Day 41: The 1 key takeaway from Jonathan Fields Tedx talk that has changed my approach to failure forever

Failure, is an inevitable part of life. It’s part and parcel of being human. Sure, it doesn’t always feel good, actually it can feel plain lousy, but we have a choice about how we choose to handle failure. Tedx speaker Jonathan Field has a message to share in his talk “Turning fear into fail.” He wants us to know that we need to disempower failure and shake away the hold that it has on us and he has some tangible techniques to get us there.

The only thing certain in life is uncertainty

in 2001 New Yorker Jonathan Fields wanted to quit the corporate world and open up a yoga studio. He leased a studio for his new venture, signing the contract for a 6 year lease on September 10. The next morning he woke up to find out that his city was on fire. Retelling the story, it’s clear that September 11 is still as vivid to Jonathan as it was all those years ago.

During the hours that followed two questions came to mind, did Jonathan and his wife know anyone working at the Twin Towers. Sadly they did. A friend of Jonathan’s was working in the tower that day on the 184 floor.

The second question was, how could Jonathan really launch a new business in a city enveloped with such heavy grief and sadness. The answer came to him in the least expected moment as he was reading a bedtime story to his late friend’s two year old son. In that moment, Jonathan realised that life is fleeting . His friend did not expect to not come home from work that moment. Nothing is certain. Everything is uncertain.

Jonathan shares a Steve Jobs quote that really puts it all into perspective.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to loose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Repetition breeds belief

We get so caught up in our anxieties over failing that we develop this kind of negative mantra looping around in our heads over and over again. We know that’s it unhealthy to keep thinking about all the failures that we *may* face but we cannot seem to break the cycle of anticipating failure. In our heads we ramp it up ten-fold until it peaks into a doomsday scenario

The problem is as Jonathan says “repetition breeds belief” If we are stuck in this unhealthy mindset for long enough we will start believing it to be the truth. Jonathan suggest another, less damaging, way of facing the fear of failure.

Imagine failing

Jonathan says that rather than be caught up in this loop going round and round being anxious about failing, we should just actually imagine failure. What would it be like? What would happen? How would we feel?

I know that this sounds absurd. Who wants to imagine failing? The trick is you can’t stop there and just picture the failing, you need to take it one step further and ask yourself, how will I recover? I love it! If we know that we have recovery plan for an possible failures then we can lessen our grip on the surrounding anxiety. Failure would be a worse case scenario, but if we have to face it, that’s okay we already have a recovery plan we can launch into action.


How I will apply this to my own life

Just like everyone else I have moments of being afraid to fail. I have learnt this past week to treat failures and near-wins as a gift, but I especially like the idea of going that one step further and just taking the bite out of failure by having a recovery plan.  The next time I become so overwhelmed by fear of failure I plan to a)write down how I might fail and b) break the pattern by writing down a recovery plan.

Vanessa Rose