The Fear of Failure Makes You Small

The paralyzing fear of failure makes you small.

Fear of failure prevents you from trying new things. If you aren’t certain of success, you won’t begin. If you can’t do it well, you won’t try.


Moderate levels of fear make you alert, but excessive fear makes you stupid. One of three instincts takes over when fear rules.

  1. Fight.
  2. Flight.
  3. Freeze.

Fear of failure is imagining all the negative things that might happen if you try and don’t succeed.

  1. Embarrassment and lost respect. What will people think?
  2. Job termination.
  3. Self-accusation.
  4. Financial loss.
  5. Others lose their livelihood because the company fails.

Innovation and creative problem-solving come to an end when fear rules the kingdom.

Go for it:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” Steve Jobs

Three ways to help people overcome fear of failure:

#1. Explain what YOU learned from failure. The great gift of failure is learning, if you keep trying after falling short

(Amy Edmondson, author of The Fearless Organization.)

Make it safe to fail responsibly by telling people about your failures.

If you are a leader who never fails, the people around you will play it safe.

#2. Courage is a product of the people around us.

“Courage comes from the courage of others around us. When you meet people with courage, it gives you courage. When somebody believes in you, that gives you courage.”

“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve met some amazing people who have much more courage than I.” Simon Sinek interview:

(Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last.)

#3. Define failure. It helps to know what you’re afraid of. Name it. What will happen if you fail?

How do incompetent leaders feed the fear of failure in others?

How might leaders make it safe to fail responsibly?