Why people are raised to fear failure
Synopsis: I have a theory that young people are raised to fear failure. Nearly all entrepreneurs claim that they couldn't have succeeded without being allowed the freedom to fail. So what are the factors that push young people to avoid failure?
- Parents trying to live their lives through their children
- Low exposure to role models who show whats possible
- 12+ years of permanent grades on a permanent transcript
Body: I'm curious about what makes people who they are. Currently most of the people I interact with daily are college-aged people and I'm starting to notice trends.
A lot of them are super scared of trying new things. They don't want to fail their parents. Often, their idea of being "adventurous" and taking a risk is doing a double major. When my friends tell me about their dreams, they tell me a lot of excuses why they don't pursue them.
When I get into a funk, I ask myself: why am I not pursuing my dreams? I've hypothesized that for me, it's these 3 things:
1. Parents trying to live their lives through their children
Although most clearly prevalent in Asian "tiger" parents, any young person can have over-controlling parents. These are the ones who have such high expectations for their kids -- enrolling their kids to be football players, learn piano, or performing well academically -- and end up suffocating kids for their early years.
Because parents often pay for their children's college tuition, the children take on a mixture of gratitude and guilt. They feel bad that their parents are paying so much for something towards their "future", and so they fear making any moves in a different direction because they feel they should be grateful.
2. Low exposure to role models who show whats possible
When you grow up in a small town, you don't get to meet that many diverse people. It's a feeling of being chained to your location that makes you yearn for adventure and exploration. Your role models are often people in the media or internet, and so they seem really far from the life you currently live.
And because we spend 50% of our lives in schools, the people we hang out with for 8 hours a day are other people who are too young to have done anything with their lives. We don't have that perspective to know what is possible.
Young people need to meet people of all ages who have reached various levels of success. That's the only way to know that people have failed and have become successful regardless. When we're kept away from these people, it looks like everyone around us should be striving to minimize failures.
Sidenote: most people aren't aware that their role models are a DM or email away.
3. 12+ years of permanent grades on a permanent transcript
One of my college professors recently said, "I want you guys to have fun with this project, and be curious about your learning."
Well that's mighty hard to do when every mistake you make results in subtractions from your final grade on a permanent transcript (her grading policy). Why would you risk that? It's so much better to do the bare minimum than fly up to the sun and fail.
Teachers can't honestly encourage their students to not be afraid to fail without first releasing the premise of permanent grades. Because as long as that expectation is there, there is always going to be supplicating to what the teacher wants, and less on what the student wants.
Conclusion: For other young people, it's not always our fault that we don't want to fail. Part of it is the environment that we were raised in. What we can do now is realize that the system has raised us to fear failure. When you can embrace failure as a learning experience that ultimately helps you, that is when you can say the shackles have been released.