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You dream of being an actress. You can recite every line of your favorite movie roles from memory, and with amazing passion…when you’re alone in your room. In your heart, you know you have talent, but you’ve never been onstage. Then one day, the announcement is posted on the school bulletin board: Do you add your name to the list? Or do you hold back, frozen by the thought that you might not get a part? Or maybe drama isn’t your thing. Maybe you want to run for student council, or enter the science fair, or go out for track, or just make friends with that new girl you spotted in the cafeteria the other day. Whatever the challenge, one thing is certain: If you don’t make your move, nothing will happen. Sitting on the sidelines guarantees that you won’t: • Take a bow on opening night of the play • Take first place at the science fair • Win the race • Make a new friend Of course that’s not what you want. You have too much going for you to want to settle for going nowhere. But if fear of failure sometimes keeps you frozen on the sidelines…well, you’re not alone. It’s just plain scary to put yourself out there. And the more desperately you want something, the scarier it is.
The Key to Success
So are successful people different? Are they just born immune to failure and the fear that comes with it? Do they bounce from one stunning victory to the next, collecting awards and trophies, never knowing the humiliation of defeat like the rest of us? Hardly. Take, for example, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, who won an Academy Award last year for her very first movie role in the musical Dreamgirls. Critics praised not only her amazing singing but also her brilliant acting, describing her as “thrilling to watch” and “the heart and soul” of the movie. It’s fair to say that she stole the show from Beyonce, her famous co-star. Three years before Dreamgirls, Jennifer was a “failure” on American Idol. In two of the first three shows, she received the second-lowest number of votes. She was finally voted off the show in seventh place. Jennifer could have decided her dream of becoming a great singer simply wasn’t meant to be, because she’d tried…and failed. Instead, she kept trying. Jennifer spent the summer on the American Idol tour and a year taking whatever singing jobs she could find. Then came the casting call for Dreamgirls, and Jennifer auditioned—along with 782 others, including Fantasia Barrino, who’d beaten Jennifer for the title of “American Idol.” The rest, as they say, is history. Jennifer knew that losing on American Idol didn’t mean she’d reached the end of the road. She may have been disappointed and discouraged, but she wasn’t about to give up on her dream. She took what she’d learned and tried again. And again. She dared to fail—over and over.. And actually, most successful people do fail repeatedly, often spectacularly. That’s really what sets them apart from the rest of us, not their shelves full of trophies or their piles of blue ribbons or their oversized bank accounts. (Need more proof? Check out “Famous Failures.” )
• Walt Disney’s first cartoon production company went bankrupt. • Actress Julia Roberts auditioned for the soap opera All My Children, but didn’t get the part.
• Actress Jennifer Aniston had roles in three failed TV series before landing the part of
Rachel on the hit sitcom Friends..
• Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to
• Michael Jordan, considered by the National Basketball Association to be “the greatest
basketball player of all time,” was cut from his high school basketball team.
• Judy Blume, known for her bestselling children’s novels, had her stories rejected by every
publisher she sent them to, until she signed up for writing classes. Her final assignment became her first published novel. Overcoming Fear Okay, so let’s get back to that fear—the awful feeling that’s holding you back from signing up for play auditions. (Or whatever.) If knowing that successful people fail, too, isn’t enough to help you plow right past it, keep these fear-busting tips in mind:
1. Bring Your Best
What would make you feel worse: Losing a race after weeks of training, or losing a race after not training at all? It might seem as though you’d feel worse if you’d put in more effort and then lost. (You could have spent all that training time doing something fun!) But actually, the opposite is true. It’s impossible to feel good about yourself when you haven’t even tried. Yes, you may work really, really hard only to find out that someone else runs faster, and you’re left with second place or worse. That’s disappointing, but it’s also completely out of your hands. You can’t control someone else’s performance; you can only control your own. But if you bring your best, give it your all, you will have something to be proud of, whatever the outcome.
2. Change the Voice in Your Head
Do you ever think, I just can’t mess this up! Or worse, I just know I’m going to fail!? When you’re so worried about doing badly, you end up stressing yourself out, and ironically, that stress prevents you from doing your best. Stop! Picture yourself acing the test, the audition, or whatever. Now switch the voice in your head to positive statements only: I’ve worked hard. I’m well prepared. I’m going to do my best. I’m ready for this….You deserve nothing less than the same encouragement you’d give your very best friend.
3. Get a New View
Let’s say you audition for the play but don’t get the lead. Don’t tell yourself you failed. Tell yourself you gained valuable experience, learned how to do better next time. Maybe you need to spend more time practicing your lines, or to speak more clearly. Ask someone whose opinion you respect for her advice, too. Chances are you’ll learn tons of information to help you next time. It’s all in your point of view. Instead of failing, you took giant steps on the road to success.
4. You Define You…Insist on It!
Other people may be eager to tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t let their expectations define you. Learn to listen to your intuition—the voices inside that tell you what’s right for you. You’ll know that you have the will, the drive, and the talent to succeed, whether your goal is something smaller, like acing a class project, or a huge dream with many steps, like winning a spot on the Olympic swim team. Catherine Lee, the founder of this magazine, says that if someone else can’t picture your dreams coming true, they may just lack your great vision. When she first started Discovery Girls, a group of publishing executives told her that the business would fail. Why? A magazine with “ordinary” girls on the cover wouldn’t sell on newsstands. Magazines needed stars or models on the cover to be popular. Seven years later, Discovery Girls is the bestselling tween magazine on newsstands across the country and has a readership of over 800,000 girls. (Think about it: If Catherine had listened to the “experts,” you wouldn’t be reading this article right now!) So remember: Let the wisdom of your inner voice guide you through your
toughest times. Of course, no matter how good you may get at accepting it, feeling like you’ve failed is never fun. It still hurts when you miss a goal or someone else walks away with a prize you’ve been dreaming of for months. So for those moments when you feel truly stuck…when you think you just can’t try one more time….when you’re starting to doubt yourself…remember Jennifer Hudson. And Walt Disney. And Julia Roberts. And Jennifer Aniston. And Thomas Edison. And if you’re failing once, twice, three times, or more…surely you’re bound for greatness! Now get out there and prove it!
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