When you were in school and the teacher asked the class a question, did you raise your hand when you didn’t know the answer?

Probably not.

Why? Because in school, we are taught that we are there…

  • to succeed.
  • to give correct answers.
  • to “prove ourselves.”
  • to show we’re learning by getting good grades.

This is not the fault of teachers, it’s been deeply ingrained in classrooms for decades. And, in society. And all over the world.

So, as a young child, you get the message: This is about you giving the right answer. Don’t fail. Avoid giving the wrong answer and embarrassing yourself in front of everyone.

Even though you were there to learn which requires making a lot of mistakes.

With that kind of programming early on, of course, failure is feared and hated.

But it’s different as an adult, right?

Certainly, as an adult, you are wise enough to know that failure equals learning. And we all know we don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone and “look smart” or have all the answers.

But instead, what do adults do?

They often behave in the same ways they were programmed.

Risk answering a question you aren’t sure is correct?

Probably not. (Keep your mouth shut!)

Raise your hand or interrupt a meeting when you don’t understand something and need clarification?

Doubt it. (Maybe later, after the meeting, in an email.)

Happily fail publically at a task to figure it out, get better, and learn?

No way. (Rather do that in secret, no one should see this)

It’s the rare person who embraces the “fail your way to success” mindset not because they don’t believe in it, but because the program is so ingrained.

What’s the answer?

You reprogram yourself by…

  • Giving yourself permission to fail.
  • Rewarding your attempts.
  • Focusing on learning not “proving yourself.”

Much of this philosophy (having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset) is brilliantly discussed in the book, “MINDSET” by Carol Dweck.

Highly recommend it. And if you have kids, even more so.

It’s why we included so much about failure in our book, Go for No! for people who must face rejection.

The stigma of failing to get a yes and fear of no holds more people back from achieving their goals than anything else. No one is going to do it for you. You must reprogram yourself.