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Elbert Hubbard-Fear of Making Mistakes Can Stop You from Succeeding


On my Google desktop, I have a gadget that displays quotes.  I love quotes.  For one minute of the day, it makes me think a little more deeply, than I might have, as I hurry through my day.

Today this quote came up.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continuously fearing you will make one”.  Elbert Hubbard

This one grabbed me as a truth.  I must admit, I had never heard of Elbert Hubbard.  But this quote was enough for me to be curious about the person who said it.  So once again, I resorted to the great and wonderful Google.  Mr. Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher born in 1856.  Upon doing my Google search, I found that there are many quotes attributed to Elbert Hubbard.  I didn’t read them all, but many of them I agreed with.

Here is a quote from a man, born 150 years ago, that because of its truth, transcends time.  And, if we all stop to think about it, we can see it happen in our lives.

How many times have you been stopped from doing something, because you feared making a mistake?

A 2010 Gallup poll indicated that 40 percent of Adults were afraid of public speaking.  I can speak from experience that at one time this was indeed a fear of mine.  But we all need to do public speaking at some point in time.  Now public speaking can be standing in front of an audience or participating in a group environment.

So what did I do about my fear?

When I was in high school, I decided to sign up for the Competitive Speech team.  I can hear you saying it.  “What, are you nuts?”  And at the time, I kinda thought I was too.  (LOL)  And I will tell you, that I was never the “star” of the team.  But that wasn’t the point, although it would have been nice.

The point was that I took action to overcome my fear.  The first time, I was paralyzed.  My stomach was in knots, I thought “how in the world was I going to do this”.  And I came in last.  But the judges wrote notes on their critique and I studied it and went back to my coach and we worked.  I practiced and practiced and practiced.  Then in the last of the competitions of the year, I made the power round.  And I placed second in that.  Frankly, I think my coach was a little bit amazed.  And so was I.

What was the turning point?

When I looked back on the experience, I realized that what happened was I made a connection with my audience.  And that connection made me more confident and my speech started flowing more easily.  Instead of the dreaded thing creeping out it started to have power.  Instead of people looking down, embarrassed for me, they looked up and were interested and connected.

Do I still fear public speaking?

I don’t fear it, but I do respect it and the power it has.  I still get a little bit “antsy”, but I try to use that to my advantage.  There are things that I do to make it more comfortable for myself.

1.     Be prepared.  I never go into a speech without being prepared.  I know many people who can go up there and ‘wing it”.  But that’s not me.  Once I came to accept that, I moved on.

2.     My speech must flow.  I don’t like to use notes when I get up there.  So I structure my speech so that one point leads to the next and I don’t lose my place.  I will usually carry a note card in my hand with bullet points (but it’s really a security blanket.)

3.     Practice.  I practice and practice and practice.  Sometimes out loud, but mostly to myself.  My brain goes over and over it.

4.     I make it a point to connect with several of the people in the front row.  I make eye contact and use that contact.  If I feel there is at least one connection out there, then I am ok.

I have digressed from my quote.  But I wanted to give you a real life example.

If you don’t try, even though you may fail the first, second, third time, you will never succeed.  And believe me, my friends, once you do succeed, the victory is sweet and leaves you smiling for days.  Don’t forget our circle of success.

Circle of Success

So remember to listen to Elbert’s advice.

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continuously fearing you will make one.

Don’t let your fear keep you from what you want to do.

As always, advocate for your success.


P.S.  Check the Contemplative Corner for a short video on FEAR.


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Categories : Personal Growth


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  7. Barbara Coniff says:

    I was on Sharon’s high school speech team. She did a great job and we all had fun! Sharon’s post is very insightful because it reveals two key ingredients of her success. She was humble and sought feedback. She listened to the feedback and worked with a coach to improve. She measured the results through continuing to compete. It’s a method that works for overcoming fear or for problem solving. Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!

    • Sharon says:

      Hi Barb,

      Thanks for visiting and leaving such a nice comment.

      What I would like for my readers to know is that Barb is a fantastic writer herself. When I write, I have to rewrite and rewrite and Barb would just dash off something in perfect penmanship and be done. Grrr. She spent many years in broadcasting and now works as upper management for a cause that is close to her heart.

      Wishing you all the best this year Barb for you and your delightful family.

      Love, Sharon