Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian poet and writer, in his work ‘The Alchemist’, has very rightlysaid, ‘There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.’ (1)
The fear of failure and being labeled negative eats into the very fiber of our being. Fear of failure keeps the person in a procrastinating mode.(2) Action never happens and indecisiveness and procrastination saps all energy leaving the person mentally, emotionally and to a degree physically paralyzed.(3) People find themselves stuck in a dark tunnel of helplessness. To make matters worse they are labeled as negative and pessimist.
This state of being is aptly described as Atychiphobia.(4,5) It is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure which often leads to a constricted lifestyle and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person’s willingness to attempt certain activities.
This research will explore the impact of failure, fear of failure and the role of a coach.
Biographies of outstanding personalities belonging to different sections of society and era were studied and used. Study was based on their management and approach to failure. A true case study of a Life Coach and a client with the fear of failure was used. Books, journals, websites and self-reflections were used during this research
A: Study of Famous Personalities
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. His list of failures was a long one, but his failures never deterred him from achieving the most coveted position of the President of USA.
Abraham Lincoln’s failures:
- Lost his job and entered politics, 1832, (6)
- Defeated for legislature,1832 (7)
- Defeated for Speaker, 1838 (8)
- Defeated to be nominated for Congress, 1842 (6)
- Lost nomination as a Congressman, 1848 (8)
- Rejected for Commissioner of the General Land Office, 1849 (9)
- Defeated for Senate, 1854 (10)
- Defeated for nomination for Vice-President, 1856 (11)
In spite of so many failures Abraham Lincoln had a series of accomplishments to his credit. He led the country to victory during the American Civil War and contributed profoundly towards ending the widespread slavery in America. Before being elected to the Presidency; Lincoln was a successful lawyer, an Illinois state legislator and a member of the United States House of Representatives. His presidency is primarily marked by his illustrious success in defeating the secessionists, abolition of slavery and neutralizing a war-like situation with the United Kingdom. (6,10,12) Apart from these, the former President is credited with the establishment of a “Republican form of Government” in America through a policy of reconciliation. Since then he has been ranked among the greatest presidents of America. (6,10,12)
Steve Jobs was the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. His unending failures never stopped him from touching the zenith of success.
Steve Jobs’ failures:
- The Apple III computer–the first PC was a poor design. (13)
- The Lisa, a personal computer was very expensive for general use and the company suffered losses. (13)
- Early Macintosh computers were bulky and slow. (13)
- He was fired from Apple Inc.by Scully, the CEO. (13)
- After his return to Apple Inc. and having several successful ventures such as iPod, iPhone, iPad he still had some products which did not do well such as:
- Apple TV. (14)
- The NeXT-like Apple G4 Cube. (14)
The way he handled his failures and emerged as a winner was commendable (15) and he expressed his strategy in his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. […] Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. (16)