Running Away From Failure
As a child and teen, I have many memories of pursuing things that I had a natural talent in. Conversely, I was adept at running away from all things that I sucked at. If even a modicum of failure presented itself to me, I would quit. I quit football and wrestling in high school after the first day because, in my mind, it was physically too hard. I thought to myself, “I’m not cut out for this.” In reality, I had never been pushed hard enough in my life to know that no matter how difficult that first day was, if I had just kept showing up, I would have become much better, and it would have become easier. Studies have shown that loss is 2 times psychologically more damaging than a win is beneficial. Our evolutionary past is fighting against us once again.
The traditional school model is the worst at teaching kids that failure is ok. We learn from a very early age that you must pass (win) your tests and never fail (lose). Certain parenting styles also engrain a fear of failure early in children. So often, we stop our young children from doing anything that could harm them, even in the slightest. We prevent them from experimenting due to messiness. Sometimes we will even do chores for our children because it’s easier to do it ourselves than to let them mess up the dozens of times necessary before getting it right.
We begin to internalize that Fail = I am bad, and Success = I am good. This causes us to instinctively avoid anything that we are not innately good at and pursue only the activities that lend to our natural talent. This can cause a cascading effect over time of stagnation and avoidance of learning. In this piece, I will discuss how to begin to think of failure as good and something we should enthusiastically pursue to live a life of learning and success.
Failure as a Tool
At this point in my life, failure has become enjoyable and something that I seek out. If my boss asks me to participate in something that I have no knowledge of, I genuinely jump at the opportunity without a second thought. I immediately associate something new with learning and curiosity. Slowly, over time I have retrained my brain that failure is good. I no longer place a value on myself for failing or succeeding in any given endeavor. Making this psychological switch has unlocked so many opportunities to learn and improve. If I had the Failure = bad mindset, I would have avoided any and all new circumstances that made me uncomfortable or unsure.
Success is a culmination of all the failures leading up to becoming successful at anything. 1000’s of failures are often what it takes to attain even 1 win. Take Tennis, for example. It is impossible to be great at tennis when first starting out. You can have a natural talent for it, but only the completion of 1000’s of swings will get you a competent forehand. Apply this principle to anything else in life; Music, Math, Singing. You have to be prepared to fail over and over before becoming great.
With this knowledge, you can begin to think of failure as a tool in the toolbox of success. We know that persistence (grit) is one of the markers of successful people. In my opinion, persistence is the practice of failing over and over without stopping. Practice cannot make perfect, but it will make better.
Fail to succeed
My past failures that lead to success have given me a life-changing mindset. I have the utmost confidence in myself that anything I start will become successful. I only can think this way due to failing over and over until I succeed. For example, while in Physical Therapy school, I knew that I would always pass my tests as long as I put the work in ahead of time. Hard work, perseverance, and a drive for excellence have been the recipe for success in my life.
For you to gain the same confidence, you must also begin failing. You must go out on a limb and begin to try new and uncomfortable things. Only after the personal experience of persistent failure leading to success will you possess the same superpower. Failed the first time you tried something new? Good. Assess what you did wrong and try again. Begin to think of failure as an unavoidable part of success, and you will begin to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn something new and expand your knowledge base. Anything new to you is an opportunity to fail upward.
Take a chance; fail today at something new and intimidating. Then, when it feels bad, tell yourself that you learned and will be better the next time. Repeat this over and over, and eventually, your mindset will shift from that of fear of failure to one of failure seeking. I can’t wait to hear your stories that have to lead to success. Please leave comments below or leave us a voice message at https://www.gettingfatgoingbroke.com/message/. If you do, we will gladly respond to it on our next podcast recording.