Even celebrities fear failure. Shah Rukh Khan tells you how to relish, cherish and learn from it
Senior citizens, youth, children — get affected by it. Tamil Nadu takes 12.5 per cent of the suicide numbers among states, Chennai tops the list among metros with 2000-plus, say NCRB statistics. Even in the list of reasons — failure in love affairs, examinations — Tamil Nadu is ahead.
Fear of failure. It seems so achingly hard to come to terms with it. Our education — formal or informal — our home surroundings, friendships, workplace dynamics, nothing seems to help. We give ourselves zero per cent and take the extreme step. Or commit horrific crimes.
“Being afraid is a rational experience,” says Dr. Annsimi John, psychologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, labelling anxiety as a reaction to fear. In every stage of life we fear something, children fear they might fail in studies, adults fear failure in their careers. Fear of failing makes us so cautious and protective that we no longer differentiate between a failure and false alarm. What we need is a coping strategy. The simple way to deal with failure is to keep calm, not change things at once but keep looking out with hope.
“Fear of failure stops us from trying,” said Mohana Narayanan, counsellor. We get stuck in a rut, stay there rather than attempt to walk again. Consequently, it corrodes our self-worth and efficacy. A lot of self-talk will help overcome it, she said. “Have faith in your ability, take smaller steps than aim for the stars, reward yourself for any small victory, and compete with yourself and not with others.”
At a recent business convention, actor Shah Rukh Khan managed to give the subject an inimitable twist. Everyone should taste failure, he declared, pointing out that while success is a wonderful thing, it tends not to teach us anything. We enjoy it, “but we don’t acquire anything from it.” Things happened to him, he said, because he was really scared of failure. As a child, he equated poverty with failure, signed films purely out of fear of failure. The true road to success is not the desire for success, but the fear of failure, he said.
It is your response to failure that helps to buffer the reverses you experience, he said, listing his own two. First is pragmatism. “I believe if one approach does not work, another might. The second response is fatalism. I fool myself that it was bound to happen, and that I need to move on, and not get caught up in ‘Why me?’ It happened, move on.”
Failure offers an incentive to harder work, which invariably leads to greater success. If you don’t fail, you will never learn. And if you don’t learn, you will never grow. He narrated the story of a bank president who was asked the secret of his success, and he said, “Right decisions.” How do you learn to make right decisions? “Experience.” Well, how do you get experience? “Wrong decisions,” he replied.
Failure helps you find out who your real friends are “I lost a lot of friends post-Ra.One. Post-Chennai Express, I made no new friends, but have a whole new set of enemies.” Regular failures taught him to empathise with others, he said. Overcoming failures helps us discover we have a strong will, shores up confidence in our ability to survive. Your failure is a product of your own actions, he said. Relish it, cherish it, learn from it. Failure is never fatal. There can be no courage unless you are scared. “In film language, if at first you don’t succeed, reload and try again. Shoot fast, shoot first and be ready to take a bullet too.”