Day 36: Meet Caleb Meakins, the expert in failure

We have all experienced it from time to time. That feeling in the pit of your stomach that spreads into your entire being making you numb. It can stop us from doing the things that we want to do, meeting the people who we want to meet and visiting the places that we want to see. What is it? It’s fear of failure which is also this week’s theme for 365 Days of Ted.  Tedx speaker Caleb Meakins is the self-titled ‘expert in failure’ and shares his stories  about how he created the 40 Days of Rejection to help overcome his own fear of failure and rejection.

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

When Caleb Meakins finished his degree he decided to start a business. His business idea had previously won him a Social Enterprise Award at his university and with his entrepreneurial spirit intact he decided to see the year out after graduating  to launch his business. His fellow students had different ideas. Some were going to travel.  Others were going down the graduate route. Caleb’s plan wasn’t a popular one.  It was  met with a barrage of pessimism as the statistics of business failures were lectured to him.  Now I am sure that Caleb’s fellow students were not trying to sabotage his plans by telling him he would likely fail. I mean, who doesn’t have that one well-meaning friend who always seems to pour cold water on our ideas.  Caleb’s fellow students were just afraid of failing – it was unthinkable to them. This led Caleb to ask himself the life changing question “What would I do if I couldn’t fail”

If you are like most people that question alone is like opening up a can of worms and can make you feel a bit dizzy and light headed.      All those forgotten, and not-so-forgotten dreams that you have neglected because  you were afraid of failing rise to the surface. It doesn’t have to be big dreams either. Perhaps it’s the little things that you were afraid to take up for fear of failing and making a fool of yourself. Maybe you always wanted to take a dance class but were afraid of what people would think or maybe you were afraid Marlon Wayans would be around with a camera nearby.  And that’s the key point this talk made me realise. We don’t fear failure for ourselves. Fearing failure is more about what the people around us might think. We are giving away our power and living under a rock to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how annoyed I was with Adidas for one of their tshirt slogans ‘Fear Failure.’  As Caleb says without failure there is no success and facing your fear helps you to develop courage. I guess there was not enough room on the tshirt for that!

Caleb’s 40 Days – The value of failure

Caleb decided to really face his fears of failure by launching a project called My 40 Days. During the project Caleb would take on challenges that people deemed impossible. The criteria for challenges was that it couldn’t be easy.  It had to be challenging. It needed to be entertaining and it needed to be legal. The challenges were documented on video and uploaded to Youtube. Some videos showed Caleb trying to make announcements on supermarket speakers, other challenges had him asking strangers for 100 pounds.    The videos are entertaining and you feel awkward for Caleb but with each video you can notice that he is handling rejection better.

Today’s action step

What Caleb’s talk  and his 40 Day challenge taught me was that we need to embrace the small uncomfortable moments in life and roll with them as this will make us more resilient to overcome and confront the bigger things that cause us to  fear rejection and failure.  This could mean having the courage to walk over to a group of strangers and introduce myself or reaching out to other bloggers I admire. These are small things, but the small things matter and are the building steps to conquering the bigger hurdles.  In his Tedx talk Caleb shared a quote  by Neale Donald Walsch that really just rings so true “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  So I ask you, are you reading this from your comfort zone right now?

life begins at the end of your comfort zone

It appears Caleb’s My 40 Days is still in progress and not running 40 consecutive days, but rather 40 days staggered over a year. To learn more about the project and check for updates head over to My 40 Days   Do you have any tips for crushing fear of rejection and failure. Please share them in the comments below.

Vanessa Rose