I wrote an article that garnered massive readership: “I Left My Corporate Job–And These 8 Things Became Clear”. It told me two things: a) even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, and b) people want to hear more about the journey out of corporate life.
So I gladly comply with a tale of two city’s–the velocity with which it became clear I needed to leave corporate, and the atrocity that is fear of failure that was blocking the way.
For me personally, it became increasingly clear that my path lay outside of the corporate world.
A growing pit in my stomach on Sunday nights, a bone-deep exhaustion, the extraordinary in me made to feel ordinary.
Self-loathing over the fact that what stakeholders thought of me had come to mean far too much, a feeling of slogging onward, ever onward, but with no real sense of progress.
A sameness–of experiences, environment, and emptiness.
A gnawing feeling that I was made…for…more.
But even armed with such clarity a formidable foe obscured my vision.
A fear of failure.
And within this, two words that are inspiring on the one hand but insidious in the wrong hands.
What if my personal plan of being a speaker and author falls flat on its face? What if people merely think I’m a corporate exile that “couldn’t cut it?” What if I discover what I thought I wanted to do ain’t it?
Now, the same two words with the proper mindset:
“What if I don’t do this?”
If I didn’t I’d regret it for the rest of my life, that’s what if.
And it boiled down to one golden question I kept coming back to: “How will I have more meaningful impact–by staying or leaving?”
That’s just one way I turned away my fear of failure like the unwanted party-crasher on our aspirations that it is.
First, a few things you need to understand about a fear of failure: a) Fear engages our brain in the wrong conversation, b) research indicates half of all adults admitted that fear of failure was the biggest roadblock to achieving or even revisiting their goals, and c) neuroscientists concur that the most concrete thing in their field is the fact that fear of failure literally shuts down the part of our brain responsible for exploration, discovery, and growth.
That’s what we’re up against here.
Here are six powerful ways that you can reframe how you think of failure, applicable whether you want to stay in or get out of corporate life. Remind yourself that…
1. There are only three ways to actually fail.
When we quit, when we don’t improve, or when we never try.
2. Failure is an event, not a person.
And never over-generalize that these one-time occasions are indicative of your trademark imprint or are harbingers of future, widespread failure.
3. Failure doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you.
You need to believe that when you fail, it was for a reason.
Perhaps it was so you could experience a sweeter tasting success later on. Or it may have needed to happen so you could learn something vital that would propel you to success. As such, failure is a delay, not a detour.
Within this context know that there are two points, literally, to failure: each failure is a temporary point in time, and each failure has a more permanent, positive point to it.
4. You don’t suffer when you fail, your ego does.
And our ego is but one small part of us–albeit the loudest, whiniest, most demanding portion that needs to be knocked down a notch anyway.
Despite our best efforts to keep it in check, our ego demands to be fed. But you must remember all the parts of us that are nourished in events of failure.
Isolate your ego from your true self when you feel you’ve failed. Make your ego sit at the kids’ table where it belongs while the rest of the adult in you gets on with an enjoyable meal of discovery and growth.
5. Your fear of failure shouldn’t scare you; it’s trying to tell you something’s worth it.
You wouldn’t fear failing at something inconsequential, right?
6. Failure is a key part of your portfolio.
The ideal career contains a portfolio of job opportunities, including risky ones ripe with adventure, experimentation, and, yes, even failure. The net of these experiences combines to form a career with a high potential for growth.
Same in life.
There’s no truly successful person who doesn’t have failure as part of their life portfolio. Although Kanye West would probably beg to differ.
Now I’m not saying that you’re actually going to fail at whatever path you take. I’m just challenging what is failure, really?
I’m not saying that you can’t happily stay in corporate life with mindset management. In fact, when I decided to push back on fear of failure in my corporate job, it vastly accelerated my career trajectory.
I’m also not advising that you spontaneously leave your corporate job without having built a financial bridge first–a side hustle practiced in parallel that you can launch into full time, an exit plan to a much smaller company that feels entrepreneurial and still pays enough, etc.
What I am saying is that for my own journey, for what was calling me, it required a leap.
A leap of faith?
A leap through fear?
But I’ve landed on the other side of the chasm, and I’m not looking back.