Don’t let a fear of failure stand between you and success. Instead, learn to fail intelligently.

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A life lived without failure is not only not possible, it’s not even desirable. Failure makes us stronger, smarter and more resilient.

Indeed, excessive fear of failure can prevent us from attaining our dreams. If you’re too afraid to make a move because it might fail, you will not only never succeed at anything, you will, by default, have failed.

Failure is good because it drives us to go deeper to ponder what is important and what is not. Failure teaches us what our strengths are and shows us where we need to improve. The fact is, we learn a lot more from failure than we do from success, and for that reason alone it shouldn’t be avoided, but embraced.

Mind you, none of this means failure doesn’t hurt. It can and it does. When you’re going through it, the pain can be intense. You may even feel as if nothing will ever work out for you again. All you can do is remind yourself that this feeling will pass and that you are not alone.

Because everyone fails. You may think this isn’t true because our society so values success that all the attention goes to the people who have “made it,” but don’t forget that every single one of those success stories involved failure (probably lots of it) somewhere along the road. So whatever you do, don’t waste time trying to cover up your failure — and try not to compare yourself to other people.

Now, no one is saying you should just throw caution to the wind and randomly try stuff. Instead, strive to “fail intelligently.” Make a Plan B in case what you’re attempting doesn’t work out. Assess the risks and costs of possible failure — because sometimes it really is better to just not go there.

The idea is to find a balance between fear of failure, which translates to never doing anything, and simple imprudence, which translates to numerous unnecessary setbacks. You get there with practice.

What’s important is that you are continuously improving. Remember that old saying that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result? It’s true. Make sure you are always learning, always adjusting your strategies, and you’ll be OK.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at