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“Okay, Houston, we have a problem here.” Jack Swigert spoke those words on April 13, 1970, when he and the crew of Apollo 13 realized they had a serious mechanical failure on their hands.

Imagine for a moment that, upon hearing this, the reaction in Houston (NASA’s command center on the ground) was not to elevate their skills, knowledge, and resources to devise solutions that would bring everyone aboard Apollo 13 home safely. What if instead the reaction was to throw up their hands and say, “Well, that didn’t work, we’re out.”

A dramatic example, I know. But no matter the scale of the failure or setback, we must choose to elevate our performance and try again to find a new, better way rather than throw in the towel. If, when designing the first rocket ship, the team of engineers had given up after the first setback, there would be no rocket ships. This is also true for every human-developed device or process we use in our daily lives today.

Goals cannot be achieved, and solutions cannot be developed without the acceptance of and willingness to learn from our failures and setbacks. Toddlers are certainly not capable of intellectually understanding this concept, yet no matter how many times they fall, they get back up and try to take one more step, until they have developed the strength and coordination to walk. Somewhere along the way, we develop Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) that, if not faced, can stifle our instinct to keep trying.

Fearless leaders are committed to pushing past their FUD and soldiering on. They understand their responsibility to model acceptance and even encouragement of failures and how to learn and recover from them—but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Here are four steps that can help you get back in the game, no matter how hard the fail.

  1. Maintain Perspective
    Failing is about trying. Failing is about taking a risk and learning something new. Setbacks are not the end; they’re the beginning of the next step forward.  

    When you remember to appreciate the value of trying and sometimes failing, you will reframe your perspective and instead of defaulting to defeat, you’ll begin to ask defining questions that lead you to your next step. Such questions as: “How can I/we improve this process, service, relationship, etc.?” “Is this the right goal and direction for me/the team/the organization?” “What pieces did work that will help us move forward?” 
  2.  Plan Your Pivot
    We plan for success. What would it look like to plan for the “what ifs”? While we can’t foresee every obstacle that may occur, we can identify the key ones that may trip us up along our path to success. Once you’ve laid out your plans for how you will obtain your goals, assess them for potential challenges and make a secondary plan on how to pivot for success should those challenges come to be.
  3. Support Clear Thinking
    While things may often feel out of our control, we can control (most of the time) three key ingredients to maintaining our mental clarity: Sleep, Exercise, and Nutrition.  

    Sleep: Consistently getting a good night’s sleep offers many health benefits, from thinking more clearly and improving your mood to reducing your stress and lowering your risk of serious health problems. You can find tips on how to get a good night’s sleep at Healthy Sleep Habits.

    Exercise: Need to boost your mood and energy levels? Get moving. Something as simple as a thirty minute walk can boost your mood and energy levels and increase your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones, and increase muscle power and endurance.

    Nutrition: Providing your mind and body with a constant flow of nutrients throughout the day will increase your energy level, boost your immune system, and improve your concentration and attention span.  
  4. Step Away
    For those times when you just can’t seem to get unstuck and find a path forward, step away from the issue. Taking a break and changing focus even for a short while has many benefits including: 
    • Improving decision-making abilities 
    • Enhancing creativity 
    • Increasing memory and focus 

Don’t let FUD stop you from moving forward. Have a plan in place to help you move past it—a plan that strengthens your instinct to keep trying.  

Remember, you are the quarterback of your life, so get back in the game and throw your team the winning pass. 



The FUD Factor

Magnify your positive impact on the world by learning how to remove fear, uncertainty and doubt in yourself and the people around you. This book offers an in-depth, actionable approach to uncovering your fearless leadership potential.

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