I recently watched Presidents Bush and Clinton give out advice to a group of graduating students from the Presidential Leadership Scholars program.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. But, you probably will whether you’re afraid to or not.”, said Clinton.

And he’s right. Being afraid of failure is natural, it’s human, and it costs people a lot in terms of pursuing their dreams, goals and ambitions. The reality is however that you are most likely going to fail at something. I know I have, more than once. And that’s ok.

Visualize a child attempting a jigsaw puzzle. Are they failing or are they learning? Dealing with failure – or fear of failure – is about changing your mindset and about challenging your perspective on yourself and your reality.


I’ve failed tests, I’ve been turned down for jobs, I’ve had proposals rejected. I’ve had friendships and relationships end. If you can accept that at some point you’ll fail it, takes some of the sting out of it. Say to yourself, ‘Maybe I’ll fail. And that’s ok.’


Failing is normal, it’s a part of how we learn and grow. If you internalize failure and make it about you it can send you down a sad path towards shame and self-doubt. Don’t take failure personally, view it as poor execution or a flawed strategy. Normalize it! YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE, only the outcome failed. That means it’s time for a new strategy.


The fastest way to get over any failure is to take some fresh action. Basically, dust yourself off and keep going. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? What can I do now? What can I control? Taking action and creating even a small success can get you back on track.


Having a Plan B is just good practice. It means that if for some reason Plan A doesn’t pan out, you have a rough idea of where you’re going next. Even if you don’t have a Plan B totally mapped out, a loose idea will do. Plan B represents grit, determination and sensible planning.


Worrying about what other people think is pretty common. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Most people are caught up in their own lives, they really aren’t paying much attention to whether or not you’ve hit a bump in the road. Also, your real friends will support and stand by you, those who don’t, well, you’re better off without them.


I’m a big believer in setting my own standards of success. What does success mean to you? If you define your own measure of success then it removes the external pressures that can move in on us from peers, colleagues, or society as a whole. Living up to your own standards and acknowledging your successes puts you on the fast track to contentment.

In my work with my clients, I try and remind them that there’s more to life than success and failure. There’s a great deal of value to be found in celebrating, endurance, persistence, resilience and humility.

So don’t be afraid. Don’t fear failure. Empower yourself by taking control of your response to failing, and find satisfaction and pleasure in moving towards your goals.

– Jamie Galloway

Jamie Galloway is a performance and leadership coach based in New York City