The Fear of Failure


I’m not sure exactly when I decided I wanted to become an actuary, but I do know that I’ve been saying it for years. Despite this, I have only just recently taken Exam P. “Why?” you may ask….

There were many reasons for me holding off the test until now: school, work, life, laziness, etc. I can give you so many excuses as to why I’ve put it off for this long. I realize now that while these were all definitely factors, they can all be attributed to one common cause: my fear of failure.

As the years have passed, I have told countless people my career goals and aspirations. Doing so gave me a false sense of comfort. Actually taking the exam meant that there was a possibility of not passing… a possibility of failure that I did not want to face. If I failed, I would no longer derive the false sense of comfort that I had grown accustomed to. However, as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. Just stating your ambitions does not bring you any closer to them: to get any further you must take action.

Although I did not put myself in the position to fail the exam, my mistake was even worse: I was letting my dreams slip right through my fingers. It wasn’t until I was about to finish my undergraduate career that I began to face reality, and by then, it was already too late. I had everything I needed to succeed while in college, but I had let the opportunity escape me.

I think it’s okay if you mess up. You just have to take a step back and find out what actions will lead you back on the right trajectory towards your goals. I’m currently in a graduate program for applied statistics. I’m planning to develop my hard skills by learning Excel/VBA/SAS, etc. I’ve recently taken and passed Exam P. I’m taking Exam FM and hopefully passing in February. These are just some of the steps that I’m taking to help me get back on track. This experience was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it truly helped me to put my view towards life and my ambitions in the right perspective.

Learn from your mistakes and make them count. I am no longer afraid of not passing exams. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Taking action (and possibly failing) is infinitely better than inaction. Your dreams are worth the risk and it is never too late to pursue them.