Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and you’re struggling to breathe—you are experiencing fear. We have all been there. It’s ok, even healthy, to be afraid sometimes. The important thing is to not let it get in the way of your job.
One of the most common fears is failure. I’ve felt it myself, sometimes to the point of letting it impact my performance. But let me give an example involving one of my employees.
The problem started when this person was late to work one day because of car trouble. No worries. They sent me a text, letting me know they’d be late and why. I was just glad they were ok, that they hadn’t been in a wreck, or anything like that. Stuff happens.
But when the employee came to work, their day did not improve. We had recently changed one of our systems, and while the transition went smoothly for most people, this employee struggled. Frustration grew. So did tentativeness. It got to the point that this person was afraid to try anything with the new system, thinking that if they hit the wrong button, the system would crash, or that we would go out of business, or something else totally catastrophic and dire. By the end of the day, they were stuck in a very bad headspace, thinking “I am letting everyone down, I don’t belong here, I am a big disappointment.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, the new system was an issue, and yes, this person often struggled with tech, but we didn’t hire them for their tech skills. Actually, pretty much everyone loved this employee. Ask around, and you’d hear words like team player, easy to work with, loyal, great for the culture. But they had gotten so inside their own head that self-doubt was taking over. The fear of failure was winning. They were so afraid to make a mistake that efficiency took a hit.
Look at this same issue from the perspective of a wide receiver. You are on the field to do one thing—catch passes. Now, you’re not going to catch every pass. You will have some drops. But what would happen if you refused to take the field because you were too afraid of dropping the ball? That doesn’t happen because everyone knows wide receivers fail sometimes. Everybody knows it and accepts it, and the players themselves know it. Success doesn’t have to mean never making a mistake.
If you study, train, and keep a positive attitude, fear won’t stop you. You didn’t make the catch—so what? The important thing is that you gave it your all. You dove to try to make the catch, instead of watching it sail past you. Now you have to believe that next time you will catch it. You can’t let that one “drop” get into your head.
Who knows? Maybe one day you will step onto the field and make a catch you never thought was even possible.
Image of Wide Receiver was taken by Al Case under the Creative Commons 2.0 License.