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How fear is paralyzing personal growth

Change is scary. I don’t think many would argue this. The very nature of transition evokes a lack of control, which, ironically, incites our personal desire to hold tighter to those things we know and resist the things we can’t predict. Why is this ironic? Let me explain.

For the first few years of our lives we are encouraged to explore and test boundaries. When something bends or breaks our expectation, we are given a better understanding of where our strengths and passions lay. We learn. We develop. And, for the majority of us, we recognize how to better ourselves in preparation for more growth. It’s how we “get back on that first bicycle,” so to speak.

So, why is this concept flipped on its head 30 years later? Why is it that we, both personally and professionally, become so afraid of failing that we begin to stagnate and ultimately embrace complacency? Well, the answer is really quite basic; we stop taking chances because we’ve created a persona so wrapped up in how others perceive us that any possibility to deviate from that perception literally paralyzes us. Said another way, we are comfortable with the exterior we’ve created and quiver at the thought that something may alter that. And, it’s that very fear that prevents us from breaking through the next barrier.

I have had some remarkable mentors over the course of my career. Invariably, one thing they’ve all tried hard to instill in me is this concept of embracing failure. They would point out example after example of the most successful people in modern history; how those individuals may have declared bankruptcy (sometimes multiple times) before making it big. Using these well-known figures as proxies, they would encourage me to take myself less seriously, and approach new things as if I were a child… open to the opportunity to succeed and/or fail. Incidentally, I’ve learned that the latter (failure) is ultimately just another term for delayed success.

Why am I taking your precious time to share all of this? Well, part of it is because I’m paying forward the gratitude I have for all of those mentors (and each of you know who you are) who never stopped reiterating this concept of embracing the pain of failure. But I’m also sharing because I continue time and time again to encounter friends and colleagues paralyzed by this fear of failure. (And, please let me be clear and state for the record that I have unequivocally been the worst offender of perpetuating this fear.) My word for you is this: stop.

Stop being scared of failing. The very, very worst that could happen is that you may lose one opportunity. I can assure you, however, that another is on the immediate horizon. Some failure is out of our control, and some within it. But without question exists a common thread – that each failure brings us closer to success. Success that shows us what we love and what we don’t. It also bears the fruit of allowing us to decide where we invest our time and the fruit that we will yield.

We fail to fail too often anymore. It’s time for us to remember that skinning our proverbial knees is what creates thicker and stronger skin. And, that armor can bring about successes we weren’t even aware we could achieve. So, fail… and enjoy it. There is no better teacher, nor is there a more gratifying feeling than overcoming a fear we thought would never leave us.

Brandon Rogers is in Finance and Procurement for A1 Energy, an Energy Consulting firm out of Manheim, PA. His past experiences include roles at Linkbank, Giant, Highmark, and JPMorgan.

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