I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
I hate failing! I hate looking like I don’t know what I’m doing or that I wasn’t adequately prepared. I usually try to avoid that at all costs. I was reminded of this pattern just a few weeks ago during a staff meeting. During a spirited exchange of ideas, I just sat there. I had thoughts and opinions running through my head, but I was silent. In that moment, I realized 3 things about my relationship with failure.
The perceived risk of failure leads me to:
Overthink – It feels a bit like thought paralysis. I get bogged down in: “Should I do this?” or “Maybe there’s a better way. I ought to spend a little more time researching.” Next thing I know, I’ve wasted a ton of time and am more confused and frustrated than when I began. It’s only the pressure of a looming deadline that can propel me into making a decision if I let this go on for too long.
Become inauthentic – I’m so worried about looking like I’ve got it all together, that I’m not real. I won’t ask important questions (I don’t want to risk asking something stupid), I can miss valuable information, and I just go with the flow instead of challenging something I’m not comfortable with. Ultimately, I’m not bringing my full self and all I have to offer to the table.
Inhibit my creativity – The heart of innovation and creativity is trying something new. If something’s new, there’s always the risk that it won’t work; it could fail. If my goal is to avoid failing, all I can do is fall back on others’ ideas – they’re proven and safe. There’s a time and place for that, but I miss out on developing my own unique perspective based on life experiences if all I do is regurgitate what others have said.
If I’m honest with myself, and you – dear reader – the truth is… I’m afraid of failing. There’s vulnerability in stepping into the wide unknown. What if I make a bad decision? What if I risk sharing from my heart and it’s not accepted? What if I fail?
What I’m starting to realize, after working with Kairos for 2 years, is that failure is ok. It’s part of growing. Playing small has never been my style. I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of growth. It can be painful though. If we hope to be effective leaders, we must embrace it; not only for ourselves, but also for those we lead.
My experience with the Kairos team is that they’ve created a safe space for me to fail. They’ve encouraged me while simultaneously pushing me outside my comfort zone. This gives me freedom to “spread my wings” and try some new things. Afterwards, we evaluate. What was successful? What needs to be tweaked to make it better? I’m trying hard to get rid of the pass/fail mindset I’ve been stuck in, but it’s still quite a journey.
So what did I do after coming to these realizations? I spoke up at that staff meeting. I owned that I’ve been playing it safe, and committed to stepping outside my comfort zone more often.
This blog post itself is a big step for me. Now I’ve really gone public with this fear! Why? I believe in the importance of accountability. So, call me out if I look like I’m holding back. And of course, I’m always open for a little encouragement when you see me taking a risk.