Fear of Failure

25 July 2016 By Will Brodie

Something that our Williamson Alumni are familiar with is, open the door to discussing failure in order to make progress as highlighted in Immunity to Change.  Paul Chapman discusses the need to have these frank conversations.


“Perseverance and persistence, encouragement and humour.”

These words capture the spirit of businessman Paul Chapman.

“It is in failing that we grow and learn how to improve.”

The ideas are simple but powerful in a society where accountability is often coveted more than innovation.

The Bendigo-based businessman successfully took his turntable venture to the world – after many missteps – and he now wants to encourage fellow Aussies to be bold.

“It’s in Australia’s DNA if you get knocked down you just get up again and have a crack.

“The attitude that we can do it, I feel that’s been lost in the last 20 years.

“We had a reputation that if there was a problem, we could get through it. That’s been diluted. The fear of failure and risk management is stifling innovation.”

 “We’ve become risk-averse, it’s thwarted our initiative,” Chapman says. “I’d like to see more of a glass-half-full approach to everything we do in Australia. We can do anything we like. Stop focusing on the challenges.

“I see people get overwhelmed by problems that are fixable… We need to be able to say ‘that’s hurt me, but I get up tomorrow’.”

He says he’s been amazed at how many people have wanted to share their lowest moments and the impact of their stories.

“The reaction you can see it in people’s faces: ‘Oh, shit, I’ve been there, I’ve done that!’

“The sooner I tell everyone about my stuff-up, and get it off my chest, the sooner I can get on with things.”

Chapman suspects that the stigma of failure is linked strongly to depression, suicide and domestic violence. “There are ways of approaching failure, you can deal with it if you have prepared and you’re ready for it.”

Cheerful and positive, Chapman has found opportunities in the most unexpected circumstances. Recovering from a knee operation, he chatted with his surgeon, who said he attends conferences where practitioners can only share successes if they share a mistake.

 “You can bet your house on it – if it hasn’t already, something is going to go wrong! But the sun still comes up the next day, you’re still standing.

“I’ve been around long enough to know you get through it.

“Failure is about getting better.

“Australia has so much going for it. We need to remember how well we can do things.”

Paul Chapman, is the co-founder of Festival of Failure beginning 27 July 2017