Atychiphobia is the ‘fear of failure.’ I read a piece in Advertising Age this morning that caught my attention because it dealt with our collective fear of failure. In my professional capacity I deal with sales people all the time, and one of the key factors everyone is dealing with today is the current state of the economy. Many are really ‘spooked’ – their fear of failure is palpable. We live in an age that worships celebrity and success in all areas – sports, politics, celebrity and business. Yesterday, half of the teams in the NFL lost. Tomorrow, only one winner will come out of each political campaign with a smile on their fact.
The Ad Age article is entitled “Not Only Is Failure an Option, It’s a Requirement.” Derek Walker hits a key point, one I was first introduced to when I was recruited to Harte-Hanks in 1979. All new management hires went through a psychologist who interviewed for suitability to an aggressive management environment. My psychologist marveled at my track record to that point, but had one key issue – my lack of failure to that point. He gave me some advice in my new career – don’t be afraid of failure, embrace it, learn from it, and move on. I thought he was crazy, but I smiled. A few years later in the midst of another round of expansion and incredible change I found solice and inspiration in his advice, and I did embrace it. It allowed my to go on the management tightrope and try things I would not have done, and in the recession of 1982, I needed it.
Derek Walker in his article focuses on the advertising field, and the need to try new things and push the envelope as keys ways to do the best work for clients. He is right, but you have to bring the customer allow for the ride, willingly. The mistake is to get too far out ahead of them. I’ve made that mistake and paid the price, but I also learned from it and that has helped to propel me forward.
Success is great, it brings us financial rewards. Failure can be more rewarding for the enlightenment it brings. In the end, you can take both to the bank with you. You can feast on success today, but failure will feed you in the future. The psychologist was right!