Why I can’t wait to fail

For well over three years, I’ve been wanting to blog regularly. It makes sense because I love to share ideas, I have a passion for Language Arts, and – true to my Millenial Generation-form – my ego needs the boosting that only social media can massage. Sure, I have posted a few times here and there, but nothing consistent.  So, why haven’t I been blogging “on the reg”? It’s simple: fear of failure.

Being afraid of failing at a blog makes me sound like a pansy – a very nerdy, hiding-in-a-pile-of-“Magic: The Gathering”-cards, pimple-faced pansy. But, whatever. It’s real. I haven’t blogged because I’ve found every excuse not to. What will my focus be? One can’t blog without a focus. And it has to be good. New. Noteworthy. Life-changing. What if I just plain suck? I’m an English teacher for crying out loud. I might get fired . . . Who has time to blog!? What if no one reads it? What if I don’t have time? And yet, here we are in the exchange of blogging because I’ve finally made the decision to suck it up, shut it up, and take a risk of failure

I’m actually looking forward to failing at this. Well . . . that’s a lie. I have this thing called an ego, which makes me think a student is waiting behind a corner to punch me in the crotch and yell, “Your blog SUCKS!” I’m NOT looking forward to the potential of wasted time and failure. But, it’s worth it. It is worth putting myself into new territory to learn. It’s worth engaging my brain to process ideas. It’s even worth playing around with fonts and backgrounds (have you seen what’s available!?).  More than anything, it’s worth learning through this collaborative inter-human miracle called weblogging, where we pose questions, get perspective, and engage in dialogue over the things that matter.

We avoid failure by avoiding action.  Instead of spending our time in reward-bearing risk, we spend our time doubting. We justify. We avoid and we deny the very things that are necessary for mental, emotional, and physical growth. And now, I refuse to let myself get sucked into the rut of habitual stagnancy.  What will follow is a man on a mission to do more than just post for his own ego.  I want to engage.  I want to share.  I want to have continual co-learning with anyone and everyone who comes this way.

And it starts with a question: Why do we fear failure?  Think personally. Think culturally.  Think scientifically.  Don’t fail to comment (y’see what I did there!?)

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24 Comments Add yours

  1. stephen says:

    This is a good article, and while we work in different fields, I’m can relate a lot to what you wrote here, your article describes some of the same major reasons I made up to delay my own foray into blogging. It sounds like you’ve had a few attempts at blogging, so I’ll take that as a word of caution. This post also reminds me of a quote “failure is the fertiliser for success”.

  2. Sherry Ransford-Ramsdell says:

    You know, I think it is sort of the inverse of what we used to say about some students who would predict they would fail an exam. By predicting correctly, then they really hadn’t failed. So they won. In their minds. Okay, invert this again. We are afraid of failing because to be otherwise would be not to ever fail, thereby making your question moot. (Or mute, as I had a professor repeatedly say.)

    We fear failure because we like to succeed, and I don’t want to stop encouraging that (for the most part. . .depending on the goal. . .). But here’s the thing–we only have certain areas where we fear failure, different for each of us, but based on importance to us and how it affects us. I couldn’t draw a hairy rat’s ass if my life depended on it, but I don’t give a hairy rat’s ass either. That’s not who I am. Although I am not happy I am not an artist, I can live with that. However, I do fear screwing up as a mother, for example. And I feared screwing up as a teacher because those are the areas by which I defined myself. If I couldn’t do them right, then who was I left being? Someone very much less than I thought. That’s hard. The good news is that as I have grown older, I fear failure, even in these areas, less and less. I have enough thickness in the things I really want to succeed in that I have a cushion for failure. Other places where I fail (and oh, I still do that often), I don’t fear as much because I have failed so many, many times. What bothers me more now are the things I can’t fail or succeed at–I can’t do anything about them. This isn’t fear–it’s just frustration.

    So I don’t fear failure exactly, but I do fear hurting someone emotionally. Maybe that is just another form of fear of failure. Maybe all fears have some element of fear of failure. I’m afraid of heights because I fear I will fail to survive the fall.

    So blog away, dear Chase without fear. You have made me think; in my book that makes you a success!

  3. I can’t remember where I saw it, but there was a quote that said something like, if you aren’t failing, you’re not pushing yourself to the limits of what you can do. Thinking of that in respect to teaching, I want my students to always be on the brink of failure, to always be pushing the envelope, and, of course, to fail, dust themselves off, learn from it and move forward again boldly.

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve been trying to recommit to an endeavor recently, and coming across your post was perfect timing! I’ve come to the realization that I will use ANYTHING to pull me away from the work I need to do, to succeed at what I want (or think I want?). I am aware now that we are all given the same 24 hours each day and if I choose to let lesser things suck up that time, I have no one to blame but myself! I like what Sherry said in her comment about if you expect to fail and then DO fail, in a twisted way, that’s a success…food for thought!

    Also, LOVED your post about what your students need to hear!

    1. chasemielke says:

      Cheers to your pursuit! Working to overcome failure is what makes the challenging things special. On the note of finding ways to get distracted, have you read the book Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney? Great resource.

  5. Rupa says:

    very nice article! I think failure is healthy for us. If we were all successful then, none of us would be successful because we would have no standard on which to base that success upon. I believe that a healthy dose of failure in our lives (and in many cases maybe even more than “a healthy dose”) contributes to our recognition of hard work that pays off in the form of success. With that failure sitting on the bottom of the scale, it gives us something to reflect upon and something to move forward from. It gives a sense of direction in life. But even i am afraid to fail. Its not failing once that i am afraid of. Its failing again, and again. Sometimes, it seems to me that I am constantly failing, but being the naive people that we are, it only takes one win to change our attitude about any situation. So while I am afraid of failing, i am still trying to eradicate this fear i have of it because I have realized to look up from them, not down on them. Looking up, will lead you to more opportunities and will give you the motivation to take advantage of those opportunities. Remember, when Edison invented the light bulb, he tried two THOUSAND times before he got it right. And he was not let down by the two thousands times he had tried and failed, in his words, “he had simply found two thousands ways in which NOT to construct a light bulb and 1 way to construct one”.

  6. jovers says:

    While there are many reasons to fear failure, having to face my own incompetence is one that nags at me. When I try something new and I fail I have to acknowledge to myself and to the world that this thing I thought I’d be good at is at the moment too difficult for the skills and talents I possess. I know that this just means I must practice. Practice, however, is a word that stretches so far into the distance, it is hard to see beyond it to the place where it leads (hopefully to success and accomplishment, but still possibly to failure and defeat). Practice seems risky. Practice insinuates more failure in the process. In my imagination practice is scary, lonely, and sad. I know this doesn’t have to be the case, but it often feels like it.

    1. chasemielke says:

      So much truth is contained in this comment!

    2. Hamisaurus says:

      I dunno, kinda makes me think of the movie series Rocky, despite me having not watched all of them in full. But if you watch the last movie, you’d see where he ends up, would you not? After his many practices and failures and successes, he… well, I don’t know. I never watched the last one. But I’m pretty sure he ended up with a good life then died or something like that.

  7. Sarah says:

    Thank you.

  8. dkzody says:

    I’ve blogged for seven years without a focus. You can do it.

  9. Holly says:

    I encourage failure in my class, because from our failing comes learning and resilience. So to boost your ego, thank you for taking the steps to potentially fail.

  10. Gracie says:

    As someone who recently failed to make it through my first year of teaching without resigning for the sake of my own mental health, thank you for reminding me that an unhappy ending to a chapter isn’t necessarily the end of the book.

    1. JT says:

      Wow! I am in admiration of your strength and impressed with your tenacity! I love the fact that despite the tough day you had, you immediately turn around and blog with such confidence and determination. I congratulate you for making a decision that is RIGHT for you!

      I have been teaching 7 years: LOVE THE KIDS, LOVE THEIR FAMILIES, LOVE WORKING ALL NIGHT TO GET THE JOB DONE! I love the way I feel about myself when something great happens at school. This is what keeps me going…..but after 7 years …my eyes are open to the politics and how meaningless the job is, not to our families,…but to the school’s administration.

      You did the RIGHT thing, the BEST thing for you! If you were not in Narina the 1st year, it does not get better! I am proud of you not feeling “trapped” to continue. You WILL find the right place to become planted!

  11. Alec says:

    One reason we fail is because we get so used to things coming easily. We’re told we’re gifted when things come so easily. Once something is hard to come by we feel bad that we had to work for it. That we had to fail to get it. Read Carol S. Dweck’s growth mindset. Also one nice thing about failing at. Writing is if you’re looking to get published you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re a failure yourself. You can let an editor decide that for you. So there’s no reason not to put your stuff out there.

  12. P says:

    This has been one of the reasons I stopped composing music… And then I listen to stuff being published and think “I can do better than that”… then try and stop for fear of failing… This year, I made the decision to RELISH in any failures… Suddenly I’m writing more than ever! Wonderful post, thank you! Keep on posting please!!! 😀

  13. Ryan Bolton says:

    Great thoughts. There’s also the thought that creating is just too damn fun not to. Sure it’s nerve-wracking, but it’s also insanely satisfying when something works out.

  14. john holt says:

    this comment is going to fail to motivate you to read the book “Instead of Education” by John Holt unless you are easily susceptible to cheesy meta usage.

    also, if there are people who are not pansies, it is people willing to play mtg in public. and there’s also tons of failure and learning and pain in deck building.

  15. Kevin Elzinga says:

    Perhaps you already do all of this, and if so, terrific!

    I may be wrong, but English impresses me as having a fairly fluid curriculum. It seems to me that you have greater flexibility in what you teach than, say, a math teacher.

    With that in mind, are you allowed to teach blogging at your school? If you have a passion for it, your kids will sense that and more of your students will follow you.

    Why not incorporate what you love to do in your lesson plans?

    Again, I don’t know what constraints are put on your curriculum or how much time you have to spend on required reading (Shakespeare, etc.), but check with your Department Chair to find out how much freedom you have to work on something with the kids that you enjoy.

    Blogging is the newest form of persuasion in today’s world. It stands to reason that kids should have practice creating blogs and business websites. Perhaps co-teach a lesson with the business teachers at your school.

    It seems you have plenty of exciting opportunities.

    1. Kevin Elzinga says:

      You also get to learn from your students (many are quite gifted in this area) and then pass on some of THEIR knowledge to the next generation.

  16. Martha P. says:

    I love what you’re saying here. This goes along with Growth Mindset theory and what I try to teach my students. Thank you for forging the way to make failure okay once again.

  17. Hamisaurus says:

    You… you amuse me. I may become interested in reading this entire blog from start to finish. I’ve already read three posts (this, the next, and the one after). You would have a fellow English teacher to thank for that. So I may just get interested in this blog of yours. It’d be a first, I know.

    Also, it would have been far more awesome had you created you own website from scratch (personal opinion as a website programmer, and I hate website making websites). Though I will admit, the chances of you getting publicity were greater with this method, so I can’t blame you.

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