Skip to main content
Move the World.

We all lose races, suffer rejection on dates, over-bake cakes, quit jobs, and let go of friendships. We stumble. We trip. We fail.

But in spite of all our missteps and misfortunes, both big and small, that happen every single day, most of us still live with an intensely innate fear of failure.

An estimated 90 percent of startup businesses fail. Eighty-two percent crash and burn due to cash flow problems.

Failure is a universal experience, yet the stigma attached to it undermines our willingness and ability to talk about it openly and honestly.

The only entrepreneurs we hear about and celebrate are those that finally succeeded. The problem with this is that if no one ever talks about their failures, everyone misses out on the opportunity to learn from past mistakes.

One provocatively named organization, F*ckup Nights, is hoping to turn the tide. F*ckup Nights encourages people around the world to have more candid conversations about their failures.

They believe doing so will unlock our ability to transform failure into a productive, rather than destructive, force in our future personal and professional endeavors. 

How a Fear of Failure Inhibits Success

We don't talk about failures because they're embarrassing. On a personal level, these reactions to failure almost always ring true, but negative feelings associated with failure are also reinforced on a broader, societal level.

No one wants to fail, and everyone fears failure to some extent because failing doesn't feel good. It brings about the pangs of confusion, disappointment, frustration, regret, and guilt. A fear of failure is essentially a fear of all these emotions.

If no one ever talks about their failures, everyone misses out on the opportunity to learn from past mistakes.

For those who actually have atychiphobia, an extreme "fear of failure" phobia, feeling like a failure triggers all of these emotions in addition to shame. The significant difference between shame and other emotions like regret and guilt, is that shame makes a person feel badly about themselves.

Whether due to having unrealistically high standards for themselves, or to living in a society that has set high standards for them, those who feel shame as a result of failure begin to avoid taking any risks - they prohibit themselves from trying anything.

And, in essence, they prohibit themselves from achieving anything because when you never take risks, you ultimately limit your potential for success. 

F*ckup Nights - Changing the Conversation Around Failure

The goal of F*ckup Nights is to strip away fear of failure in the business world by helping to remove the societal stigma - and subsequent shame - from our defeats.

Overcoming fear of failure

At F*ckup Nights, speakers wear their missteps proudly with the hope of transforming failure into a productive force in future endeavors.

They've created a traveling venue that goes across the country, hosting events where people are encouraged to share their stories of failure (tales of the times they've f*cked up). Sharing these stories, and listening to them, lifts the stigma so that the learning and healing process can begin.

F*ckup Nights isn't about celebrating failure; it's about acknowledging it in a healthy way. In doing so, people can embrace failure as a necessary step on the path to success. They figure out how to learn from past failures so they can take smarter risks in the future.

At F*ckup Nights, many participants find out that their failures weren't as detrimental as they could have been. They may learn that they've made the same mistakes as other participants. They might even encounter the opportunity to help someone else avoid a similar failure.

F*ckup Nights help strip away fear of failure in the business world by removing the societal stigma from our defeats.

Most importantly, participants make themselves vulnerable by sharing their stories with the other attendees. This vulnerability earns empathy from the audience, breaks down barriers, removes the and negativity associated with failing, and fosters the development of fast friendships and new networking opportunities. 

How to Deal with Failure, When It Happens to You

According to a recent study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, the 90 percent small business failure rate might actually be something to celebrate. The study evaluated failure and success using big data.

So big that the study's data set included nearly 800,000 grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health and venture capital investment data from a period spanning almost 50 years.

When you feel like a failure, remember this: the study's primary finding was that failure is unquestionably a prerequisite for success. Dashun Wang, who led the study, pointed out that every successful endeavor starts out with failure, but not everyone who fails becomes successful.

The primary finding was that failure is unquestionably a prerequisite for success.

Surprisingly, the differentiating factor between successful people and unsuccessful people isn't persistence. It's actually the individual's ability to learn from mistakes and the amount of time they wait before taking another risk. According to the study's results, the better a person recovers from failing, the better chance they have of eventually achieving success.

How to overcome fear of failure? When we fail, we should never give up, but objectively consider why we failed. Learning from failure, identifying and correcting mistakes, is essential to eventually being successful.

Thanks to F*ckup Nights, we can find solace by sharing our own intimately personal failure stories with others who've failed, learned, tried again, and failed again. We can shake the stigma, wear our failures proudly, and move onward to the next big adventure in life.

For more interesting news about the people and ideas that are changing our world, subscribe to Freethink.

Subscribe

Up Next

Challengers
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business Failed?
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business Failed?
Challengers
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business Failed?
Luke Kenworthy put everything he had into making his business work. But it didn't pan out. Now he's sharing what he...
By Mike Riggs

Luke Kenworthy put everything he had into making his business work. But it didn't pan out. Now he's sharing what he learned through it all.

How San Francisco Residents Saved Local Businesses
How San Francisco Residents Saved Local Businesses
Watch Now
How San Francisco Residents Saved Local Businesses
An indie book store went from struggling to thriving with a new business model. Is it the future of retail?
Watch Now

Borderlands Books is the largest English-language sci-fi, mystery, and horror book store in the world. Mission: Comics and Art is a combination comic book shop and art gallery. Both were preparing to close up shop in a tough retail environment as costs rose. Alan Beatts called a community meeting of his customers. A new idea came out of it - selling store memberships. After an outpouring of support, he sold hundreds of...

Challengers
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing the World
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing the World
Challengers
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing the World
Fast Company and Freethink bring you powerful stories of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
By Mike Riggs

Fast Company and Freethink bring you powerful stories of a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Coded
From Multi-Millionaire Bitcoin Entrepreneur to Inmate and Back Again
From Multi-Millionaire Bitcoin Entrepreneur to Inmate and Back Again
Coded
From Multi-Millionaire Bitcoin Entrepreneur to Inmate and Back Again
The story of how Charlie Shrem built his business as a Bitcoin pioneer, lost it all, and is now clawing his way back.
By Michael O'Shea

The story of how Charlie Shrem built his business as a Bitcoin pioneer, lost it all, and is now clawing his way back.

This Fearless Principal Used UFC & Skateboards to Save a Failing School
This Fearless Principal Used UFC & Skateboards to Save a Failing School
Watch Now
This Fearless Principal Used UFC & Skateboards to Save a Failing School
How one relentless, unconventional principal rallied an underdog school.
Watch Now

Hamish Brewer, the unconventional principal of Fred Lynn Middle School, went viral and won praise for his work turning the school around. But can he rally the school to the next huge milestone - regaining accreditation? Since moving from New Zealand to the United States, tattooed, skateboarding principal Hamish Brewer has helped inspire teachers and students at lower-income schools to smash people’s expectations. After his...

Breaking Abuse Victims’ Financial Handcuffs
Breaking Abuse Victims’ Financial Handcuffs
Watch Now
Breaking Abuse Victims’ Financial Handcuffs
This amazing organization is doing whatever it takes to help domestic violence victims survive on their own.
Watch Now

Often the biggest barrier to leaving an abusive relationship is its cost. Without the means to support themselves or their children, or as a result of economic abuse, many people end up suffering domestic violence for far too long. FreeFrom was founded by Sonya Passi, a law student who’d co-founded the Family Violence Appellate Project to provide pro-bono legal representation for survivors of domestic violence. She...

Crossing the Divide
Why Does Officer Tommy Norman Have a Million Instagram Followers?
Why Does Officer Tommy Norman Have a Million Instagram Followers?
Crossing the Divide
Why Does Officer Tommy Norman Have a Million Instagram Followers?
Officer Tommy Norman's work has drawn national attention recently, but his approach to policing is nothing new.
By Michael O'Shea

Officer Tommy Norman's work has drawn national attention recently, but his approach to policing is nothing new.

Crossing The Divide
A White Cop and Black Barber Team Up to Bring Peace to Their City
A White Cop and Black Barber Team Up to Bring Peace to Their City
Watch Now
Crossing The Divide
A White Cop and Black Barber Team Up to Bring Peace to Their City
A local barber teams up with an officer to ease tensions in their community.
Watch Now

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, Shaun “Lucky” Corbett, a barber in Charlotte, was inspired to do his part to bring peace to his community. Lucky teamed up with Officer Rob Dance to start a mentoring program that has opened up an important dialogue between the officers and the community.