You have nothing to fear but fear itself
Kishore Biyani Darr ke aagey jeet hai. Conquer fear and you can conquer anything. I learnt this fairly early while growing up in a joint family along with 13 siblings and cousins.
Every evening, we would gather around our grandmother to hear her stories. One of her favourite stories revolved around five pilgrims who were on a journey to the holy places in the Himalayas. On a bitterly cold night, they arrived at a dharamshala. It had only one room and the gatekeeper warned them against staying there as legend had it that it was inhabited by a big snake. He told them no one had ventured inside for years. On hearing this, the pilgrims decided to play safe and spend the night in the open.
After a few shivering hours, one of them overcame his fear and decided to check the room. On entering, he didn’t find a snake. Instead, a rope lay on the floor. In the dark it resembled a snake. But the other pilgrims didn’t believe the account and decided to sleep outside. The brave one slept soundly; for his fellow travellers it was a long night.
As my grandmother would explain, failure exists only in one’s imagination. We fear failure, because we fear criticism, ridicule or rejection. But the truth is that anyone who has been successful has failed at some stage of their life. From failure comes knowledge of what works and what doesn’t; from failure comes knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses and it’s from failure that one begins a more determined attempt to achieve success. As one grows up therecomes the realization that there is no standard measure of failure or success. It is a relative term. What one person perceives as extraordinary success may be an ordinary accomplishment for another. What may seem a failure today often turns out to be insignificant in the long run.
Thankfully, I grew up in an environment where there were no high expectations I would excel academically. I never came first in any school exam. I hardly attended classes at college. That may not be the best thing to do but in retrospect I believe that there are many lessons to learn outside the classroom. Learning about how to build relationships and business partnerships; about human behavior and social dynamics is just as important as classroom lessons to succeed in any field.
It is a fact that in our society we ridicule failure. Rather than encourage people to take the road less travelled, we discourage them. There is encouragement to conform to a set pattern rather than stand out in a crowd. This is why failing an exam or a new venture is feared.
I don’t think setbacks, disappointments, rejections and unsuccessful attempts can be called failures. They are steps to success. How one deals with a setback determines the success of the next step. A sudden setback can be seen as a brick wall. It can also be seen as a stepping stone. It’s the way one perceives it that determines whether an unsuccessful attempt turns into a failure. Absolute failure is about not trying to do new things; it’s about lack of conviction; it’s about giving up.