Fear of failure

So I’ve been spending a lot of time recently helping various people with their career decisions, in fact with their decision making process in general. It’s hard to be critical without thinking about ones own way of doing things and I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at the things that have gone well and of course… the not so good outcomes.

Happy to make it to Holy Communion age

One of the very first life limiting decisions I made was at the age of 5. I was a huge gymnastics fan, I loved to watch how these girls would fly through the air and land with little effort and yet so much strength. I was living in Dublin with my parents and sister on an estate where you played football on the road using jumpers for goals (until a car came along and the “pitch” was hastily dissembled) and the summer spawned flocks of kids everywhere. The day of my “almost death”, I was with a friend who was also an aspiring gymnast… tho less daring. We had been watching the Olympics and now we were sitting on the wall outside my house and were hatching a plan to jump off said wall and do a summersault. Now the only outcome that I expected was a perfect landing…what actually happened was a beautiful start to the tumble… then… well the ground came up to soon and my forehead smashed into the (thankfully) grass. Much tears and pain followed but all I could think about was what had gone wrong and how soon I could try again. I don’t know how, but from that day onwards, my mother, who must have guessed this was my plan, forbade any and all climbing on the wall and I was sent to gymnastics classes.

So pretty early on I kinda knew that I had a fairly tenuous relationship with failure of both the physical and personal natures. I never really worried too much about it and if there was something that I could try out, well I was the person in the group to take the first step. Not always the best idea and as a result I’ve managed to get pretty banged up from misadventures along the way… still no major regrets.

Then there was the decision to move from Dublin when I started to feel hemmed in all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Dublin, but well, it can feel very much like a mad village. I’d always wanted to move to London but was in a relationship at the time that suggested a more practical move would be to Glasgow. Now, no offence to anyone from Glasgow, but I knew well before I moved that this was not the move for me. But I thought what the hell… Now in hindsight, this was a pretty flippant reaction to what should have been seen as a huge life move and of course it was the wrong thing, but… it did set me on a path that had I not travelled I’d never have got to where I am… So when I think on it… I don’t really regret it… I should have moved on my own and not continue the stupid relationship I was in at the time, but that is a whole blog post of it’s own… possibly a mini series 🙂

Stepping out of my comfort zone… what can go wrong…

My biggest professional gamble came at a time when I was helping someone train to be a psychometric assessor… I was in the room to provide cover as he was conducting the assessment. We were talking to someone who wasn’t keen to be part of the process. He was doing the assessment for his company and not by choice and there was a chance that he could lose a promotion. So he wasn’t the most helpful candidate. My colleague was doing a great job with the assessment. He was trying everything but was not getting anywhere, it was not for trying, it was just a difficult candidate. We had a signal set up ahead of the meeting so that he could essentially “tap out” if he felt that he had lost the assessment… after almost an hour of circular questioning I was tapped on the foot and with this one gesture I was thrust into the assessment. Great, the truth be told I had my own opinion of this guy, he was arrogant-no question, he was working for a company in a sales role where… how can I put this… he wasn’t the most rounded individual. In fact, he’d referred to our office manager as “daarling” and “hun” in that London accent that just drips condescension. Ahead of the assessment, he’d walked around the office on his phone, oblivious to all else in the office and basically telling everyone how big his balls were. He actually used the words as he bragged about a sale he had closed.

So now it was my turn to run this assessment. I had two choices, try and barter my way to the result or go for broke and call him out. So of course I went for it. It was such a huge gamble and he was either going to hit me, shout his head off around the office or… and I was pretty aware that this might be the most probable outcome… laugh at me.

Turns out the most risky approach in this instance…worked, in fact… after giving pretty harsh feedback in a very direct Irish way… I had a sobbing Sales Director admitting his lack of emotional intelligence amongst other things.

So… all in all, I know that I’ve made terrible decisions in the past, no one needs to know about the vast majority of those… and of course I’ve got loads of regrets… I’ve lost friends because of my decisions and my decision to lose friends when my stupid loyalty drivers kick in. But all in all, my lack of a fear of failure has stood me well…I think. Who knows what will happen in the future tho…

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