Fear of Failure

Here comes diabetes.

There’s a Chocolate Fair this week!

My goal for the first 90 days is to learn to speak Italian. A few days ago I kept feeling I was going to fail at it. I was spending time on other activities, besides studying or speaking. I went walking. I took long lunches. I played computer games. It seemed like I wasn’t taking this mission seriously and I would have nothing to show for my three months in Italy. Which also meant I would fail at Japanese and German (of course). And the rest of my life really (just a logical conclusion).

...and alcoholism

Lunch in front of the Palazzo Vecchio

Then I realized I’d only been here for three nights. I had to catch up on sleep, fight jet lag, find an ATM, a grocery store, a cell phone plan, and a library card (of course).  So I told myself to chill. Just allow enough fear to motivate me to focus.

Because I do have to watch out. Time is a strange thing. At the beginning 90 days seems like a huge amount of time. Plenty to get lots of things done. But at the end it will feel like it flew by. I’ll be wondering why I didn’t accomplish more, and what I spent the time on.

I know it helps to align my study schedule to my energy levels throughout the day. I used to know when I worked best, but jet lag threw that off. Now I can’t even predict when I’m going to be awake, much less when I’ll have energy to study. Finding the library has been very helpful. I can at least go there right after getting breakfast and spend an hour studying. As I write it, that doesn’t seem like much. Maybe I’ll start going twice a day.


The Reading Room at the National Library of Florence

I’m committed to practicing my vocabulary words daily, usually before lunch. They’re on an app on my phone, so I can review them anywhere I am, whenever I’m ready. And I start every conversation in Italian, even if I use English to finish it. Right now it’s mostly with waiters at restaurants and coffee shops. But I’m starting to talk to strangers too.

Knowing I told so many people about my goal helps as well. I feel like everyone is expecting me to succeed. Whether I succeed or fail I want to be able to say I did everything in my control.

It’s good to have a goal. It’s OK to be afraid of failure. The goal wouldn’t mean as much if success were guaranteed. It’s OK to be hard enough on myself to make sure I keep heading toward the goal. And it’s OK to be easy enough on myself that I enjoy the journey. Just having a goal at all means I’ll get farther along than if I didn’t have one.

Now that I’ve been at it a week I think I’m going to make real significant progress at Italian. But even if I don’t, I’m loving the experience so much that I have already decided the trip is a success.

Plus, I can always tell everyone I’m fluent in Italian and then fake it.

Next month I get to start worrying about Japanese.

Why am I craving sushi?

The fish foot massage seems like it might have come from Japan.

5 Replies to “Fear of Failure”

  1. Jessica

    That library is gorgeous! I need to find one like that…

    I have no doubt that you’ll learn Italian (and Japanese and German) because you just love talking to people too darn much.

  2. Nathan

    Yeah, see, failure just isn’t something I associate with you, Marcus. I mean, sure, I’ve seen you not succeed a time or two (perhaps as many as half-a-dozen), but the only way to totally avoid failure is to never attempt anything, and not quitting is a big part of not failing. There’s no question that you’re game for new stuff, and you’ve sure got the not quitting thing down pat – you know when to cut your losses, but you don’t just give up ’cause something’s not easy. These are among the things I’ve always admired about you.

    So, yeah, we do expect you to succeed, but it’s more the “anticipate” and “are rooting for you” sort of expectation.

      • Nathan

        Just tellin’ it like it is. 🙂

        I don’t remember if I told you, but your eldest nephew has decided that Uncle Marcus and Uncle Josh will have to take him to to Egypt to find the Sphinx’s nose, because y’all are the only ones “powerful enough” to do so (he was on a “where is the Sphinx’s nose?” kick at the time). With that kind of endorsement surely learning a measly few languages in a whole, entire year comes under the heading of “piffle”, right? 😀

  3. Pingback: How to Learn to Speak Another Language | A Year of Travel

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