A lawyer worked for me many years ago. I doubt he reads my blog, but even so, I will call him Pete rather than his real name. Pete was a really bright lawyer. He was a litigator. When a case would come in Pete might tell the client it was a very strong case. As time passed and it was time to actually go try the case, all of a sudden the case needed to be settled. To be honest, Pete was so afraid of losing that he felt compelled to settle every case.
All of us do not want to lose. All of us are afraid of looking like a fool. All of us fear something. Yet, it is our fear of failing that holds us back. I have been afraid of failing many times in my career. I have also failed several times in my career. I wrote about one of my client development failures in my Find Success by Risking Failure blog post in April 2009. Each time I failed it was like putting a dagger in my heart. Yet, I believe my failures made me a better lawyer. They also helped me clarify what I would focus on and become.
I was thinking about the fear of failing while watching a video clip of J.K. Rowling speaking at a Harvard graduation. As you will see and hear, she failed early in her career. But, that failure in part made her the well-known author she is today. In her presentation she said:
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.
As some of you know, when I turned 21 Robert Kennedy was running for President. I strongly believed he could bring the country together at a time when we were very divided. I watched many of his speeches during his short campaign that ended in his assassination. I repeat many of his quotes from those speeches. One I particularly like is: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Don’t let your fear of failing hold you back.