Much has been written about the increased fear of failure which many do feel. There is a growing argument that this is simply a modern reality that people will need to accept and learn to live with – is this correct for it doesn’t seem right or correct? And this seems an easy way of excusing the fact that many feel more inhibited in the modern era.
Fear has been a subject which is rarely discussed. Maybe that is the issue as fear can be a good thing; it can be a very powerful motivator which inspires both learning and achievement.
There are two points which need considering but which may seem like contradictions:
· Fear is a natural part of life
· Fear of failure is something which hinders many young talents from challenging their seniors and feeling confident.
The former is natural; the latter needs a change of mindset as often failure can be the route to success. It is important to learn to embrace and learn from failure. Possessing fear may be a natural part of life; facing a created fear of failure undermines productivity and performance.
People are naturally risk-averse and generally dislike change. The argument is that today change is a modern reality and therefore the fear that this creates will remain constant. There is merit in this perspective but it does not explain the increased fear of failure which many do feel. There are many who believe the fear of failure has been heightened by university fees and increased debt which has increased the level of pressure and expectation that many young people feel under. As much as many dislike the fact that so much pressure has been placed on the newer generations, it is a reality which is here to stay.
There is also a school of thought which believes that there has been too much of a blame culture which has existed within companies; a blame culture which has grown along with increased expectation on performance. Of course, the irony is that productivity has been in decline so it does all seem counterproductive.
Failure has, for too long, been looked down upon. Many good executives have been replaced in their roles for a perceived failure but has this been too short-sighted?
There is a great tale of an US giant which launched a new product costing many millions of dollars. There was a great marketing campaign and much hype. However, the product simply failed to connect with consumers and it flopped. In an interview, the CEO was asked whether he would replace the executive who led the product development.
“Why would I do that?”. he replied. “We have learnt much from the failure and the Executive has just had their best training. Success is never guaranteed; we have to earn it by building trust and inspiring our customers. We all failed here and we all learn together.”
It is estimated that close to 67% of those under the age of 30 possess an enhanced fear of failure. The challenge is to help that 67% to see failure as an important part of their growth and future success; not something to be afraid of.