Fear of failure can hold students back

Melissa NunezOpinions and Features Editor

As a freshman, I sat in my tier one American history class overwhelmed with the fast paced, increased workload that came with higher education. Overwhelmed, not because I was allowing my work to fall by the wayside, but doubtful at my own ability to fulfill these new demands. It was there when the professor gave me some reassuring advice that I would actively use in the coming years, “everything gets done,” meaning, as students, we always manage to find a way to complete our work despite other demands and social obligations.

I thought it was a statement that rang true in my own life, until someone posed a simple question that spoke to the contrary, “but what if it does not?” A simple question, but a wrench in the cog nonetheless, because it is true, people fail. We fail each other and we fail ourselves, but failure is apart of life and the college experience. Why are we so afraid to fail when without it there would be nothing to overcome and learn from? To know nothing but success would be a life without tribulations and lessons.

According to a 2014 poll conducted by Roger Jones of the Harvard Business Review, out of 116 CEOs surveyed, the biggest fear among them was the “imposter syndrome” or the fear of looking inept to others. Others included under performing, appearing too fragile, being “politically attacked by colleagues,” and looking foolish. Out of those surveyed, 60 percent of the CEOs admitted these fears drive their demeanor around their executive teams.

These fears also lead to “dysfunctional” workplace conduct, such as avoiding sincere, open communication, excessive “political game playing,” failure to share information amongst each other, as well as failure to claim ownership, to follow through and to tolerate poor behavior, according to the Harvard Business Review.

In concealing our worst fears, we encase ourselves from each other and from honest life experience that can ultimately favorably shape us.

In a statement to the Graduate School of Stanford Business magazine, Jerker Denrell, an associate professor of organizational behavior, said it seems obvious, to study the achievements of successful people in order to rationalize their effective performance. But with overwhelming studies looking at success, a major part of the cycle becomes unobserved, failure.

According to Denrell, when companies, like people, focus on their successes rather than take risks, they often find themselves at a disadvantage. Companies like Kodak and Xerox, who focused on their most successful brands and inevitably performed poorly overtime.

Denrell went on to say, if a risky idea is mediocre, then it will fail and may fail big, but those who take the risk and find themselves succeeding reap larger rewards.

In higher education, students are preparing to enter into a competitive and evolving workforce, trying to make their mark where they can. If they are going into this world resourceful and venturesome, they must do so without fear of failure.

In a simple sense, everything may not get done, which is not to say that you should not try. Failure and the acceptance of it is not the worst thing a student can experience. When students are afraid to fail they miss honest and open dialogues with their professors or peers, being accountable with themselves as well as becoming truly self aware.

So in the famous words of poet, Samuel Beckett, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Success is not won overnight and students should not just expect it.


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