Collaboration and Fear of Failure


I had the privilege of sharing a presentation on “Transforming Urban Communities Through the Arts” at the inaugural TEDxFSCJ held on the stage of the Wilson Center for the Arts. As I listened to the speakers and watched the prerecorded TED talks, I saw a few common themes emerge. Almost all of the initiatives described (improvisation, aquaponics, fast superfood, urban gardens, arts hubs, and more) required people power. As I shared in my talk, “When we come together to create something then anything is possible. Egos, turfs, the silo mentality, possessiveness, and a focus on ‘what’s in it for me’ must be set aside in the interest of the greater good.”

A second theme was a major focus at the end of the day as several speakers described failure and the fear of failure as holding us back from reaching our fullest potential. I have personally seen this fear take hold of some students when they simply give up. They are not giving up because they can’t do it, but because they don’t believe they can do it and are concerned about messing up. So many terrific community initiatives would never have begun if failure held back the individual or individuals who birthed the idea. I run into so many people who aren’t doing what they love because they fear that they can’t make a living doing what they love. I also meet many people who are doing what they love and wish they had started on that path sooner. What can you do to start down that path?

  • Set a bold vision. Something simple, broad, and inspiring. Put it on your wall, in a notebook, on your computer and glance at it every day. Share it with others and don’t let it sit on a shelf and gather dust. Use it in your 10-second or 20-second elevator speech.
  • Create a plan for the future. Set milestones and goal posts. You should have checkpoints and markers along the way so that you can stay on track and revise your strategy based on what is or isn’t working. Do you know where you’re going and how to get there? As many terrific leaders have said, “Begin with the end in mind.”
  • Collaborate with your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. Invite them to the party! Send out some of those Doodle Surveys and find a time to chat about your ideas over a meal. You’ll be surprised at how many people want to join you on the journey and become just as excited about your ideas as you are.
  • Refocus your energies on the positive. It is important to understand the pitfalls and challenges, but as the song goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive.” All too often we give too much weight to the negative voices in our head and our community and we stop believing in ourselves. Your idea could have merit and change the world (or at least your neighborhood).
  • Make sure you are accountable to others. Ask a few of your mentors and trusted advisers to provide feedback throughout the process. Make sure that you are sharing updates and goals with your spouse or closest friend. Allow them to provide you with real, honest and valuable advice.

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