(Brought to you by our friends at Art Business Advice)
Why are we afraid of failing? Of all the fears we’ve discussed in this series, this one is fairly universal. Everyone fears failure. What people do with that fear is very different. Some people use that fear to spur themselves on toward greater effort and loftier achievements. Others feel this fear and never try. They take the safe road; the easy route.
But who says we have to be afraid of failing? And if we are afraid, how can we use that fear as motivation rather than intimidation?
Why artists shouldn’t be afraid to fail?
We shouldn’t be afraid to fail because, in all reality, failing isn’t all that bad. If you fail, there’s usually a clear cut reason why you failed…and once you know WHY you failed, it’s much easier to do better the next time. Many things in life require failing first, then doing better the next time. Riding a bike, for example, or shooting a free throw in basketball. For kids, life is pretty much one failure after another…but only at first. Then they learn how to do whatever it is they’re interested in and it becomes fun!
If we’re so afraid of failing that you don’t even try to achieve your dreams, then you have forgotten something very integral to the basic human condition—that failure brings growth! Many times, we MUST fail in order to learn and grow. Failure is not the end. It’s life’s way of educating us.
How To Overcome the Fear of Failure
1) Start by taking small risks
Start risking something today. Risk anything. It doesn’t matter what—the point is to get used to that fear. What you risk may have nothing to do with your art. You might try a new food, a new sport, a new group of friends. Get used to the fear and get used to the failure. Then—and only then—proceed to Step 2.
2) Write down your successes
Depending on how innately talented you are, you might find yourself more successful than you thought you would be. Write those successes down and keep that list somewhere you can refer to when you start to feel the fear of failure creeping back in. Reminding yourself of past successes is a very real way to bolster your courage.
3) If you fail, write down WHY you failed
We fail for a reason, remember? So when you fail (and you will) start a new list that focuses on WHY you failed. The point of this list is to help you succeed in the future—to show you what you should NOT do the next time. Sometimes failure has very little to do with our own abilities and skills and everything to do with timing, location, and the whims or abilities of others. We can still learn from those failures, of course...we just learn something different.
4) Diversify your risk
Like stocks in the stock market, we should be risking our artistic talent in as many different venues as we can. You never know where you’ll find customers for your work—or the type of work that will find customers. Focusing on one niche target market is the best way to create a solid “brand” and increase your return customers, but there are always ways to diversify within your niche.
5) Lock yourself into attempting your goals
No matter how hard you work at overcoming your fear, it can still sneak up on you when you least expect it. I’ve found that the best way to overcome this is to commit to a course of action so that your only way out is to succeed. This is the “fear as a motivator” approach, and I absolutely love it. I like diving into something and feeling that fear, knowing that I’m committed—sometimes financially, sometimes just by a promise that I’ve made to someone else.
Once you’re truly committed, you will find new energy to research, experiment, and flex your creative muscles far more than if you had just kept sitting on the fence. Take a look at yourself. Are you holding back from a fear of failure? If so, don’t wait any longer: Start risking, Start committing and Start making your goals a reality.