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Fears, Commas & the F-Word

Updated: Mar 22

Recently, I heard someone say that life is about commas, not periods. It was one of those sticky thoughts that bounced around my head. To put it in context, he was talking about personal struggles – losing a job, a troubled relationship, health issues – whatever mountain looms ahead. Do you let the mountain make you feel so small that you "put a period" and give up, or do you get gritty, put a comma and keep climbing?

It bounced around my head for a while. Wait…was he talking about struggles or growth? As my friend would say, “It’s all in how you look at it.”

Go ahead... Use the F-Word!

You can’t talk about struggles or growth without talking about the “F word” – failure. Professionally or personally, no one likes to fail. Some people are so adverse to failure that they actually fear it. There’s a name for that. Atychiphobia is a fear of failure and it’s number 15 on the top 100 phobias list. A person afflicted with atychiphobia finds the thought of failure so intense that he chooses not to take the risk. He puts a period on possibilities, opportunities, and growth.

We’re taught at a very young age that the brightest kids get the right answers. Wrong answers are evidence that we aren’t smart. As adults, intellectually we know that mistakes are essential to the learning process, but no one wants to make them let alone embrace them or shine a light on them.

We want the reward not the struggle. We enjoy the outcome, not the journey. 

We love the triumphant feeling of victory, not the sweat and tears from the battle.

But the most meaningful journeys are those that are filled with lots and lots of commas.

To make the F-word a productive part of your vocabulary, you have to understand the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

People with a fixed mindset use periods:

It is what it is.

There is nothing I can do.

It's impossible to overcome this.

People with a growth mindset use commas:

That didn’t work, so there must be another way.

I can't do it today, but I'll be back tomorrow.

I don't know, and I'm determined to find someone who does.

So, go ahead and use the F-word. Embrace it. See each failure as something you know now that you didn’t know then – evidence of learning. Often, the most valuable insights come after failure. Embracing and learning from those insights is key to succeeding in life.

Perhaps, Albert Einstein said it best...

“Failure is success in progress.”

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