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We are a non-profit state federation. Our membership includes women and men of every age, race, religion, political party and socio-economic background. We are a leading advocate on work-life balance and workplace equity issues.

In this section, you will read recent news releases and advocacy concerns as well as view our opinion editorials and letters to the editor. Members of the press who are writing about issues of concern to working women are encouraged to contact our Communications Committee at [email protected].

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Are You Walking the Edge? Afraid of Failing?

Author: Claire Knowles/Tuesday, November 11, 2014/Categories: General

“Come to the edge," he said. They said, "We are afraid." Come to the edge," he said. They came. He pushed them...and they flew.” ~ Guillaume Apollinaire. 

Recently I viewed a Makers’ website slideshow* and I found it to be impressive. Seven female entrepreneurs lifted up the big mistakes/failures that actually moved them forward to success. The slide-show title was termed Fail Fast meaning, admit mistakes quickly—no languishing; instead, move on and be proud that you tried and gave it your best.  But (and this is a big but), don’t let failure immobilize you or prevent you from moving forward, risking again, and walking the edge again. It is important to understand the learning power of failure.  

Have you ever been so terrified of failing that you decided not to even try?  Or have you subconsciously sabotaged your career because you are afraid of failing?   Many times we resist moving forward…procrastination is a first clue…we’re just not quite ready; we stall. But when we allow fear to stop our forward progress in life, we're likely to miss some great opportunities along the way.

All of us (at one time or another) have probably been afraid of failing.  The fear of failure (atychiphobia) is real when we allow that fear to prevent us from doing the things that can ultimately help us to achieve our goals.  Why do we fear failure?  We think that failing can be equated to “not being good enough”…we could be criticized, called out, humiliated, rejected, etc.  Perhaps there is something in one’s childhood where we learned it was better to not take risks---then we wouldn’t fail—and our security would be more firm.  The lessons of course, are that life, our chosen careers, and our day-to-day goals are part of a continuum…sometimes we take two steps forward and one step backward…and that is okay.  It is okay to fail…provided we learn something from it.

As New York State Women Inc. members, we are moving and shaking…moving forward.  So of course, the symptoms of the fear of failure may seem foreign to us; but then again, we learn most from knowing the edges we are walking (risk) and meeting our potential failures head-on:

  • Are any of you perfectionists—willing  to try only those things that you know you’ll complete in over-the-top, and I’ll do it my way… ways?
  • Are any of you procrastinators, having excessive anxiety or real difficulty  to follow through/execute on targets and goals? 
  • Are there any self-saboteurs among us---ensuring that edge-walking is not allowed in your vocabulary? How about self-confidence?  Have you been telling yourself, “I can’t do what is necessary.”  Or “I’ll not get that promotion because…..”  Or,  “There’s no use even trying.” 
  • How about being stuck in your rightness?  (Your way or the highway)… when failure is not an option, because you can’t admit making mistakes?  Thus, learning is hugely hampered. 
The Power of Failure can transform into the Power of Success if we are open to that.  While it is almost impossible to go through life unscathed by failure, those that do are likely living a very sheltered, over-cautious, life. (No risk, no gain!)  Yet the tremendous news about the fear of failure is that it is entirely up to you and me how we will perceive it.   We choose how we will see it. Each of us chooses how confidently we walk that edge.  

We can see it in the pessimistic view… that failure can be so terrible, like the end of the world and proof in the pudding that we’re inadequate, incapable, and thus, diminished.   Or we can look at failure, as the women in the Makers’ Fail Fast messaging do—optimistically—as an incredible learning experience. Failures stop us only if we let them.

The successful women featured in the Makers’ slideshow are of course, calling you, like the poet above (Apollinaire)….Come to the edge…Take the risk…We need more successful women in business leadership…more successful women entrepreneurs and more successful women professionals…Come to the edge  where overcoming the fear of failure is essential and on-purpose; and yes…you will, of course, fly! 

*(See link: http://www.makers.com/blog/fail-fast-7-female-entrepreneurs-mistakes-moved-them-forward

Claire Knowles, a BNC/NYSWomenInc member, is a 2-time Amazon best-selling author, in-demand Speaker and Business Leadership Consultant, helping Leaders (especially women leaders) and their Teams become the most effective they can be at accomplishing their goals (together). www.ClaireEKnowles.com

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