How to overcome the fear of failure
To put things in perspective, I created a resume of my failures. It feels depressing at first sight, but reminds me that there is a difference in failing at a task and being a failure as a person. It shows me that every time I wanted to succeed, I invited more failure in my life.
- Failed for 5 years in medical entrance exams. That is around 35 exams in total [Related answer here]
- Finished 3-year undergraduate program in 4 years. Dropped one year
- Couldn't get scholarship in NIFT, tried hard
- Applied to 4 US Universities for MS, didn't get acceptance from the one I most wanted- Northwestern University
- Was almost fired from 2 out of the 5 jobs I've held so far
- Worked for free for 3 startups
- Got rejected by Google once
- Had 3 career breaks, each spanning a year [Related answer here]
- Reached out to innumerable people on Linkedin to find a job in each of these years. Faced rejection 99.9% of the times- went through a very psychologically draining process [Related answer here]
- Realized too late that I'm in a job I don't like - in my late 20s [Related answer here]
- Broke my back to get a job in MNC post MS - gave more than 60 interviews (including initial discussions with recruiters)
- In one of my earlier jobs, my supervisor once said, "If I had interviewed you, I wouldn't have hired you"
- Had slipped discs in lumbar and cervical region while running, at an age of 27
- Had another in lumbar at 32
- Can't run anymore
- Gained 12 kgs postpartum [Related answer here]
- Had serious face pigmentation after applying an expired face pack at age of 32. It horribly blighted my face for more than a year
- Trying to write a book since last 2 years, couldn't find time to be persistent
- Sometimes fail in Quora/blog writing commitments that I've set up for myself
- Had zero confidence a decade back. Was shy to approach people. Was afraid of talking to authority. Career-wise wasn't doing good [Related answer here]
- Suffered from stage fear my whole life. Never performed in front of an audience, not even participated in a fancy dress competition
- Never got a single award/certificate in any competition I participated - writing, drawing
- Tried learning Telugu (stayed in Hyderabad over 7 years), never managed to go far from okati-padi
I've failed a lot. But I also wanted to try things, and trying things comes with risk- one may succeed or one may fail. You sit for an entrance exam- you may pass it or you may fail. You apply to a foreign university- you may get accepted or you may get rejected. You give an interview- you may clear it or you may not.
But you won't sit for entrance exams, and don't stand a chance to pass, until you try. You won't apply to that foreign university, and don't have a chance to get accepted, until you try. You won't give that interview, and don't have a chance to clear it, until you try.
And that trying brings with it an equal chance of failing.
I welcome failure as a way of life.
To put things in perspective, here's my resume of success.
- Got 4th rank in UPTU MBA entrance exams. Was admitted to prestigious HBTI Kanpur. Left after getting a seat, lost non-refundable deposit
- Cleared NIFT entrance. Got campus placed with first in-hand salary of Rs. 30,000 per month, which was a big deal a decade back
- Got acceptance from 3 US universities, which includes names like Syracuse University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Got a 3.9/4 GPA in UIUC
- Got fellowship after first semester, which is hard to come by in a MS program. Did a fully funded Masters with a monthly stipend of $1250
- Couldn't make it to Northwestern but did a research assistantship under celebrated Dr. Neal Roese from Kellogg business school, Northwestern. The professor is famous for his work in Psychology
- In retrospect, failing in medical entrance exams was a blessing. I thoroughly enjoy what I do now and the lifestyle that comes with it
- After deciding to change my career field in my late 20s, got my first job in Microsoft
- This job paid me beyond my wildest dreams
- Since then, I have worked with Google, Flipkart
- I get calls from top companies now, instead of me reaching out. Got my Senior Researcher role at Flipkart so [Related answer here]
- I keep myself fit by working out daily. I've worked out each single day since last 3 years [Related answer here]
- Lost 14 kgs after gaining 12 kgs postpartum [Related answer here]
- Have broken my book into multiple parts and have written 14 chapters so far, which feels like a great start [Related answer here]
- I try to stick to writing one answer each week, and more often than not, succeed
- I've a ton of confidence now. Can call it my lame superpower. I network like a pro. I have no fear of authority- I see higher-ranking officials as normal people like me, going through the challenges of day-to-day life. I feel passionate about my work and feel good about it.
- Stage fear is a thing of the past. I frequently make presentations, speak in public, and in general, am not afraid to be called on stage anytime. I recently gave a talk to a group of 50+ enthusiastic audience. [Related answer here]
- I still don't get awards/certificates, but I don't want them anymore. My perspective about them has changed. A sheet of paper or a glass trophy is the most worthless thing that can be given to recognize someone's efforts/achievements. They are the most useless things lying around. I'd return them back with a note ‘Thanks for recognizing my efforts. I'd have liked if I got something useful or monetary, which would remind me of my efforts everytime I used it. But alas! This trophy offers no functional value and hence I'm returning it," if I ever got one.
I've failed a lot. At a lot of things.
But I haven't failed as a person.