Lessons in Failure from William Hung

Ah, American Idol.  One of America’s favorite guilty pleasures.  Despite the fact that it’s practically the same thing year after year – cue cute wholesome 17-year old girl from the south with soulful Etta James/Aretha Franklin voice, funky tatooed pink/blue-haired girl with mediocre voice, and rebel-without-a-cause rocker dude equipped with money chain and guitar – it’s a good lesson in balls-out, put-it-all-on-the-line failure.

Take William Hung for example.  Putting aside the horrible music videos and unfounded fame he somehow managed to take hold of, you might recall his audition.  I don’t know about you, but I liked him.  Here’s this unassuming civil engineering student, bucktooth and all, pursuing his passion on national television in front of megastars that could make or break every dream he’s ever had.  He sings, he dances, and best of all, he demonstrates humility, gratitude, and a genuine love of what he’s doing.

Wow, if only we all could have kahones like that.  So, he didn’t make it through to the next round.  But gosh, look at what he did.  He stepped up there in front of those judges and put his heart and soul on the line.  He went after his dream and did his best, so he has no regrets.

The Fear of Failure

Failure.  It’s a scary word, isn’t it?  Maybe I shouldn’t start a new workout program; I might give up.  Maybe I shouldn’t accept that project; I might not be able to deliver.  Maybe I shouldn’t start that blog; I might be horrible at it.

Three statements I recently said to myself.  Three statements I recently threw out the window. 

I wonder if William Hung said “Maybe I shouldn’t audition; I might make a fool of myself.”  Odds are he did, but he auditioned anyway.  Did he make a fool of himself?  Maybe.  Did people laugh at him?  Of course.  Did he walk away from that audition a better, stronger person?  Absolutely.

I know it’s been preached over and over again, but one thing I recently realized is that fear of failure is never a good excuse. 

For the longest time, I was afraid to start a blog.  The thought of putting myself out there, open to being ridiculed, laughed at, or just told I suck, scared me to death.  But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  Writing makes me alive.  It pumps the blood through my veins.  And I was about to let fear stand in my way of that?

I did, for years.  Then one day I realized, so what if I fail?  At least I’ll know I tried, and I’ll have no regrets.  I still don’t know if this blog will fail.  But I at least know that I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it despite the fear.  And I can’t tell you how great that feels.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

See, I’ve realized that everyone feels fear.  Notice the difference between the winners’ and the losers’ strategy:

LOSERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do nothing

or

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Beat up on self

WINNERS:

  1. Feel fear
  2. Do it anyway
  3. Fail
  4. Take note of what didn’t work and what benefits were gained
  5. Apply lessons to next challenge

The key is, feel the fear and do it anyway.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.  (Not only a great mantra, but a great perspective-altering book by Susan Jeffers.)   The second key is, accept that failure is a possibility, but learn whatever lessons you can from it.

For instance, I’ve already gained so many things from this blog – I’ve learned about my writing style and what I like to write about, I’ve made a few blogging friends, and I’ve even helped a few people through my posts.  And if this blog fails, I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, and I’ll keep writing.

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

If you’re going to do it, DO it

Another horrible mistake you can make is to fail while giving only half-assed effort.  If you’re going to fail, do it with all you got.  If you do fail, one of the worst feelings would be if you look back on your experience and think, “If only I tried harder.”

If you want to succeed big, you must be willing to fail big. 

So here I am.  I started that workout program.  I took that project.  I started this blog.  If I succeed, great!  If I don’t, I know I’ve already gained so much anyway.  Do I still feel that fear sometimes?  Of course.  But I’m doing it anyway!

I leave you with one of the greatest commercials ever made from one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Jordan…Hm, William Hung and Michael Jordan. They’ve got more in common than you’d think.

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