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The F Word (Speech)

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I am downright terrified of the "F-Word". How so much fear and consternation could be stored in four letters evades me completely. But, it's everywhere! Everybody's doing it, it's always on your mind – yes it is. it's popculture nowadays to toss it around, accusing and mocking eachother. It's sells in media, Politicians and even pastors do it, it's such a time waster and it doesn't even feel good. F... F A I L. All though not quite as offensive as its four letter counterpart, Fail or failure in general might as well be added to our dictionary of profanity. We shrink from failure. The word strikes a nerve that makes us cringe. This is only natural, but when we allow Atychiphobia, the fear of failure, to take over it debilitates our performance and stops us from challenging ourselves. Take Kleenex Incorporated for example, intially manufacturing Gas Mask filters in World War I their product eventually turned into face towels. Later, Kleenex researchers were convinced that their tissues could replace Handkercheifs entirely. But afraid the expendetures would not provide a decent return, and already in a declining state, the head of advertising shot down the idea. And yet by some mix up, one of the advertisements showed up and the boxes flew off the shelves.

Boos and Jeers. Tomatoes and Cabbage. A Buzzer that announces your loss. A Review that scathes your recent production a mockery and utterly a waste of time. Why are we so terrified of failure? Consequnces. Namely: acceptance, or the lack there of. We crave to be deemed acceptable or even revered by our peers. Whether that's accomplished by holding the state record for touchdown completions or the best academic credentials your school has ever seen. The goal is often the same: be accepted, let others compliment your work and glory in your success. In fact, we embody success with such high regards that we often extrapolate the consequences of failure . People envision hateful looks and roaring crowds when really, most often we encounter a quizzical glance or a stern reprimand. The majority glances over the typical failure and we envision them scrutinizing our morbid results with a microscope. Howerver, media offers an exception. Media presents failure as a flagship for revenue. Over a period of two weeks my family tracked and recorded the stories told on the local nightly news and over 75% of the news was negative stories. Barring the weather, which can be depressing in its own right, the news focused on Ponzee schemes, Sex Scandals and Criminal offenses, all very well considered social failures, and perhaps threw in the occasional Eagle Scout Project. No Wonder we are so frightened at ever the hint of failure when we see another's lack of success broadcast across a medium that reaches millions of people. But contrary to the Patriot act, the cameras are not rolling and that time you fell flat on your face at your first track meet, will probably stay logged away in the family archives.

When we allow atychiphobia to limit our actions, the consequences are drastic. Everyone knows that Michael Jordan didn't make his freshman basketball team, and everyone knows that he never played basketball again. Recently inducted into the NBA hall of fame, Jordan said "I was not afraid to fail, and that is why I suceeded." Now, while some would argue that never having Michael Jordan inducted in the hall of fame wouldn't be a travesty, imagine if our founding fathers, scientists, architects, chefs, novelists, play writes, producers and entrepreneurs hadn't shown the same kind of determination and tenacity, no matter the outcome, that Jordan showed through his career. The light bulb, the combustion engine, the US Constitution, the Statue of Liberty, 747's, Calculus, all these wouldn’t exist. The jist of it is: Progress ceases. Sparing the age old anecdote of Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers tried over thirty different full models before achieving their first successful flight in Kittty Hawk, North Carolina. Up until that point Orville and Wilbur had been teased and berated for trying to turn themselves into birds a countless number of times. And yet their will to accept their failures and risk that possibility again and again has procured the safest and quickest mode of transportation man has ever seen. Now, not everyone is an Orville or a Wilbur, but when we allow our failures to petrify us into a state of manequinism we leave our surroundings barren and our lives quite boring.

Now, how do we overcome the fear of failure? Practice. Like any other worthwhile skill, the bravery required to accept our failures doesn't come easily. Switching gears and opposing a societal norm that labels failure as unacceptable and viewing a failure as an opportunity or perhaps even a unintended success, doesn't happen overnight. So you didn't make first chair at All-State, but big deal. You still got to perform with one of the best groups that you will ever play with. The Glass half full instead of empty rule, more commonly known as optimism, is the key to vanquishing any fear of failure. This granted, you won't always be able to Grin N' Bear it. Something will eventually tip the scale, you will fail: that D in Calculus, a botched game or perhaps you're outright fired from your job. This turning point is a defining moment. For some this moment seems more potent than others, but there comes a time when all the daisies and the sunshine in the world can't erase our mistakes. So we choose: Sink or Swim. It is undoubtedly easier to succumb to a wave of failure and allow ourselves to succeed over and over in mediocrity; that is what we're good at. But as corny as it may sound, those who choose to push forward reap rewards that are well deserved. No, not every race will end with a Golden Medal, flashing cameras and a standing ovation, but by God, at least you raced. I work at Laser Quest in my home town, we get a lot of birthdays, youth groups, corporate events, and obsessive nerds but I remember one birthday in particular. To explain, the first thing you do when you go to Laser Quest is get a codename, or an… alias. So it’s not John who tagged you but Laserjakcle or The temptress. This particular party had a young boy choose to be known as “DiscoNinja”. As you should know, Disco Ninja was six years old, there with all his best friends was ridiculously excited, but it was also apparent that Disco Ninja had some kind of mental dissability, possibly something along the lines of severe Aspurger’s. Disco Ninja played with all his heart, he aimmed deadlier, snaked through the arena faster and reacted more dramatically than any of the other palyers. When his game was over I passed out the score cards and at the bottom of the deck lay his, with a negative score. Other boys’ with higher, but still low, scores threw fits, stomped their feet and claimed that they would not play again, and yet as Disco Ninja ran up to claim his scorecard, I had never seen anyone take the losing score card with with more excitement than first place did. Disco Ninja played two more games, and consistently came in last place. But I Still had never seen someone so pleased to take their score card every time. As Pearl S Buck put it, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, [or scared] and therefore they attempt the impossible -- and achieve it, generation after generation.” No, we don't all have to be like kids again to let go of the fear of failure, but remembering to Focus more on the journey , not where we might've once hoped to go, but where we've come from.
There is no Quick fix for Actyrophobia. But that's why fixing it is so worth while. So, the next time you have a cold, take the time to get a Kleenex and blow your nose of fears of failure, and consider the success that lies in your hands. I leave you with the words of Winston Churchhill “Success is not final, and failure, not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Come what may, and love it.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

acousticalex This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm
Only a small, talented number of people can be extremely successful in Capitalist society, and I have no problem with this. Some people are just going to fail at life, and this is okay, because that means the hardest workers have people to bus their tables, build their roads and install their televisions. Aside from the difference in opinion, great prose!
 
Bethani said...
Jan. 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm
This has excellent points and they are all true! I also believe that failure isn't an option. You don't fail if you try and have done your best. Great writing! Keep it up!
 
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