Milton Glaser On the Fear of Failure

“Fear of failure,” here Glaser pauses, “… is a phrase that requires a little thought.”

Are professionalism and personal development intrinsically tied? Glaser’s professionalism is to have something that no one else has for that is how you make money that leads to success. Personal development is more about failure which leads to discovery. Which of these mean success to you?

You’re a professional. And a successful one. Are you a brand? Unsurprisingly, brand is one of his most despised words. It used to apply to companies and entities that are encased in brick and mortar. It then encompasses virtual companies with online presence. Now, we are all about personal brands.

Self-discovery in terms of personal development is learning that you are either good at something or you are not. Glaser uses a great master. Whenever Picasso learns to do something, he abandons it. His point is that once you discover something, you will lose interest. It’s that unrelenting search of creatives, isn’t it?

It is where failure lives.

Glaser says fear of failure is an inhibiting characteristic. It’s counter-intuitive to artists as it goes against the unleashing of great creativity. Just what are you afraid of? Inadequacy, criticism, embarrassment … all of which are too visible. To ourselves as well as others.

Self-criticism and ego are two oft familiar terms for artists. For failure is an acknowledgment that you’re not good at something. That you don’t really know what you’re doing.

The only way out, advises Glaser, is to admit what is. Find out what you’re capable of doing and what you’re not capable of doing. Subject yourself to the fact that you’re not as good as you think or hope you are or that others think or hope you are. Courage? Oh yes.

Ultimately, Glaser’s failure is a romantic idea: embrace the failure.

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