Failure is an Option

I just spent a couple of days with Seth Godin, the author of Tribes and Purple Cow.    While there are several thoughts and illustrations from our time together captured in my notes, there is one idea that I have circled with the message, “Write blog.”  This is my attempt to convey what I was pondering when I drafted my message.

Give yourself permission to fail.  I don’t mean permission to fail at small things like picking up the kids late from school or forgetting to pack toothpaste for your road trip (I do these things regularly).  I mean the kind of big failures that cause your friends and family to whisper, “What was he/she thinking?”

Each year, I meet dozens of talented and educated people in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking for the role they should play in society.  Having been raised in a culture where failure is considered a character flaw, they have been trained to be average thinkers and thus average dreamers.  Unable to consider a learning process that includes doing, failing, learning, and trying again; they have accepted that their role is to do simple tasks where correct answers are easily obtained.  Google and social media determine the rest.

I also have the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks a year with “older” individuals who once allowed their biggest dreams to waste away while they settled for more “realistic” ideas.  People, who at age 50 or 60 decided they are no longer going to be bound by the fear of failure and instead have accepted the fact that they may fail.  Something in them snapped.  For some, it is the realization that their days are numbered. For others, they have finally grown tired of bearing the load of logical but nevertheless made-up reasons for never trying.  Regardless of their reason for stepping up to the starting line, one thing all these individuals have in common is that they have started “doing.”  None of them are planning or thinking, because they have thought and planned in their minds for years.  While they waited for the right thoughts and plans, the years passed by and the fear of failure grew.  Their fear hasn’t gone away, they have simply decided to force the fear to “prove it.”  They challenge fear to prove the world really does end when someone fails or that no one will love them if they don’t succeed.

Regardless of the outcome, I am learning to see that much like these 50 and 60-year old’s, I need to challenge the fear of failure- not look for ways to outrun it.  Because if failure is not an option, neither is success.

P.S. For the record, I Googled “Death by I told you so.”  No casualties to date.

Michael Willis

The Author:

Michael Willis has had the privilege of leading thousands of individuals through his work in radio, the United States Congress, several corporations, and his church over the past 20 years. His experiences with these organizations have led to numerous opportunities to share his insights with major news agencies such as Bloomberg and the New York Times. Michael’s passion for developing leaders and teams to address the challenges facing our nation, communities and churches today led him to become a certified coach, trainer, and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. His mission is to work with individuals and teams to focus their efforts on the basics of leading and move one day at a time towards reaching their full potential. He has used the strategies taught by John Maxwell to develop leadership teams responsible for the passing of major legislation, changing the culture of businesses, and inspiring men and women to be the leaders in their homes and churches.

If you want to find out more from Michael check him out at:


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