Updated: Apr 27, 2019
After three decades of successfully leading and developing people, while delivering top performance with a mammoth Fortune 50 company, I decided to make the leap to entrepreneurship and join my youngest daughter, Sarah Olivia, in her new business startup. It was a decision I had often dreamed about but didn’t act on, either because of fear of failure or an overreliance on doing what I’d already mastered: delivering on financial commitments in my “safe” corporate environment. My decision came when I changed the way I was thinking about failure, and ultimately, perfectionism.
The power of the fear of failure: It can make us panic, deny it, or reject it outright. Worst-case scenario, we view failure as proof that we were always unworthy imposters. Men have forever been forgiven for their imperfections; they fail and keep playing forever! Why do we women let perfectionism and fear of failure take us out of the game? Imperfect men have been empowered and permitted to run the world since the beginning of time. It’s time for imperfect women to grant themselves permission to join. Perfection is not a prerequisite of leadership...far from it. This is one important lesson I learned in my time leading people across a variety of different settings and businesses. People don’t want perfect leaders. They want approachability, confidence, strength, integrity, humility. Many of us have been living by the old rules that insist that a woman must be perfect before she’s worthy of showing up. So there I was counseling my daughter, who was on the cusp of graduating with dual degrees in Business and Leadership Studies, to follow her passions, to look fear in the face, and to believe in herself. I realized it was time for a new rule in my own life.
Actually, it’s time for a new rule for all women. Women must stop believing that failure is destruction and start believing that we can use failure as our fuel. Failure is not something to be ashamed of — nor is it proof of unworthiness. Failure is something to be powered by. When we live afraid to fail, we don’t take risks. We don’t bring our entire selves to the table— so we end up failing before we even begin. Let’s stop worrying: What if I fail? Instead, let’s promise ourselves: If I fail, I’ll survive, learn, and do better next time. Afterall, that’s exactly what has happened every time I failed at anything over the last 50+ years I’ve been on this earth. Well, almost every time...I still can’t golf.
Every day now, I do what I love — advising, coaching and leading emerging leaders (including my daughter...how cool is that?!) how to become champions for themselves and others. My daughter’s quest to find the right path for herself –– through her fears, her perfectionism –– opened my eyes, and helped us both to accept the fact that sometimes we use failure to push us further down the same path. Other times, we let failure guide us to a new path. But we always keep moving forward.
We need to show the world that we women can take risks, sometimes fail big, and still insist on our right to stay in the game and try again. And again. And again. Because a champion never allows a short-term failure to take her out of the long-term game. We need to show the world that a woman who doesn’t give up, can never lose.
Wishing you significance,