Franklin D Roosevelt was right in his inaugural address when he proclaimed “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It is not only fear but the fear of failure that hinders our willingness to take chances on success.
Once upon a time I rode motorcycles. I was living in East Tennessee, teaching college, making near-to-nothing but it didn’t matter. I’d hop on my motorcycle and ride out Highway 129, through Deals Gap, The Tail of The Dragon, and over the Cherohala Skyway before heading home. It was relaxing and exhilarating. After entering a charity raffle, I won first prize- a custom paint job on my motorcycle. I needed it- like many first time riders I had laid my bike down and scratched up the tank and had the design worked out in my head for almost a year before the opportunity presented itself.
The bike was a work of art. Color changing flames over a pearl black fading from a faux carbon fiber finish that was airbrushed by a fantastic artist. He gave me more than I had imagined and I was proud of what I had. I couldn’t wait to show it off, and I especially couldn’t wait to show my dad.
My dad is a Michelangelo of sorts when it comes to repairing and painting cars. I grew up in body shops and watched him restore crumpled lumps of metal back to their owners’ pride and joy. When I brought the bike out for him to see he was equally as impressed as I was which made me proud. I had impressed my own personal Michelangelo and that made me happy. I made a remark about how I could never had painted it and his reply is one that defines the lessons I learned many times sitting in a garage into the wee hours of the morning.
“Why not?” My father retorted.
“There is no way I could paint that well,” I said. “I’d mess something up.”
“It’s just paint,” he said in the matter-of-fact wisdom that only my father could master. “If you screw it up, you sand it down and start over. What’s there to be afraid of?”
And that is the most valuable lesson I have ever learned.
We are often too afraid of messing up that we are afraid to take the chances that bring about success. We are afraid of failure and that fear hinders our potential successes.
I take that lesson with me every day- whether I’m tearing apart a laptop, teaching a lesson, writing a book or cooking something new, I try to remember not to be afraid of failure.