“. . . take courage and do it.” – Ezra 10:4
Most of the regrets I have in my life have not been the result of mistakes or failures from something I attempted, but from failing to attempt something for fear of failure. Likewise, most of the things I have done that turned out to be most rewarding – whether successes or failures – were the things where I gathered enough courage to attempt despite the possibility, even the likelihood, of failure.
One such incident occurred exactly fifty years ago this month. A mutual friend had set Tee and I up on a blind date, about which we were both dubious because our previous experiences with blind dates had been failures. Except, this one was not. But it still took me two weeks to garner the courage to ask her out again because my skeptical mind kept asking, why would such a cute girl want to go out again with the likes of me? Could it have been my fear of failure from rejection? Yet here we are fifty years later making plans for our fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration later in the year.
Fear of failure seems to be a common malady in our society, some of which is simply human nature I suppose. We do live in a culture, however, that demands from us a successful image, otherwise we are deemed losers, leaving little tolerance for failed attempts. Nevertheless, most successes, as we must surely know, are preceded by multiple failed attempts. As the great German physicist Max Planck once observed upon receiving the Nobel Prize for his discovery of quantum theory, “Looking back over the long and labyrinthine path which finally led to the discovery, I am vividly reminded of Goethe’s saying that men will always be making mistakes as long as they are striving after something.” In our own day as we applaud the development of vaccines against the deadly Covid-19 virus, how many failures must have occurred in the research labs before discovering the successful vaccines that will save us from this dreaded disease?
To fail while attempting to succeed is not failure at all, it is learning. To refuse to even attempt something for of fear of failure, that is real failure, which is to the detriment of personal growth as well as human progress, and often counted among our life’s regrets. As someone once said, in order to succeed we must fail forward. So, whatever it is you dream of pursuing, “take courage and do it.”