Fear of failure

Fear of failure is a natural emotion.

From The Great Eagle Of The Sky And Ten Turkeys Parable.

The Great Eagle of the Sky taught ten grounded wobbling turkeys to fly.  Five applied what they had learned and were transformed into flying “Winged Winners”. The other five  never applied what they had learned and remained” Wobbling Walkers”  grounded   turkeys. What made the critical difference that transformed five turkeys into Winged Winners and five turkeys remained grounded Wobbling Walkers?

The Wobbling Walkers feared what would happen if they were to apply what they had learned, to fly and to teach other turkeys to fly.

“Stop and think for a moment,” the Wobbling Leader declared. “What if we took off, flew for a short time, and then crashed. Just think of the humiliation. We’d never live it down for the rest of our lives.”

He continued, “We might take off from the training grounds here and get lost and be unable to navigate by air back home. What would happen then? Besides, how in the world could we live up to the expectations of the folks back home?”

The Winged Leader entered into the discussion. “You know something, you really don’t fear failure.” Then he paused. The assembly room became silent. The Winged Leader smiled in a rather knowing and somewhat pedantic manner.

“You don’t fear failure but what failure might do. It might be . . . embarrassing. It might make you look stupid and inept. It might even cause pain and disappointment to others and to yourself.

He continued “For all of us, there will never be a time when we know absolutely that we won’t fail, so does that mean we shouldn’t try anything that has the least bit of risk to it?

The Winged Leader looked at the five Wobbling Walkers. “It isn’t so much what we do in life that we regret; it’s what we didn’t do. Failing to fly back home and teach others to fly is exactly what you Wobbling Walkers will regret the rest of your lives. Do you want to suffer what might have been? If it doesn’t work out the first time, it won’t be the end of the world. Try again. Don’t allow fear to prevent you from doing what you could, should, and would do if you lived life to the fullest and fulfilled your commitment to the Great Eagle and Enterprise home.”

The Winged Leader concluded, quoting the Great Eagle in the Skies: “To try and fail is life, but to fail to try is to suffer the inestimable loss of what might have been.”

There was dead silence after Winged Winner’s stirring discourse. The Wobbling Walkers said nothing because they didn’t know what to say.

Sometime later, sadly, for fear of failure and all the imagined results from possible failure, the Wobbling Walkers chose to walk back home and never fly again.

The Winged Winners applied what they had learned-flew and taught others to fly.


In this parable we are dealing not with failure itself as much as the fear of failure, which usually is the handmaiden leading to failure.

Fear of failure is one of the most prevailing and damaging fears people have that robs them of their chances for success and happiness. Fear of failure is closely related to such fears as fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of being made to look like a fool, fear of criticism.

All of us have experienced the fear of failure (i.e., fear of losing a competition, fear of making a bad investment), as well as having actually failed (i.e., not making the football team, not getting the job we wanted). Some of us fear the failure to live up to others’ expectations, or to be all that we could be if we lived to our fullest.

It has been said that “failure sucks but instructs.” Sounds almost poetic, doesn’t it? All truly successful people know failure, yet they allow their failures to instruct them and help them lead better lives, with enhanced success and happiness.

What you can learn from this parable monograph.

  • Confront your fear of failure.
  • Consider what you have lost by not trying.
  • Understand both the risk of failure and the benefits of success.
  • Calculate a worst-case scenario. If you chase your dreams and fail, what is the worst that can happen to you?
  • Have a plan B—a contingency plan to reduce the fear of failure.
  • Remember that failing is part and parcel of innovation, like Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  • When you fail and fall, acknowledge its lessons, get up, and keep going.
  • Treat failure as an opportunity to learn to improve.
  • Don’t take failure personally. Everyone fails at one time or another. You can never be a failure: Failure is never a person, it’s an event.

Words of Wisdom

“I was never afraid of failure, for I would sooner fail than not be among the best.” —John Keats

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” —Sven Goran Eriksson

“He who never makes mistakes, never makes anything.” —English proverb

“I failed my way to success.” —Thomas Edison

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” —William Shakespeare

“Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success.” —Napoleon Hill

“Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence only of trial and error experience. Humans have learned only through mistakes.” —Buckminster Fuller

“If you hit every time, the target is too near or too big.” —Tom Hirshfield