Sunday, August 7, 2011

Burning the Boat

         When I’m watching Pilipinas Got Talent, I am awed by the myriad of talents Filipinos have. There are folks doing breakdance, playing a Canon piece on blindfolded eyes, belting out and chewing nuts at the same time, rapping unrhymed verses on discordant notes. The only difference why they are there and I am watching them in front of my television is that they are fearless; they are determined to reach their dreams and they have come to get only one answer, either a YES or a NO. They do not fear failure and they are only focused on getting their desired result. What’s amusing though is that some of them are comebacks who are unceasingly trying their luck in the hope of getting another chance. I am always amazed by other people’s virtue of “never say never.

          According to a certain website, there are seven ways to overcome the fear of failure:

1.              Consider the cost of missed opportunities. One line from a movie Proof says “The biggest risk in life is not taking one.” We are often avoiding challenging tasks because we doubt our own capabilities to accomplish them. We don’t realize that avoiding high risk/high reward opportunities would cost us an avenue to further our skills and improve ourselves. We may choose to remain where we currently are and live a contented, happy life; however, we may not learn something new, may get stuck in the same routine and may eventually be stopped from making our own mark.

2.          Research the alternatives. The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. We all know that the fear of the unknown is why Tom Riddle created horcruxes. But what he failed to do was to fully research other means of defying death such as hallows which he never discovered. If we are daunted to deliver a speech in front of many people, we may consider why we are having such negative notion. We may begin with knowing our audience to feel comfortable, followed by selecting a topic and then writing the outline of our speech to be reassured that we can get our message across. Preparation is the first step to conquer the fear of public speaking. We may research the potential outcomes of our every action so we may clearly understand the benefits and risks in order to make right and logical decisions.

3.             Put the worst-case scenario in perspective. In Computer Science specifically in Analysis of Algorithms, we have what is called a Big O Notation to express the worst-case scenario for a given algorithm which is generally the longest time an algorithm performs. Similarly, if we fall short of our goals, we may consider how long it will take us to realistically recover. How hard is it to find another job? How much will it cost to increase the company’s production? We must consider the things that may go wrong and make the necessary preparations.

4.          Understand the benefits of failure. It is believed that Thomas Edison failed more than a thousand times before he was able to make a functional incandescent bulb. It is in line with what Emerson said, “Life is a series of experiments; the more you make, the better.” At times we cannot accomplish something on the first shot but that shouldn’t give us a reason to stop trying. For instance, I failed the first time I took the TIBCO Certification Exam but I wasn’t discouraged. I was able to succeed the second time.

5.          Make a contingency plan. We can make a checklist of various options to consider when taking a risky action. This will ensure that we will have a solid backup plan if our first option fails. If you are traveling on an airplane, you will notice that there are safety instructions given before take-off. Riding a plane is itself a risk and the crew provides parachutes and gives emergency landing measures in case of untoward incidents. Similarly, we need to determine what these parachutes are in making critical decisions.

6.        Take action. The best way to build confidence and reduce fear is by taking action. Sometimes writers experience a phenomenon called writer’s block. A writer often waits for inspiration in order to kick off. Unfortunately the kick doesn’t come all the time and at the right time. To better combat this predicament, one should practise jotting down ideas on a notepad no matter how incoherent they may be. Doing so helps a writer have his ideas flowing gradually which is better than having a blank sheet for a long time.

7.            Burn the boats. The first thing Greek armies would do when they travelled across the sea for battle is to burn their boats. This action only leaves them two choices: to succeed or to fail. Burning the boat is standing on a stage to audition for a play, a trust fall, a make-it-or-break-it performance. If you are undecided about going back to school or having your dream vacation, why don’t you schedule an entrance exam ahead or book a plane ticket in advance? In that way, you will be able to eliminate your doubts, come up with a firm decision and commit on achieving your goals.

I have learned from a certain priest that the phrase Fear Not is used in the Bible 365 times. Why should you be fearful? Jesus spoke to the disciples “Take courage and do not be afraid.” I believe fear is only an absence of faith and if you have faith in God and in yourself, the boat to be burned will get you safely to the real battle amidst the raging storm.

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