“Kept in a small bowl, they will remain small. With more space, the fish can double, triple or quadruple its size”.
Edward Bloom – The Big Fish
Whenever anyone talks to me about fear of failure I always remember one of my favorite movies called “The Big Fish”, directed by Tim Burton. One of the sub- themes of the movie is that the young character named Edward Bloom gets to look into an old witches magic glass eye when he’s a young boy, because by doing so he’ll be able to see how he dies. Quite a daunting prospect isn’t it.
Imagine for a second that someone offered you that opportunity would you take it? The point being made or the big “penny-drop” was that the character went on to a life full, full of adventure and love and amazing experience. He became a person that people looked up to and a person that people relied on. In the end he became a hero. Why? Because he knew how he would die
With this knowledge his perspective of life changed. When he was faced with a challenge for himself, or his community, or his friends or family had too much fear to fight…. fight a giant or to tame a lion or parachute into enemy territory during the war, he enjoyed the adventure…. All because he knew how he was going to die and none of these situations were it.
This knowledge freed him of fear because he knew he wouldn’t die by putting his head in the jaws of a lion when he worked at a circus or when he faced the dark woods that from which no person had ever returned. The character has this beautiful Alabama accent when he smiles and says “Well I’ll go, I’m not scared because I know, that ain’t how I die…”
I’m taking more of an anecdotal tale perspective than a scientifically evidence-based approach in this blog, but I think it’s quite an elegant, rational and practical self- statement when the stress and anxiety and fear of failure begins to creep forward. You have the choice of feeling the fear rather than controlling it, or trying to control it by reminding yourself that “this ain’t how I die”. I have found myself pulling myself out of fear by remembering those words and saying them out loud to myself with my own best Alabama lilt and smile.
The fact is that there are no witches with magic glass eyes or crystal balls that can tell us how it all turns out. We don’t know and that’s actually a big part of the adventure. We do know that the majority of people dream achieving goals such as of starting a business and never do; we know that other people will tell us scary things like the number of startups that fail in any given industry in any given year and the number is usually a big one. We are usually bombarded with enough information to make us fear failure. On the other side of the argument we know many successful small and gigantic business owners tend to tell the same story. The all failed at first. So everyone is telling us we’re going to fail… at first.
The only true failure is in giving up.
With that in mind failure- complete failure is, in fact, impossible unless you give up trying. If failure along the path is part of the process and you don’t give up trying you have your crystal ball reading right there. Next time you get the “heebeegeebees” about failure you could stand back, take a moment, think of your goal and try the “this ain’t how I die” approach.
“I was thinking about death and all. About seeing how you’re gonna die. I mean, on one hand, if dying was all you thought about, it could kind of screw you up. But it could kind of help you, couldn’t it? Because you’d know that everything else you can survive.”
Edward Bloom – at age 10.