This I Believe

Timothy - Baltimore, Maryland
Entered on December 10, 2006

Failure is not an option?

Americans are very focused on being successful. I would bet many of them, even though they have a steady job and a nice home, are unhappy and unsatisfied with who and what they have become. The fear of failure is one of the factors that we use to motivate ourselves to do well. All of us do this consciously or unconsciously. We are willing to work ourselves to death in order to avoid this fear.

Fear is a basic tenant of human nature, which is why it is used so easily to control ourselves. In my life, I have found that I use fear to motivate myself. It has seeped into my career as a student at UMBC. I use the fear of failure to force myself to do well in school; I use it to make myself better. I remember a paper I had last year where I spent two consecutive five hour nights in the library trying to finish it because I was afraid of getting a bad grade on the paper and a “B” in the class. Sitting over my notes writing feverishly and trying to not let panic get the better of me is not a way to live my whole life. People who live like this are neither healthy nor happy.

An even more extreme example of this fear of failure lies within the now bankrupt Enron Corporation. The executives there worked so hard to make Enron and themselves successful that breaking the law and violating the trust of their employees and shareholders was not an issue. They were so caught up in achieving success that failing was not an option. Eventually though, their fear of failure was realized; their company foundered, the scandal broke, and they were prosecuted.

This says a lot about our society. The struggle to be successful at the expense of our well being is not right. In my book, a person can achieve all they want; if they are miserable, and spend their lives struggling to get happiness only through success, then their life probably was not worth living. This makes our society very flawed because we are focusing on the wrong things in life.

I believe that we should give up our fear of failure and live happier less productive lives. Counter intuitive? Yes. A good idea? Absolutely.