Thursday, September 5, 2013

#008 Fear of Failure

"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." Michael Jordan (via Billy Clark)
I have spoken to a couple basketball players (a high school senior and a recent college grad) in the past few days about tough decisions that were in front of them.  After listening to their issues and concerns, it quickly became obvious to me that both were dealing with the same phobia that I see and read about quite often:  a fear of failure.
The high school player had just signed a letter of intent to play NCAA Division I basketball on full scholarship next year.  She was overjoyed with the prospects of this opportunity, but she kept coming back to her worry about "messing up" and "getting in trouble."  She's a great kid, so partying and drinking were not the type of trouble she was referring to.  She just didn't want to make mistakes on the floor and have coaches yell at her and be disappointed with her.
The recent college grad, on the other hand, was dealing with life-altering decisions.  She was contemplating a career path that would force her to make a long-term commitment to something she wasn't completely sure she wanted or could complete.  Even though she consciously pursued this opportunity in the first place, she was now doubting if she had the resolve to follow through.
In both cases, each of their concerns and fears were logical.  Both had faced obstacles in the past that made them question if they wanted to face more daunting obstacles in their respective futures.  I know as a youngster and even as an adult, I entertain similar personal doubts (or demons if you may).  I have learned that I simply cannot be afraid of things I cannot control.  If we are always expecting the worst, we tend to spend our energies preparing only for the worst
Why is it so hard for us to simply expect that when we work hard and do things the right way that good things will come of them?  I really think that TV and movies and the internet have created a paradox in today's society.  These new medias show us all that is happening all over the world at any second.  When someone does something remarkable a mile away or 10,000 miles away, we learn of it in seconds and often see video of it almost as it is happening.  The problem is that these things rarely come with any context.  We rarely get the back story on the person who saves the baby from a burning house.  We simply know in that moment of that person's life, he or she found the courage to do something courageous.  We don't know if they were the biggest coward in the world up to that point or had always demonstrated this type of conviction and action.  Heck, we don't even know if they were the person who set the fire in the first place.  We only know that they did something remarkable.
So, when we see these things, we cannot help but ask ourselves: "Would I have done that?" "Could I have done that?" "Do I want to do something like that?"  In the end, we never really know that answer until that moment presents itself.  What we can do is start preparing to be the hero every day.  That doesn't mean everyone should get a police scanner and start listening for dangerous opportunities in which to intervene.  It does mean we can start becoming better people through our actions.
I could write an entire blog (if not a complete sociological case study) on what I see at Target each day.  You know what I am talking about.  I casually watch people choose to leave their shopping carts stuck up on a curb instead of walking it 20 feet to the space designed for cart returns.  I'll see people throw their empty Starbucks cup on the ground by the car after they just walked 10 feet passed a garbage can.  And, my all-time favorite is the well-groomed, athletic, and beautiful person who jumps out of their Cadillac Escalade and casually walks into the store after parking in a handicap or new mothers only parking space as if those signs don't apply to them.
To start learning to be more confident, we have to learn to have a reason to be more confident.  Opening a door for an elderly person or a mother or father carrying a small child may not seen heroic or courageous, but I guarantee you that the person receiving your generosity deems you to be quite unique and exceptional, and they don't even know your name.  As you are walking to Target and you see that empty cup on the ground, do you pick it up and walk it the 10 feet someone else should have?  What's keeping you from being the better person?
Learning to be a physical and commanding basketball player or choosing to make a life-altering decision doesn't happen overnight or in an instance.  It builds up over time by repetition of our actions and character.  I fear dribbling a basketball with a defender in my face today because I don't dribble the basketball 2 hours a day any more like I used to.  If I wasn't always trying to pick up trash as I walked by it on the street, I may worry other people would see me as a snob when I do something that they just casually chose not to do.  Instead, I do it often enough to feel confident that my daughter sees her father (and his actions) as a role model for how to take better care of our community and environment.
Whatever you choose to do today or tomorrow, just remember that you are choosing to prepare or not prepare for the best...the best of you.  When we all make the choice to be the best of ourselves, we take one baby step towards our potential.  Fear of failure is just another way of saying "I fear how good I can be."  Does that seem logical at all?
Have a great day!