Opportunities, Fear, Failure, and Taking Chances

16 January, 2023

In late 2022, my mind drifted back to all of the good (or just plain interesting) opportunities I let slip through my fingers over the years. I occasionally joke that when I try to count those missed opportunities I quickly run out of fingers and toes. Maybe there weren’t that many, but I’ve let more than a couple slip away.

The main reason I let those opportunities slip away was fear. I let fear — of failure, of looking like an idiot, of letting a client or editor down, of not being good enough — take hold. I let that fear control me.

In my 20/20 hindsight, I realize that was the wrong way to approach many of those situations. Fear is counterproductive. Fear is a barrier to expanding skills, expanding experience, and expanding horizons. Caving into the fear is foolish.

When opportunities come up, you need take a chance. You need to jump in. You need to stumble, fall, and then pick yourself up. You might fail. You might not. But you need to embrace failure every so often. Failure is a force that can mold you. A force that can drive you to strive to succeed.

How can you get around your fear? By asking yourself What’s the worst that can happen? You might create or do something that’s not your best work. You might never work with that client or team again. Your ego and confidence might take a small hit. It’ll sting for a while, but it won’t kill you or your career.

Then, ask yourself What’s the best that can happen? You might create or do something really good. You might impress that client or your co-workers so much that they’ll keep you in mind for future work. Your confidence, not to mention your bank balance, might get a boost.

It’s definitely worth taking a chance for the latter. The former might happen, but if it does then you need to roll with it. Your life will have numerous ups and downs. You need to be able to take the bad with the good and all that.

That’s not to say you should jump at every opportunity that comes up. Many of them aren’t worth the time or effort — either because the pay is low, the client or co-worker is a beast to work with, or the work doesn’t catch your interest. Instead, keep an eye open for interesting opportunities. Ones that appeal to your interests, your strengths, or areas into which you want to expand.

If you don’t venture, you don’t gain. You don’t improve or expand your reach. For any professional, that’s the first step to the end of a career.

Scott Nesbitt