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Are You Afraid of Failure? A Word On Exploring From Dr. Harold Duncan

A Word About Exploring – From Dr. Harold Duncan

“If you aren’t making 10 mistakes a day, you aren’t trying hard enough!”

It was in California (of course), and the company was a small, tech research and development firm. One thing that made them unique was that the president of the company (quoted above) wanted his employees to stretch their thinking beyond their comfort zones and to take risks. To not be content with the safe and known. Therefore, he made it a requirement that each employee make (and document) 10 mistakes every day–minimum!

As a result, they came up with some ideas that were truly outlandish, bizarre and completely unworkable. However, when the fear of making mistakes was eliminated, they developed and marketed some amazingly creative and groundbreaking products and services.

The question is, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

Do you enjoy tackling new or untried activities, trying new restaurants, taking risks and feeling that surge of adrenaline? If so, you might be called “adventurous!”

On the other hand, you may be more cautious and measured in your approach to life. It isn’t that you that you don’t enjoy new things or new people, but you may be somewhat “risk averse,” preferring activities, foods and people who are more “tried and true” than unknown and untested.

Certainly, there are advantages and disadvantages to each way of thinking and behaving. There are also situations and circumstances that would dictate the wisdom and appropriateness of each.

Several years ago, I taught a university course on motivation. As a part of that course, I became familiar with the following diagram:

Ms                                                                             Maf


It’s called a “Motivation Continuum.” It is the standard 1-10 continuum that is used to identify whether a person is more “Motivated to Succeed” (Ms) or “Motivated to Avoid Failure” (Maf). Theoretically, everyone is at some point on the line.

What’s the difference? All the difference in the world!

People who are more Ms, are driven to achieve whatever “success” means to them, short term or long. Maf people are more strongly driven to not fail.

Ms people are no strangers to failure. In fact, they frequently fail to achieve their objectives. But when they do fall short, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again or try something different. Their motivation is to succeed, and they will persist until they do! They will try new avenues, untested waters, and they will take risks along the way.

Maf people are generally so afraid of not reaching their goals, they will be hesitant to try anything unless there is a high likelihood that they will not fail. They will be overly careful and overly cautious when they perceive even the slightest possibility of failure. There are many steps they will never take, because the fear of failure is so overwhelming.

So what differentiates between these two extremes? One thing: their willingness to take risks!

Certainly, there is a vast difference between indiscriminate risks and calculated risks, but the most balanced people I know will not allow fear to control their thoughts, their choices and therefore, their lives.

At this pivotal point of the year, as we look back over 2013 and forward to 2014, I hope you will choose to live a life characterized by peace, joy, faith, hope and love.

Moreover, I hope you will choose to explore–to not be limited by fears of the unknown and the untested.

Bill Watterson is the genius behind the long-running comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. His final strip was published December 31, 1995. A framed copy is hanging on the wall of my office. It is a wonderful reminder of how I want to live my life.

Calvin & Hobbes, Let's Go Exploring

Calvin & Hobbes, Let’s Go Exploring
















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