Our last three Wellness Wednesdays have focused on the importance of being in and out of our Comfort Zone and how the fear of OPOs…Other Peoples’ Opinions…can keep us stuck in our Comfort Zone. A second major roadblock to moving outside of our Comfort Zone is our fear of failure or making mistakes.

Remember, our brain has two main purposes: to make sure we survive and thrive. The survive mode of our brain looks for threats and the thrive mode looks for opportunities to grow and reach our full potential. So, here’s the big question: How do we see failure and mistakes? Are they threats or opportunities to learn and reach our potential?

Heather Bronder, a fabulous teacher in Anoka, Minnesota, attended one of our Top 20 trainings a few years ago. After we completed a session on valuing mistakes and failure, Heather sought me out during the break and handed her phone to me. “I want to share something with you,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to school when I was in second grade because my older brother told me that I wasn’t smart and I was afraid of making mistakes. What you will read on my phone is a list of reasons why my parents should let me stay home.”

Tears formed in my eyes as I read through the list written by a little eight-year-old girl. I said, “Heather, this is what makes you a fabulous teacher.” Because young Heather had experienced mistakes and failure as a threat, Ms. Bronder made sure her students experienced mistakes and failure as opportunities to learn and grow. Whereas young Heather feared moving outside her Comfort Zone, her students thrived outside of their Comfort Zone.

Let’s go back to the Wright brothers and Tom’s son, Brendan, from last week. When the Wright brothers went to Kitty Hawk, they always brought extra parts to their airplane. Why? They knew they were going to crash. They knew they were going to fail. When Orville would crash, Wilbur would say, “Hey, bro, what did you learn?” And when Wilbur would crash, Orville would say, “Hey, bro, what did you learn?” Today we can fly from Minneapolis to Phoenix in less than three hours because the Wright brothers were willing to fail.

Tom didn’t want Brendan to try out for the varsity golf team because Tom was afraid his son might fail…and then Tom would be embarrassed. Because Brendan didn’t share his father’s fear, he moved outside of his Comfort Zone, tried out for the advanced team, and became a golf professional.

This doesn’t mean that the Wright brothers and Brendan Cody didn’t experience some fear. What it does mean is that they didn’t allow fear to govern their experiences. Fear of failure didn’t keep them stuck in their Comfort Zone.


  1. Identify a time in your life when you may have felt fear, but still journeyed outside of your Comfort Zone.
  2. Identify a time in your life when fear kept you stuck inside of your Comfort Zone.
  3. Is there an opportunity waiting for you outside of your Comfort Zone that is being delayed because of your fear of failing?

Consider the possibility that even if you failed, you still might have a ‘thriving’ experience. When Heather took her very first step as a little girl and fell down, she failed at walking. However, in those repeated attempts and failures, she was learning balance…a skill necessary for her to learn to walk.

From my Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody…who have joined me in failing countless times.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training