I remember a time riding a transport aircraft into a remote base near the Iraqi border. Our Intel people had told us all sorts of stories about it being surrounded by hills and being in a very indefensible spot. There was a noticeable sense of fear on that aircraft. Even Green Berets get scared. The fear of being put in a bad position is understandable. I will tell you though, most Green Berets (like everyone else) suffer from another sort of fear at one time or another.
What holds people back
Anyone can point to people who seemed to have all the talent, resources, and determination in the world, but for some reason, they were never able to reach their goals. They talked the talk, and walked the walk – for a while. But suddenly, they disappear into the sunset, becoming just a distant memory.
In my experience, it’s fear of failure that keeps these people stuck where they are, despite their resources and skill. They somehow figure that they’d rather be where they are, safe and sound, then venture out into the unknown and possibly not succeed that which they’ve set out to accomplish. They come up with every excuse in the book as to why they can’t do such-and-such:
-It’s too cold.
-It’s too hot.
-Everyone knows you don’t start (fill in the blank) in the summer (or winter, or fall, or spring).
-They need to take another class.
-They need to get their office ready.
-They need to wait for their youngest to start kindergarten, their oldest to start college, their husband to die, their wife to get well.
There is never the “perfect” time
There’s always a reason why now is not the right time – but the real reason is that they’re simply afraid of not being able to make the grade. And then who knows what would happen if they (gasp!) failed?
Ironically, it’s the fear of failure actually causes them to fail! And they’re still alive, stuck in their little shell. So I guess failure wasn’t so bad after all, was it?
The Greatest Failure is the Failure to Try
In the Special Forces, we would meet regular troops who had all sorts of excuses about why they had never tried out to be a Green Beret. In reality most of the time it was the fear of failure that kept them away. One special operation motto is “The Greatest Failure is the Failure to Try.”
We would even see this inside of our units. Guys would not try out for the super secret units because they might not make it and have to come back and face failure. On the other hand, I saw several men try and fail several times and eventually make the cut. There was no shame for them. They knew what they wanted, kept their eyes on the ball and kept swinging until they hit it out of the park.
When working with people who have a fear of failure, sometimes direct questioning is the best method to get them to recognize their obstacle:
If not now, when?
If not you, who?
If you have this goal on your heart, then it’s there for a reason. You may be the only person who can bring that particular goal to reality in the exact way you dream of.
If you don’t do it, no one will!
The truth is, there is never going to be a perfect time to start. And the truth is, you’ll likely have some stumbling blocks along the way. Everyone does. But you have to reach a point where staying where you are and never unwrapping your dream is more painful than any risk of misstep or failure. Then, and only then, will you be prepared to move forward. And I bet you’ll find it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as you thought it would be.
P.S. Please leave me a comment below and let me know what you learned. I read them all…
Photo – Flickr:Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha