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April 11, 2019
September 26, 2023

The Fear of Avoiding Failure

Most leaders have, at one point or another, experienced the fear of failure. Ed Catmull, the recently-retired president of Pixar and Disney Animation, says that we should have an even greater fear of being a leader who avoids failure at all costs. In his wonderful book on creative leadership, titled Creativity, Inc., Catmull states that “mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new.”

Avoiding failure inevitably results in stagnation. We do the same old thing over and over again because it has proven to work. But innovation and growth require a degree of risk. The most successful leaders experience and learn from failure on a regular basis. To quote Catmull again, “If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: you are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy … dooms you to fail.”

While failure is a necessary part of the life of a leader, it is not easy to face. Failure is painful for everyone. Here are two Scriptures to help you avoid the fear of failure and move forward in your leadership:

  1. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The specific fear this verse is referring to is the fear of final judgment. But because of God’s perfect love for us in Christ, all who trust in Jesus have no need to fear the final judgment. Our eternity is secure, and our identity is secure, in Christ. No business failure or social embarrassment can change that.
  2. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). As Jesus sent the disciples out to make disciples, He sends us out to declare and demonstrate the gospel to our church, our city, and the nations. And He promises to be with us, in times of success and times of failure.

What is your next step in leadership that you have been dreaming about taking for God? Starting a Bible study with your neighbors? Applying for a promotion so that you can have a greater influence for Christ with your coworkers? Taking the first step toward being a goer among unreached peoples? Multiplying your Missional Community into two or more groups?

Whatever God has placed on your heart and mind, don’t let the fear of failure keep you from taking that next step. For failure is nothing to be feared.

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John Murchison
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Austin Stone Institute
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