Thursday, April 9, 2020

Failure Is an Option, but Fear Is Not

That’s what James Cameron said at the end of his TED talk and I love it. It’s simple but powerful. Failure is an option, but fear is not.
Unfortunately, people often do the exact opposite: failure is not an option, but fear is. They don’t tolerate failure but they tolerate fear. They despise people who fail but they let fear get in the way of reaching their dreams.
We shouldn’t join them, of course. Let’s be on the right side of the fence.
Failure Is an Option
Here is how to apply this principle in your life:

1. Make room for failure
Nobody wants to fail, but failing is inevitable on your way to success. George Bernard Shaw said:
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
So if you never fail then it probably means that you do nothing. Failing shows that you actually do something instead of just sitting in your comfort zone.

2. Learn from each failure
Though you need to make room for failure, you shouldn’t just fail. You need to fail intelligently. That means each failure should teach you something. Don’t just fail and get nothing out of it. Learn something from each failure that makes you better and better over time.

3. Fail fast
Time is precious, so if you failed then you’d better fail fast. Why? Because it will make you learn and improve faster. It will make you ready for the prime time sooner.
The key here is to shorten your feedback cycle. Find a way to get quick feedback on your effort so that you can adjust yourself soon. What you need to do is testing your idea in the real world as soon as possible. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Instead, test it once it’s good enough and refine from there. The mantra of the open source world applies here: release early, release often.

Fear Is Not an Option
A big part of fear is fear of failure and that’s been covered above. Here are two more ways to apply this principle:

1. Take risks
Many people hesitate to work on something they aren’t familiar with because they are afraid of the unknown. But fear is not an option, so you should be willing to take risks. Explore new ideas. Experiment with new things. If you are successful, the reward could be huge. Even if you aren’t, you will still come out better than before.

2. Do things you are inconvenient with 
Doing things you aren’t convenient with gives you the most opportunities for growth. Since you stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will grow a lot. This isn’t easy to apply (for me, at least), but it’s something we should strive to do from time to time.

Is there anything else you learn from James Cameron’s statement? How do you befriend failure and cast out fear?
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