Fear of Failure Has Kept Me From Achieving My Dream. Here’s What I’m Doing to Change

I've thought about the risks of pursuing my dreams so much, and for so long, that I'm an expert in stagnation. Since kids learn by example, I'm changing my approach.

by Zachery Román
Originally Published: 
A man sitting at a table with a laptop and writing notes in his notebook

Have you ever wanted to accomplish a goal or dream so bad you think about it obsessively for days, months, or even years, but unfortunately never do anything about it? If you’re like me, the answer is a resounding yes. But today is the day I stop procrastinating and set off on that path to the unknown and try to achieve what appears to unattainable. I’m done with always thinking about accomplishing my dreams but never achieving them. Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry, though: I’ve thought everything out. In fact, I’ve thought so much about achieving my dreams that I am an expert at telling you all the possible pitfalls of even trying to achieve my dreams.

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Pitfall No. 1: I’m just your average Joe, who has no connections and lacks the social savvy to connect with the great, powerful people in the world who can help me achieve my loftiest ambitions.

Pitfall No. 2: I’m a nobody, especially compared with people like Brad Pitt, Warren Buffett, Barack Obama, or any of the other successful actors, writers, politicians, and business tycoons of the world. Who would want to hear what I have to say?

Pitfall No. 3: You might think the first two pitfalls are bad, but this is the biggest pitfall of all: What if I fail? I hate to fail. In fact, I hate to fail so much that I’d rather not try just in case I fail. Hence, I’ll never fail at anything, because I won’t try anything.

So, this is obviously frustrating. How am I supposed to accomplish my dreams and goals if I’m too worried about all the possible pitfalls and failures?

When I was a child, a relative asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said that I wanted to be a professional baseball player. “You’re too short to play professional baseball,” was the response I got. Ouch. I thought that the people close to you were supposed to encourage and help you aspire to your dreams, however impossible they might seem.

Just think of how many successful people who were told that they would never achieve their dreams by well-meaning loved ones, friends, or teachers — not because they believed that the person wasn’t good enough, but just because it seemed too big of a dream. And what happens when people try to do big things? They fail.

Think of the Who’s Who list of failures. Oprah Winfrey dreamed about becoming a successful journalist only to be fired as a local news reporter because she was “unfit for TV.” Steven Spielberg wanted to make movies so badly that he applied to the USC School of Theater, Film and Television, only to be rejected — twice. Albert Einstein was told by educators that he was so mentally deficient he wouldn’t amount to anything in life and had to be homeschooled by his mother. The list of failed successes goes on and on. I want to be on that list, too.

I’m glad that some people are brave enough to ignore others’ opinions and do what’s in their heart. They make it seem possible for someone like me to achieve my dreams. Now, I’m no Oprah, Spielberg, or Einstein, but don’t I have the right to dream big dreams and accomplish them just the same? Or do I have to be some special, talented brainiac from the moment of conception in order to accomplish something big?

The truth is, I want to fail. Let me rephrase that. I want to succeed at failing. I want to fail at doing something to achieve my dream, because by failing at attempting to live out my dream, it means at least I’m doing something to accomplish my dream. I want to learn what it means to fail, so that when I succeed, I will appreciate my success that much more.

Perhaps, if I can be the type of person who boldly steps out in faith, works hard, and risks stupendous failure, then, one day, if the opportunity presents itself, I will get a break and achieve my long-awaited dream. And if that ever happens, I’ll be comforted knowing that all those nights I stared at my bedroom ceiling, imagining my achievement, weren’t a complete waste. But if I don’t get a break, there is a consolation prize: I’ll never have to imagine what might have been if only I had been brave enough to face my fears.

You know who else needs to learn about failure? Your child. Quite frankly, your child needs to know what failure looks like, and who better to learn that from than you? Failure is part of life. The sooner your child learns how to fail, the sooner he/she will learn the lessons associated with failing, and that’s a good thing. Failure is the building block to success. If you can learn that and teach it to your child, there’s no limit to what you both can achieve.

As for me and my journey, when success as a writer finally does come (how’s that for positive thinking?), I hope to look back at these humble beginnings and think to myself, “What a marvelous failure I’ve become.”

Zachery Román is an L.A.-based father of two daughters. He’s facing his fears and trying to encourage his children and others to do the same so that they can fail upwards to their dreams.

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