Since I was old enough to have a goal or a dream, people have been asking me what my biggest fear is. When I was in High School and even when I was going to school for my undergraduate degree, I easily said that “failure” or failing was my biggest fear. Everything else paled in comparison to not achieving something I had set out to do. I used to look at it like it was the ultimate betrayal of my hard work. I thought I would disgrace my parents. I thought it would mean that I wouldn’t measure up to all of my friends who were going to be doctors. I thought it meant I wasn’t good enough. What this did for my life was put a knot in my stomach that never went away. I put so much pressure on myself, I felt like I could have been pushed into the center of the earth with all of the weight on my shoulders. The funny thing is, no one ever made me feel inadequate. My mom and dad pretty much made me feel like superwoman growing up, and I believed them. I think the hardest thing for me to swallow was the possibility of wasting any time or doing anything that would get in the way of being as great as I could possibly be. I had always been the girl who had plans. I knew when I wanted to get married (haha), I knew what my house would look like; I knew what my kids would be named. I knew I was going to get my Doctorate…I think you get the point. The hardest part about thinking you know everything and that you can plan your life is when you realize you have no control and that God holds your life in his hands.
The reason I feel like this subject is so important is because we all go through parts of our lives where failure seems like the worst possible option. Don’t get me wrong, I know that sometimes it seems like life could not get any worse, but my experiences and the experiences of many others can attest to the fact that there are much worse things than failure, and normally your failures are setting you up for something so much greater. Since I have graduate undergrad 2.5 years ago, I have learned a lot about who I want to be and the career I want to work in, and most importantly, I have changed my biggest fear. My mom told me last week, “Blaine, this is the first job you have ever had that you don’t complain about.” She said this to me after I had had a 60 hour work week, been out until 10:00 every night, missed a run because of an emergency (I never miss runs), and I was still not upset. This still surprises me sometimes, I’m not going to lie. Every job I have had up to this point didn’t seem important enough to sacrifice my time for. I refused to bring work home with me, and as sure as the sky is blue, I wasn’t going to miss a workout. The funny thing is that I had to fail at other career choices to get to the place I am now. It’s not that I couldn’t do the jobs, because that wasn’t it. It was that I literally would just daydream about flying out of the office superwoman style Every. Single. Day. My heart was not in it. I realized this because I realized that I needed to be doing something where I got to talk to people and help people in some way. I spent a couple years doing jobs in different areas of my field, and now I am thankful that I had the courage to change before I got too deep into something that wouldn’t make me happy. Yes, it was a little risky, and yes, I could have failed, but I didn’t.
Do you want to know what my biggest fear Is now? I have a fear of conforming to the world we live in. Of waking up and feeling mundane and tired, and not really “living”. I want to spend every single day of my life doing things that make the world better and make my heart full. Its not about money, its about impact. Am I getting up every morning determined to bring some happiness and love into this world? Am I living every day trying to better myself? I am afraid of a day that I wake up and don’t have a dream of running 100 milers or starting a non-profit. The best thing about a fear like this is that every single day I wake up and have a choice. I have a choice to wake up and be brave and to ignite the world that surrounds me. I can choose to be present during every conversation, to be excited about the job I get to go to every day, to be thankful for my runs, to look forward to starting my doctorate. All of these things make me who I am, and I will not dread them, I will do them all with a smile on my face. I am no longer afraid of change or failure, because something greater will come along. God has my life in his hands, and that makes me feel safe. That makes me feel courageous and brave. I will change my world and I am determined to make an impact of the people in my life.
Since many of you probably struggle with the fear of failure, here is a list of some people you might have heard of. Just a reminder to put your pride aside and to not give up on a dream just because a person said you couldn’t do it. You are the one who gets up every day and works for it, not them.
1. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because the editor said he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.
2. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job for getting too emotionally invested in her stories
3. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the Unversity of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times.
4. Colonel Sanders was fired from dozens of jobs before he founded his fried chicken empire.
5. Dick Cheney dropped out of Yale because he had trouble adjusting to the classes and culture, only to go back later and drop out for good.
6. Vera Wang failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. She then became an editor for vogue and was passed up for the editor-in-chief position. Now she is one of the premier fashion designers in the industry, with a business worth over a billion dollars.
7. Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “to stupid to learn anything”
8. J.K. Rowlings was a single mom living on welfare when she started writing the first Harry Potter novel. She later became first billionaire author.
9. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his life, and it was only a few months before he died.
10. Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 different publishing companies.
Be brave and be confident in the pursuit of your dream. If you believe in yourself, that will get you further than any amount of money or connections. Work hard, and don’t be afraid to fail. At least you are doing something worth failing at.
Sending you love and courage,