5 Reasons You Should Risk Failure on Your Road to Being Extraordinary

As I was getting ready for bed last night I said to my husband: “I wish I was less me-like.”

He looked at me with a subtle roll of the eyes (thinking to himself, “We're in for one of those kinds of conversations are we?”).

“What do you mean?” He said.

“Well, I just wish I was happy to sit back and let life drift by. I'd be so much happier and more content.”

“But, you wouldn't be happy if you did that.” (He knows me very well).

“Yes, but if I wasn't like me, I would.”

“But you are you. I love striving Lucy.”

That was a lovely way to end the conversation, (thank you, my dear!). He'd successfully brought this rather self-indulgent and existential conversation to an end and could get on with reading his book.

You see, I've always been ambitious. I've always wanted to push myself to achieve and do new things and be the best I can be. That's what makes me who I am. But, I'm also scared of failure, as I know you probably are.

Last week, I wrote about the Fear of Failure (I kind of feel like that phrase should be capitalised, don't you?). What I wrote resonated with many of my readers so I wanted to develop that theme today and give you 5 reasons you should risk failure on your road to being extraordinary.

risk failure

5 Reasons You Should Risk Failure on Your Road to Being Extraordinary

1. Risking failure elevates you

After reading last week's post one of my readers, Linda, who works at one of the UK's top public schools and co-ordinates their outreach programme with local state schools emailed this to me:
“We had straight A students who wouldn’t apply for Oxbridge this year because of the fear of failure. I think one of their problems is that they have never failed at anything so far and won’t take the risk because they are not sure what they will do if they don’t get in. I posed the same question to the Oxbridge Coordinator here… who couldn’t understand this concept at all. The students here are brought up with a level of confidence in their ability that helps to allay that fear and also a level of robustness that if they don’t get in they will take their skills elsewhere.”
It makes me so incredibly sad to think there are talented young people out there who aren't striving to be the very best they can be because they fear failure. Instead, they're playing it safe, not making the most of their natural talents and potential.
I'd be the first to admit that Oxbridge isn't the place for everybody, not even all straight A students. Other people have different goals, aptitudes and ambtions. But if you want something you should never say to yourself ‘I'm not going to try in case I fail.' As Steve Watts (Homerton College Admissions Tutor at the University of Cambridge) said:
“Those getting a place after the whole assessment [Cambridge application process] represent 1 in 4 (to 1 in 5) of the field. This isn’t a bad chance, and we can pretty much claim that those who don’t get in will find a place at another top university. The only way to guarantee not getting a place is not to apply.”
As Steve is effectively saying, the only way to guarantee failure is not to apply and, actually, it doesn't matter if you don't get in.
By putting yourself forward to the best universities, go on the best courses, or work for the best companies you're elevating yourself. So, even if you don't get to go to or work for the very best, you'll still get into a place that is very close to being the best (and you'll have improved your chances of getting in there by aiming high in the first place).

2. Hearing the word ‘no' makes you more robust

As Linda said in her email, the students at top public schools are robust enough to think ‘Well, if they don't want me, someone else will.'

J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before someone said they would publish the first Harry Potter book. Just imagine how her life would have been different, and the enjoyment that would have been withheld from millions worldwide if she'd been too scared of failure to write off to the first publisher, let alone the eleventh or twelfth! Steven King was reputedly rejected 30 times before he signed his first publishing deal. You can read about other best-selling authors who were repeatedly rejected here.

These people were robust enough to think ‘I believe in myself and my work. If those people don't want me, I'll find someone who will'. That's the attitude you've got to take.

I've long had this attitude about job interviews. I very much see them as a two-way process. I'm interviewing them as much as they're interviewing me. If they don't like me or I don't like them and I'm rejected (or I reject them after meeting them) it's a good thing. If we don't click or I'm not right for the job then it would have been bad for everyone if I'd been offered it and accepted it. The right job will come along sometime.

If you're one of the lucky ones heading off for Oxbridge interviews this week you should remember this – if you're rejected, it's not a failure. Oxbridge just isn't quite the right thing for you and there are plenty more opportunities for you to shine. Take your talents elsewhere and carry on regardless.

If you're 'rejected' that opportunity wasn't the right fit for you. Take your talents elsewhere! Click To Tweet

3. “Clarity comes from engagement, not thought”

One of my online business mentors, Marie Forleo said this:

“Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”

What she means is that you don't get clear on what your goals, talents or skills are by just sitting there and thinking. You've got to get out there and engage with the world.

If you think you want to be a doctor, get some work experience in a relevant field. You'll soon find out if you enjoy caring for ill and vulnerable people and if you can hack the pace of a career in medicine. You're not going to find this out once and for all by watching Holby City on catch-up on your phone.

If you think you want to be a journalist, again, get out there and get some experience.

I've discovered more about myself by getting out there and doing things than I have in any other way. I shared one of my failures last week which taught me very clear lessons about needing my closest family and friends around me if I'm going to thrive. I learned far more about getting a class of 30 rowdy teenagers to behave themselves and get on with learning by being in the classroom and teaching than reading books about classroom management.

If you persuade yourself that you're not going to try something in case you fail, you'll never know whether it's the thing you're meant to do or not. By doing you get closer to your true purpose in life and don't leave any ‘might have beens' unexplored.

4. Nothing ventured, nothing gained

This is an old saying. It's survived because it's true.

If you don't try, if you don't put yourself out there and risk failure you will gain nothing. Your life will be full of potential but empty of achievement.

The morning that the idea for my book (The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take) came to me I had two choices:

  1. Talking myself out of it by saying: no-one will every buy it, I don't know how to digitally self-publish and I don't know a thing about graphic design or finding a designer.
  2. Have a go. Figure it out as I go along. It's too important to keep to myself.

I chose the second option and now many of my blog readers have benefited from my fail-safe method for getting top grades in their exams.

Now, I'd love many more people to buy, own and read copies of my book. I hear so many young people confused about how to revise, how to manage their time and how to stay motivated. I know they would benefit from the wisdom and experience I share in my book.

Even if I would have liked even more people to buy, this venture has definitely been a success. I've shared my knowlege with people who needed it. I've learned about digital self-publishing. I've learned about marketing. And, I've written a book! I just need to build on what I've already learned and achieved to get better at spreading the word about how it helps students to get A-mazing grades so more people can benefit!

5. You want to be extraordinary

When I was a teenager I used to read the glossy Sunday newspaper supplements. Sitting in my pyjamas at the breakfast table I'd read interviews with actors who'd just made films, writers who'd just published books and chefs who'd opened Michelin starred restaurants.

Once I'd read the articles I'd spend hours daydreaming about what I'd say when I was interviewed for the glossy magazine supplements. At that time in my life I genuinely believed that one day I would be and that people across the country would be reading my words of wisdom over their Sunday breakfasts.

Basically, I wanted to be extraordinary. I wanted to stand out from the crowd and be noticed. I wasn't satisfied to sit back and live an ordinary life.

I haven't (yet) been interviewed for a Sunday supplement. But, I'm working on it, slowly and surely every day. All my work is about sharing my talents with the world so you and others can benefit and I'm ambitious to make my talents shine bigger and brighter.

What's my big goal in all this? The clue's in the web address of my blog: Life More Extraordinary. I want to set you on the road to living an extraordinary life. I want to inspire you, motivate you and show you how to live the life of your dreams. I don't want you to sit back and be satisfied with being ordinary. I want you to make the most of the potential I know you have and be extraordinary.

I want you to make the most of the potential I know you have and be extraordinary. Click To Tweet

Hiding your talents because of a fear of failure is a sure path to limiting your potential and being ordinary. It's failing yourself and the rest of the world.

It's hard. You have to be brave to put yourself out there and risk failure. I struggle with it daily. But, I know that we can strive to be extraordinary together.

What next?

Are you struggling to overcome your fears and risk failure? Has this blog post helped you to face those fears?

Leave a comment below telling me which of the five points inspired you the most to risk failure and pursue your dreams.

Next week's post will be ‘If I knew I would not fail…”. I'll be sharing the things I would do if I was convinced I wouldn't fail. Have a think about your answer to that question in advance…

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