Failure is an Option

Fear of Failure

Does the fear of failure hold you back?  Are you afraid to try new things? When was the last time you took on something new, something that challenged you, made you stretch beyond your comfort zone, something that was even a bit scary? Would you be more willing to make a mistake if you knew that failure really is an option?

Real vs. Imagined Failure

What does it mean to fail?

How we think about failure is different for everyone.  For some, it simply means not being the best at something, like winning a race.  For someone else, it means not measuring up to a standard they are trying to achieve. For others, it means not “being successful” (you define that for yourself). But, have we truly failed if we don’t meet this standard or expectation? Now certainly, there is failure, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about real failure, when things blow up, either literally or figuratively. I’m talking about imagined failure. I mean the blown-out-of-proportion thinking we have about failure that stops so many of us.  The kind of thinking that makes you believe you have to get it right the first-time.  The kind of thinking that makes you afraid to try.

Failure as an Option

What if you knew – deep down in your gut – that failure really is an option? And not the worst option either. In the TED Radio HourFailure is an Option from July 29, 2016, TED speakers explore how failure clears the way for success in our everyday work, and our innermost lives. Listening to this podcast really made me think about how little our society values putting yourself out there, being willing to take a risk, trying really hard, learning something new, and quite possibly, not being successful.

Celebrating Failure

One of the companies featured in the TED Talk rewards their teams with paid bonuses for their failures as a way to celebrate their learning. It reminds me the One Hundred Pots study where students were learning to use a potter’s wheel. The first class was instructed to make one great pot during the semester, which would be graded. The second class was instructed to make 100 pots throughout the semester, with only the 100th pot being graded. As expected, the students who made 100 pots ended up with higher quality pots in the end. Failing was important for their learning, and its important for yours too!

Make Mistakes

Don’t let your thinking get the best of you. We are often our own worst enemy. We hold ourselves to such unrealistically high, even unachievable expectations, that we forget that failure is a normal part of  learning. Learning takes time, and practice, and the only one that expects we get it right the first time, IS US.  Give yourself a break. Try something new. Make some mistakes. Celebrate your learning. Failure really is an option!


Kristin Clark is a certified Axiogenics Coach, guiding individuals and organizations in leadership development by learning to make better value-based decisions, Linking their Thinking to Create Performance Improvement in their personal and professional lives.  Learn more at: