true self. As educators, we are of course BIG fans of students having comfort zones. The trick is that Big Learning happens outside of students’ comfort zones. When students can’t do something, or fail, they run right back to their comfort zone. That’s great; that’s how it’s supposed to be. The challenge we have is to keep students moving outside of their comfort zones to the land of Big Learning without being afraid of failure. Failing and not being able to DO something is hard enough. When outside messages start impacting our beliefs about our Identity, Worth, and Purpose as humans,…we have a problem.

Outside our Comfort Zone

Outside our Comfort Zone

3) The final piece we’ll mention in navigating this very challenging issue can be summed up in one statement: “Failure is an event, not a person.” When we fail, it’s a moment in time. It’s an event. Too often we walk with the idea that when we “can’t do something,” we are now failures. That is of course the furthest from the truth.

I spent this afternoon watching one of my sons, and his friend, sledding down a hill in our neighborhood. There was plenty of powdery snow and the layer underneath was packed tight to make a slick sledding surface. Time and time again I watched these two boys trudge up the hill, get on their sleds, and then attempt to hit a jump they built in the middle of the hill. On most of the runs they completely missed the jump. Some of the runs they hit the side and were launched off at an odd angle. They kept trying; they kept persevering in the face of failure. Each time they missed or barely hit the jump they bounced back up the hill and tried again. Never once did they wear their failure. They knew it was simply an event, a moment in time. That sentiment is our hope and goal for all students and adults. It is crucial in reaching our full potential!

Contact us to hear how we can open up this topic further with your students, faculty/staff, or business.