Essay on the Right to Fail

In the 21st century, the fear of failure hinders many from chasing who they want to be. Many rely on affirmation from their peers before they do anything that could lead to failure. Failure is detested by many and avoided at all costs. But what would happen if instead of constantly trying to succeed, we tried to fail? Failure is how we learn; it shows us who we are and what we are made of. Failure itself is the product of boldly trying something without concern of what others will think.

In his book, Chasing Failure, Ryan Leak tells of a time when he had the opportunity to meet his hero, Kobe Bryant. In preparation of meeting his absolute hero, Leak began thinking of things that he and his hero had in common. The day came and as Leak sat talking with Kobe Bryant, he got an idea for a documentary project. The project posed this question: what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? For Leak, he would try out for the NBA. As he told Kobe his pitch, Kobe replied, “Do it.” A few weeks later, Ryan Leak, a nobody from Dallas, Texas showed up to try out for the Phoenix Suns. And he got exactly what he went for–failure. Leak says, “Chasing failure took me further than chasing success ever did” (Leak 40).

The fear of failure is, in fact, a phobia. Just like claustrophobia prevents one from enjoying the rush of a rollercoaster, atychiphobia certainly prevents one from encountering true success. In many cases of atychiphobia, people are so afraid of failing that they sabotage their own efforts by not even trying to succeed at a hard task (Marcin). However, people can only know if they will succeed if they at least try. By trying, the chance of succeeding is drastically increased. So maybe you fail, but what if you don’t?

Often we stop trying to move forward after failure. In a Harvard Business Paper, Peter Bregman reported, “When you fail half the time, figure out what you should do differently and try again. That’s practice. And according to recent studies, 10,000 hours of that kind of practice will make you an expert in anything. No matter where you start” (Bregman). This advice has proven true with some of the most successful people in history. Thomas Edison failed at inventing the light bulb over 1,000 times, and because of his failures, we now have light bulbs. Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots in his career, and because of persistence through his failures, he is one of the greatest basketball players of all time because he used his failure to propel him forward. The Beatles were told their music was out of style, but they rose above their fear of failing and became the best-selling music group of all time (Tate). It is evident that true success is, in fact, the fruit of failure.

Our world tells us to try new things only if you know for certain that you will succeed, and when you don’t, you should move on to a different dream. However, with this “safe” mindset, we short sell who we can really become and what we really can do. With big dreams comes great risk and with great risk comes great potential. Shooting for success is safe. But shooting for failure puts everything you have on the line. Want to be president? Run for office. Sure, you may receive criticism, but what if you don’t? Want to be a professional recording artist? Try out for American Idol. Maybe the judges will hate you, but they just might give you a golden ticket. Want to be in the NBA? Go try out for a team. You may get cut, but you just might make the roster. So here’s a proposal: just try to fail. In the pursuit of your wildest dream, you certainly will find what you’re made of.

Works Cited

  1. Bregman, Peter. “Why You Need to Fail.” Harvard Business Review, 23 July 2014,
  2. Leak, Ryan. Chasing Failure. BLURB, 2016.
  3. Marcin, Ashley. “Atychiphobia: Understanding Fear of Failure.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Dec. 2017,
  4. Tate, Amethyst. “Celebs Who Went from Failures to Success Stories.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 25 July 2012,  
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