Failure. Defined by Merriam-Webster as: “lack of success,” and “falling short.” Most people fear failure. In fact, many fear failure so much they never even try. But this is misplaced fear. If you’re going to be successful at something—anything—you have to try. And to try generally means to fail at least once or twice before you get it right, before you succeed.
The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear [of failure]; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior… — Steven Pressfield
Rather than fear failure, we must embrace it. Fear of failure shouldn’t stop you, it should motivate you. We must commit to experiencing failure on our terms: on the training ground instead of on a scene or in a classroom versus on an EMS call.
What we should fear, however, what should keep us up at night, is not failing but being stagnant—failing to progress. I’m not referring to progressing through ranks, but rather the idea of progressing as an individual. Failing to learn, to grow, to get better, to become more well-rounded.
“That is the horror. That is the nightmare. That is what you really need to be afraid of: Being stagnant.” — Jocko Willink
Call it what you will: complacency, comfort, contenment. It’s all the same thing: stagnation. We get to a point where we stop developing. We stop pushing ourselves, stop challenging our ideas and our limits. We think we know enough, we think we’ve done enough. We’re good, right here. This is comfortable. At its worst, this mindest could get someone killed. On a less dramatic level, it could lead to waking up one day and realizng you’ve wasted your life, that you’ve sold yourself short.
Embracing failure keeps you motivated to succeed. But a deep-seeded, gut-level aversion to stagnation will drive you to success beyond what you think is possible. If you’re going to be afraid of anything, be afraid of becoming complacent or too comfortable. Be afraid of being in a position where you realize you don’t know your job as well as you should. Let this fear motivate you to be better, to learn more, to train harder, and refine your knowledge as you prepare yourself and those around you to succeed. Push yourself, push your crews. Fight stagnation. This is how we get better, this is how we become more effective.