Failure. Even the word itself seems laden with discouragement and dejection.

Why are we so afraid of failure?

Is it because of pride and fear of humiliation?

Is it because of what others will think, that they will see us as incompetent, incapable, or even weak?

Or because of what we will think of ourselves, that we will feel inferior and foolish for even trying and thinking that we could succeed?

Failure is necessary because failure is ultimately a reality. As much as we would like to, we aren't going to excel at every single thing we do and life doesn't hand out medals for simply showing up.

A guest speaker in one of my classes this semester provided us with a great reminder, relevant to everyone but certainly to a group of seniors with a graduation date quickly approaching. He told us, "Failure is a good thing: you learn your strengths and weaknesses." He also reminded us that weaknesses are not a "bad" thing, but we so often dread talking about areas where we lack strength. If we acknowledge, weaknesses can become strengthened.

And of course, I'm a sucker for a good quote: "Don't be afraid to fail; be afraid not to try." This quote has encouraged me to just go for things and give them a shot because, honestly, I think there's nothing to lose. At the very least, you learn more about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, skills, areas of improvement, and so on.

Failure isn't weakness. Even if you "fail," this doesn't mean you haven't succeeded in some way. We can learn a lot from circumstances of defeat. I believe that you can walk away from an experience that didn't pan out quite the way you expected and still gain something valuable from it. Even simply trying is a success in itself.

Are you familiar with Bethany Hamilton? A native-Hawaiian, she practically lived in the water and learned to surf before she could even walk. When she was thirteen, she lost her left arm to a shark-attack while surfing with family-friends. She of all people would have a legitimate excuse to give up her beloved sport and not get back in the water, maybe out of fear of sharks (that would be me!) or fear of not being able to surf again. But she was determined to surf those waves and persevered through all kinds of trials and difficulties of not only surfing with one arm, but also trying to even get through each day with one arm. Within a couple years, Bethany won a national championship and now competes across the globe as a professional surfer. Her fear wasn't of failure, but of not being able to do what she loved most and she was not about to give that up.

Don't be afraid of the "what-if's" but rather the "if-only's"; be afraid to allow an opportunity to pass you by because you think you may fail. Be courageous and be fearless. After all, what is there really to lose?