Quick question: Are you like me? I mean, does the thought of failure make you want to run and hide in a corner with a blanket over your head? Oh, you’re not? Good for you, but if you’re like me, I’d recommend you read this to the end.

I hate failing―it makes me break into sweats and hyperventilate. It’s the equivalent of the clown in It, Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events, a pit of rattlesnakes, brain-eating amoeba… I’m sure you get it now. Long story short, I’d rather not do something than fail at it. Believe me when I say that life philosophy doesn’t make you open to a lot of opportunities.

The first time I ever recalled failing/hating failure was in Primary One at one of the games in my school’s Inter-House Sports competition. I came third in the Fill-In-The-Bottle race, and I still remember the sinking sensation I felt in my stomach. I never took part in sports again. (Although to be fair, I prefer the extreme sports of finishing hundreds of book pages in a sitting. Quite exhilarating, I tell you!)

But why am I saying all these? First, a quick story. Some days ago, my brother was trying to get me to sign up online for freelance work that could help me hone my skills. Predictably, I was reluctant and at some point, I plainly refused. He didn’t get why I didn’t want to sign up because it’s supposed to be what I enjoy doing.

I later had to admit that I was hesitating because I was afraid I would fall short of the strict guidelines. Then he said something that prompted what I’m about to share with you, which I’ll also never forget, he told me “At least, fail first.”

His statement reminded me of the story of a Twitter user who shared how she had failed an exam several times. At the time she was sharing her story, she had recently failed again. But the difference was that with each failure, her marks increased and there was a significant improvement. I’m sure that with a few more tries, she’ll ace the exam―if she hasn’t already.

Why you should not fear failure

I could put into perspective my brother’s statement with that story. Yes, failing is a horrible thing as it reminds us of our mortality and the limits of our capabilities. For people who with little effort excel at things, the shock and dissonance that they feel when they fail might make them wish to never experience it again. This either makes them over-achievers or under-achievers.

Not experiencing failure is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. That is not a riveting life to live. Failure is a risk, and being risk-averse will keep you away from growth-inducing opportunities. Share on X

And by consequence, you can discover none of your latent talents. So understand that you can gain more from failure than even winning.

Alfred Lord Tennyson once said: ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ Although the English poet was referring to the delicate matters of the heart, it is nonetheless true of failing—it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

When you fail at something, at least you did it, and that makes you better off than those who didn’t try at all. Not fearing failure will give you useful experience. The very occasion of failure is an experience itself. Remember, failure is not the opposite of success; it is a part of success.

How to learn from failure

Having established that failure is not necessarily the bane of our existence, one must learn how to deal with failure or it would eventually be the bane of one’s life. Failure teaches valuable lessons―assuming you are studious enough.

Failing is an evaluation of your strengths, a criticism of your skills, and an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. This means you must learn how to accept constructive criticism, no matter how they are presented. Criticism, which can be in the form of failure, does not define who you are as a person. Because you failed today does not mean you’re a failure or a worthless individual.

Furthermore, learn to bounce back from failure. Don’t let it break your stride. The only way to prevent failure from getting the best of you is picking up yourself, dusting off, and jumping right back into the fray. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but what excellent advice isn’t?

The point is: never allow yourself to wallow in failure even though it’s easier to bemoan your misfortune. Failure is a tough mistress―an exasperating diva even―and it won’t teach you anything if you throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty.

Now, I don’t have to list prominent people who became successful after experiencing countless failures. A quick Google search will give you that. But the common factor is that they never gave up, which brings us to perseverance and patience. These twin virtues are what champions are made of―forget Milo adverts.

When I read about these prominent people, I sometimes wonder how their lives would have turned out if they gave up because they hadn’t gotten the big break they were working towards. Patience is defined as the capacity to tolerate delay. And what delay is greater than failure?

I once read somewhere that success requires both patience and urgency―being urgent about making effort and patient about seeing the results. Need I say more? Share on X

I wrote about this because it is as much for me as it is for you, the reader, and not because I am the epitome of courage. But, I’m trying my best to be courageous with life, to put myself out there more although I will sometimes fall on my face. I’m never going to let the fear of failure consign me to a corner. I will be afraid, but I will do it, anyway. What about you?

“There is no courage without fear.” ― Zhou, Mulan: The Movie