Courage To Fail, Confidence You Won’t 

Innovation always starts with a great idea, but I often wonder how many great ideas never get a chance because the mind that created them wasn’t one that is happy to step out of its comfort zone and try something new.  There are different forms of courage such as holding strong in dangerous situations, managing adversity and facing our fears. But innovation requires a special form: the courage to fail.

That’s the nature of new ideas.  Generally speaking if they were obvious, simple or without risk they likely would have been brought to life already.  It takes the entrepreneurial spirit to step into the unknown and take the risk. Thomas Edison had an interesting way of framing this:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

stepping offManaging change in our life is the same.  When we make a change in the way we live, work, play, love or anything else, we take a risk that the change might not work out, and that our overall satisfaction or well-being might be negatively impacted.  I’m sure we all know someone who doesn’t embrace change.  Some are just happy with the status quo, others decide that the risk associated with the change outweighs the desire within them to try it. They fear that they will fail at the change. There isn’t anything wrong with this – it is merely a choice.  But new experiences come when we choose to create change in our life, and I value that richness.

However, it seems to me that this may be only half of the equation.  Once we have decided we have the courage to embrace change and move forward we now must face the second challenge.  We must have the confidence that we will succeed.  I think this might be a tougher challenge than courage, as we usually have to face a number of obstacles in order to make our change successful.  In order to do so, there two key approaches that come to mind.

Face towards success, not away from failure.

While these might seem like the same thing at first glance there is a big difference between them. When we look away from failure there are a myriad of paths that we may follow, but without an appropriate compass we don’t know which of these paths will actually yield the best outcome.

If we start by looking towards success it becomes that compass.  We evaluate all of the potential paths that come forward, weighing pluses and minuses and adding our gut instincts, and we find ourselves focused on an action plan that feels positive and pulls us forward. The weighing of pluses and minuses is just the right amount of restraint as step into our planned success.

An analogy from golf comes to mind.  We decide that we are going to take a risk and go for the green.  We have passed the first test of having the courage to go for it.  The next step is now crucial … do we look down the fairway to see what hazards we have to deal with and swing to avoid them? Or do we think about what shot is required for us to end up on the green? In the first instance we are planning to stay out of the hazard, which has little to do with getting on the green.  In the second we are considering what it takes to be successful.

We create our own reality by what we hold in mind.

There is a widely held theory in psychology that our subconscious mind does not understand the concept of negatives.  If this is true, then our internal thoughts and messaging can in fact alter the outcomes we experience merely by the way we form them.

Using a golf analogy again,  if we’re going for the green and we see a pond on the right and the green on the left, we are much more likely to succeed with the thought of “hit it to the left side of the green” than a thought such as “don’t hit this right”.  What our subconscious hears in the first case is “hit it to the left side of the green”. What it hears in the second case is “hit this right”, making us much more likely to fail.

Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures' THE WALK.
Philippe Petite (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures’ THE WALK.

So as we contemplate success, we will tend to get what we manifest in our mind.  Imagining positive outcomes and what we will do to make them a reality will lead to greater success more often than when we spend our time with thoughts of what happens if we in fact do fail.  In short, confidence to succeed is paramount.

Where are you strong? Courage? Confidence? Both? What might you put forward for yourself as a challenge to live into?

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

7 thoughts on “Courage To Fail, Confidence You Won’t 

      1. I recall a story about someone with Alzheimer’s as well … saying the positive (what you want to have happen) vs. the negative (what you don’t want to have happen) works there as well as there is a tendency to fixate/go for whatever is said.

  1. nothing wrong with trying and failing. I used to have a fear of failing and looking like a fool. Once I tried stand up comedy on for size i realized you would be more of a fool if you didn’t try it and miss an opportunity. same with writing

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