Have you ever lost an opportunity or even a job because you were too afraid to fail? I nearly lost my college education because of it.
I was an acting major at SUNY Fredonia. In addition to the traditional academic acceptance, we also had to audition to be accepted into the program. At the end of every semester, we had “Juries”, where we had to perform a monologue for the faculty and they would decide if we had improved enough to stay in the program. A little back-story on me, I entered into college as a traditionally “good student”. I graduated third in my class and was always on the high honor roll. In my mind, if I studied hard enough and could get the answers “right”, I would get a good grade. The same was not true when it came to these acting Juries.
In acting, there are no right or wrong answers, it's all subjective. Think of how two actors can portray the same character in completely different and fascinating ways. Your performance either speaks to the audience, or it doesn’t. At the end of my freshman year, I was put on probation because of my performance. I had been so stuck on doing it “right”, that my performance was too safe. It was not compelling, it was boring. One faculty member put it this way; I was “acting in a bubble”.
Coming back my second year, I was in a situation where, if I did not improve, I would be kicked out of the acting program. Talk about needing to perform under pressure.
My turning point came during a voice and movement class. I was still stuck in my safety bubble, even physically. My teacher helped me to realize how terrified of failing I was, and how it was getting in the way of my passion and creativity, the reasons I was accepted in the first place. He asked me a simple question, “Are you willing to fall on your face in order to improve?” I had no other choice, the answer was an obvious, “Yes.” From there the floodgates opened. I took risks, I made choices, I fell on my face several times and at the end of the semester I got the following feedback after my jury performance, “I don’t recognize you. You are a completely different actor.” and “Um, keep...doing what you’re doing.”
Now, I understand that in an organization or in your life, the stakes may be higher than being kicked out of an acting program. Risking failure is never an easy option, but ask yourself what will happen if you don’t do anything? Sometimes if we really look at it, doing nothing is even more risky.
You were chosen because of your talents and skills. What are you keeping from your organization, family or more importantly, the world, if you allow a crippling fear of failure to hold you back from at least trying?
More recently, I designed and facilitated my first group-coaching program, “Leap - Make your next step a bold step.” Of course there was fear in putting myself out there in that capacity. What if no one signs up? I’m not ready, I need to know more about this! What if no one finds value in it?
In the face of these thoughts that clearly came from my ego, which tries so hard to keep me in that same safety bubble, I went for it and oh, how glad I am that I did! Not only was it a stretch for me professionally, it was some of the most rewarding work that I’ve done yet. I was able to provide a space for women to think, to define who it is that they want to be and how they want to move forward in their lives and most importantly, have a community of women to walk with. I’m so glad that I did not let the ever-present threat of failure get in the way.
How will you face your fear and bestow your gifts and talents to the world?