Monday, February 22, 2010

On Fear of Failure and Bode Miller

I spent a minute or two (or six hundred and forty seven) this past bit watching the Olympics.

A thought about Bode Miller's fantastic comeback to win Bronze, Silver and Gold medals....

Last Olympics, Bode entered as a favorite to win. He had all the numbers, all the skill, all the potential when he came to Torino.

But he made some bad choices (in my personal and never-to-be-humble opinion).

He was dq'd, spoke about skiing drunk, and seemed to have a disregard for the commitment required of these athletes.

I think he was afraid.

, afraid of failure.

By staying out late, raising one too many glasses, acting as if it didn't matter --

then who cared if he lost?

he certainly didn't (or maybe he just wanted to appear that way...where are our psych majors out there???)

How much more painful it would be to put your dream on the line
and fail.

What does this have to do with us, writing, life??

I'll tell you. Everything.

Sometimes our greatest fear is stepping up to our dreams and falling short.

So, we act as if we really don't care.

We avoid even the potential of failing.
Lucky for Bode, he got smart.

Lucky for him, there was another Olympics 4 years later and he got a was given a second chance at his dreams.

I imagine each of us as if we are training for our own personal Olympics, whatever that may be.

Will we spend the night in the pub avoiding that pressing and consuming fear of failure?

Or will we rise to the occasion, put in the hours and face the challenge head on?

Personally, I can't wait to throw roses at your feet when you step onto that medal podium
Questions: Have you ever felt this way? How do you overcome that fear? Are you loving the Olympics?


Anonymous said...

I am loving watching the Olympics!
Overcoming fear? Interesting question. I just keep working, knowing that all that I have control over is the effort and time that I put into my writing. And I know there are no guarantees regarding publication, and I feel self-doubt daily, and on my good days I let that feeling pass thru me. The writing life is not an easy life but it is a beautiful and engaging one. Thanks for a thought provoking question, Tess!

storyqueen said...

This is pretty much dead on. Sometimes it's hard to give your all, because if you fail, what will you have left? If you hold something back, then you can know you didn't give your all, and that's probably why you failed...but at least you have a reason, you know.

It's hard to find out that if you give all of yourself, it just might not be enough.

Very important post.


Terresa said...

Ahh, spectacular post, spot on. There is a parallel between Olympian athletes and writers and for that matter, anyone with a life long goal and dream.

I live with more of the passion of writing than the fear. I have trouble grocery shopping and cooking at times, because I want to write the day away.
The all-consuming passion to write/create scares me more than failure.

PS: We are loving the Olympics, just not how short the days & nights are and that we have to constantly catch up with what we've missed via TiVo.

Scott said...

Hey now, don't knock the drinking thing, it provided inspiration for me! Ha!

Arrogance comes before the fall! If we don't fear failure, we're being a bit arrogant, and it's a long, long way to fall. I think we need to embrace our fear, acknowledge it, and then gently push it aside as we continue with our dream.

Writing is the easy part of our dream. Querying, finding an agent, an editor, a publisher . . . and an audience is the hard part. We have so many opportunities to fail.

But . . . as long as we keep writing, word after word, then we are pushing our fear aside and acknowledging our dream. Woo-hoo!

I've watched bits of the Olympics, but not much. Yeah, I know, I'm probably the only person in the world who hasn't watched much of the Olympics. There is only so much time in the day, and the words have been flowing, and they trump the Olympics any day!


Amy Saia said...

I'm loving the Olympics, baby. The ice dancing was so much fun to watch last night, and now the girls are set to start tonight? I think it's tonight.

And I totally agree with you about fear. Admittedly my own worst enemy, I strive to push past that fear and work hard with only one goal in mind: success. There's enough of it out there and I plan on having some.

superpaige said...

I have stayed up late to watch a lot of skating. Fun, fun, fun. I am afraid of failure. So much so, that sometimes I don't even try. Or if I do try something, I don't want to tell anyone about it, because I don't want them asking, and then I have to tell them it didn't happen, I wasn't good enough.

But in life, there aren't enough podiums. So many of us are rising to the challenge, winning the gold in personal moments each day, but there's no one there to throw roses.

I think we should throw more roses.

Tess said...

Paul - I love your comment about it being beautiful and engaging. yes, yes.

Storyqueen: true, if we hold back then we have a built in excuse. but who defines failure or even success for that matter? why do we put those limitations on ourselves (and by we I totally mean me!)?

Terresa: you are truly blessed and I hope to be in that spot more often than not.

Scott: step by step line upon line and a decision each day to choose to take a risk.

Amy: Yes! there IS enough to share, isn't there? love that.

superpaige: you say it beautifully. we DO need to throw more roses and celebrate the every day successes in our lives. even if it is just not yelling at the kids or getting the laundry finally done. Success doesn't have to be huge and only we can define it. Stretch towards your dreams, my friend. They are right there waiting :D (though, I know you do!)

Karen said...

I've been watching the Olympics this year (okay, maybe just a little obsessively) with fresh eyes as a writer. I've never noticed all the analogies there are between sports and the writing world.

Great post!

Crystal Cook said...

Great post! I feel like this ALL THE TIME. Just found your blog by the way:) I read somewhere that one way to overcome the fear of failure is to try to fail as much as possible which I took to mean try to succeed as much as possible knowing failure is sure to come, but that success will ultimately prevail. Hmmm, so I try (key word try) to think of that everytime I put myself out there. I imagine myself saying "Oh yeah, don't you tell me I can't do this, I'll show you! I'll fail again and again and again until I triumph!" And then the roses one day will fall at my feet when I'm on that medal stand :)

Carolyn V. said...

Excellent insight (and question). I think we just have to go out and risk failure for success. You can't have one without the other and sometimes we face failures more than successes, but we just have to keep on trying. =) Thanks Tess.

MG Higgins said...

Great insight, Tess. I really like the Bode Mille theme of second chances. If we fail once, or twice (or more), that doesn't mean opportunity is lost forever.

Elana Johnson said...

Oh my heck! I just told Suzy this at lunch yesterday! That I was afraid to have a published book, because if I failed, if it sucked, if it just flopped out there, it would be so public!

So yes. I am afraid of failure. You can't disappear quietly when you fail publicly. :)

Tess said...

Karen: I had never noticed it either, but there are parallels.

Crystal Cook: welcome! thanks for coming by and for your comment. I agree -- we should absolutely expect some level of failure (whatever that really means, anyway) in our journey. I love your attitude - the story you shared cracked me up!

MG: nothing is lost forever, right?

Elana: me too! maybe that is why this idea came to me so clearly whilst my butt was firmly affixed to my couch.

Shelli said...

Great post! In fact, I think I must tweet it. You captured exactly how I feel as a writer. I love writing, but somehow I convince myself that I really suck at writing, and why the heck do I bother when I'm this bad? It is definitely a fear of failure that holds me back. So, I guess the only remedy is to forge ahead.

lotusgirl said...

I have totally felt this way. That's part of why it has taken me this long to start into the career I always wanted. I kept telling myself that it was better to not try than to put my heart and soul into it and fail. In the end I still couldn't stay away. I'm now throwing all caution to the wind. *crosses my fingers that it will work out*

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Missed you while you were gone! Welcome back.

This totally made me tear up. I think it was the line about throwing roses at my feet. Thanks!

Susan R. Mills said...

When I first started telling people I wrote a book, I always followed the admission with something like, "I'm not expecting publication. I just wrote it for fun." Ha! What a lie that was. I wanted that first book to be published so badly I could taste it. Now, I admit that I'm working hard toward publication. I no my earlier denial was all about the fear of falling short, not only of my own expectations, but also those of others.

Kelly H-Y said...

Fabulous post! (I so love the Olympics ... I just soak them all in for the two weeks they're on!!!).

Solvang Sherrie said...

What a great post!

I think we're all afraid to crash and burn, especially if it's going to be a public humiliation, regardless of the size of our public. I hope we all get the chance to redeem ourselves like Bode.

Tamika: said...

Excellent post! Fear keeps me more than I care to admit- that and laziness. I'm working everyday to push myself past my own limitations.

L.T. Elliot said...

I never thought that success could be scary but BOY IS IT! I had a slice of it once and I'm sorry to say that I pulled a Bode of old. I was so terrified that I just pretended that it didn't matter and stepped back. I wish I hadn't. I'm trying to be like the Bode of today and step back up and chase the dream.

Davin Malasarn said...

Tess, sorry if this is a bit off topic, but do you think some people are afraid of success? Honestly, this never occurred to me for a long time until someone mentioned it as a possibility. Sadly, it rings true for me just a bit, and it's something I don't understand at all.

Tess said...

Shelli: tweet-on! and, you are spot on when you say the only remedy is to forge ahead.

lotusgirl: it will,my friend! I have no doubt that it is just a matter of time.

Tina: awww, thanks pal.

Susan: I still do that -- downplay my expectations 'just in case'. why? why? why? at the very least we can say 'I'll give it my all and see where the chips land'.

Kelly: me too!

SolvangSherrie: there's always another opportunity if we search for it

Tamika: it's difficult to push those limitations but it is really the only key to our eventual happiness and success (however we define that personally)

LT: me too! In fact, my very first thought when I got agented was 'crap, what if I bomb?' sad but oh so true. the point is that we push on and push through those feelings and come out stronger on the other side, right?

Davin: Not off topic at fact, that is spot on. Peek up at what I said to LT. What kind of psycho am I to have that be my very first thought at what should be a wonderful moment? Self doubt is a slithery thing and I don't know anyone who is immune. It's how much power we give those feelings that matters in the end.

Tess said...

Davin: and another thought ... what if we get what we want and it's not all we had hoped? what if it changes our lives too much, requires too much? yes - fear of success goes hand in hand with these thoughts. Isn't it so interesting? I'm not sure I entirely understand it either.

Susan Fields said...

Hi Tess - welcome back! I hope your vacation was wonderful. You make an excellent point. I think as writers, we totally put ourselves out there, and we have to give it our all or we'll never succeed, but that can be a very scary thing. But I think it would be far worse to come to the end of your life and know you never even tried to reach your dreams. So even though it's scary, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Tess--I'm glad to see you are back. Great post! As a writer, our public failure won't be as noticed (for most of us)as a contestant on American Idol. I can't imagine how brave you have to be to go on stage and on television with your success or failure for all to see. (Sorry, I haven't been watching the Olympics enough.)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I think there is both a fear of failure AND success. What if you make it, but don't know what to do once you're there?

Lisa and Laura said...

It is absolutely terrifying to think about potentially failing and having it be so public. We're working really hard to hopefully make sure this doesn't happen, but it's still the scariest thing we've ever done! Exhilarating and scary all at the same time.

PS: I laughed so hard at your truth today.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've heard of this before...fear not of failure but of success. Fear of having all your dreams come true. Fear of everyone realizing you aren't perfect. Of course, none of us are. I think when we're younger we tend to blow our chances more, too, because we think there's always tomorrow. The older you get, the shorter you realize life is.

Linda Kage said...

Oh, great, wonderful post. Thank you so much. It's better to try for greatness and fail, than never to try at all.