Is this ‘Fear Failure’ ADIDAS tshirt sending out the wrong message?

Have you ever seen a slogan on a tshirt that has made you do a double take? This post discusses one such shirt from ADIDAS and why it made me do a double take for all the wrong reasons.

dont fear failure

Earlier this week I saw a young dad wearing a t-shirt with a slogan that has really stuck with me and not in a good way. This dad of a couple of young kids was wearing an ADIDAS tshirt with the words ‘Fear Failure’  I have seen this shirt before, but I have never really took a moment to really digest what message this shirt was sending out.

Let’s think about this for a second. What is fear? Fear is panic. Fear is terror. Fear is anxiety. Fear is avoidance. Sure it would be great if we could avoid failure and succeed every time (actually that could be a bit boring) but we will never truly know for sure  if we are going to succeed at something unless we try and if we fear failing so intensely we might actually avoid trying all together.

Fear of failure is actually a medical condition called Atychiphobia where the person affected by this condition considers the fear of failure so intense that they would rather not try at all and subconsciously sabotages their efforts for progress.

Failure is a part of life

Failure is a part of life.  It is the backbone of innovation and success. It is what you do with failure that makes all the difference. If you get stuck in that failure and fail to move forward from it and keep looking back, then yes I would fear failure too and I would probably stop trying. However if you take that failure and really use it as a motivator and as a lesson then you have nothing to fear. Can you imaging if there were no failures in this world? If people feared failure so much that they stopped trying?   Innovation is not possible without failure as is evident by Thomas Edison, the master of failure.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” – Thomas  Edison

Think about BETA and minimum viable products. These are  products and services which are released before they are considered 100% complete as a way to test out what works and what doesn’t work and what can be improved. An expectation of a certain level of failure is expected with these products. The key take-away however is that these so-called failures are  seen as  lessons that these developers and entrepreneurs can  learn about and adjust and improve their products and services accordingly. If they feared failing they may never start and innovation would be scarce.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that ADIDAS was malicious in their t-shirt slogan, perhaps fearing failure is effective to some people,  but I do believe that this slogan has the potential to cause harm, especially as it is associated with a big name brand. Remember the father of the young kids spotted wearing this shirt in the beginning of this post? If his kids take the slogan to heart it could set them up for a very limiting mindset for life.  I should point out that these shirts also came in kids sizes which is more troublesome.

Don’t fear failure, in fact dont even use the word failure in your vocabulary, it’s an outdated concept.   If you must fear anything, fear not trying, fear not having a go, but whatever you do,  don’t fear failure. Embrace it.

What do you think? Am I being over critical of this this t-shirt’s slogan? Let me know in the comments below.