Want to know one of the secrets to success? It’s probably not what you think it is…
Today’s post is about how to be supremely successful whatever you’re doing in the world.
But it’s not a cheat list that tells you how to exercise, eat & sleep well, or have a failsafe routine etc.
It’s about failing.
Actually, to be totally accurate, it’s about failing & learning. It’s about recognising that failing is part of your journey of personal growth and ultimately, your success.
The problem is that failure is often seen as a dirty word. It represents the antithesis of success. Often, we build up such a fear of failure that it outweighs our will to take action. If we choose to let fear win, then we do not allow ourselves to flourish and unleash our superpowers in the world.
If, however, we choose to learn from our failures and use the learnings to become stronger, this can become rocket fuel for future accomplishment.
Stigma of Failure
From an early age, we are inherently conditioned to think that failure is bad. We are expected not to fail our exams, not to fail at sports, not to fail alongside peers, etc.
We have come to associate shame with failure when it occurs. We then throw on an unhealthy amount of guilt on top when we haven’t been able to prevent it.
These feelings have become hardwired in us since childhood and unfortunately, carry through into adulthood.
Reframe the Shame
Shame is unhealthily entwined with failure.
In many cultures, failure is perceived as weakness, and so it becomes something to aggressively prevent, rather than acknowledge its presence and recognise its role in future growth.
Thomas Edison, famously once said about inventing the lightbulb, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. We have to uncouple shame from failure, and then get rid of the shame altogether. We must take Edison’s example of failing, learning, dusting off and trying again.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, Whitney Johnson, acclaimed leadership expert and academic, wrote about the need to “jettison shame”. She explains…”once we pull shame out of the equation, we eliminate the drag on innovating and gain the lift we need to accelerate back into daring.”
Looking at her diagram below, you can see the perpetual benefit to yourself of exorcising shame and turning failure into being a part of your continuous growth cycle.
The Difference between Failure & Mistakes
In a recent podcast interview, Phil M Jones talked to us about the difference between mistakes and failures. It’s important to distinguish between the two of them, and you’ll see why below.
Mistakes happen from situations we’ve been in before. We will recognise them, and therefore have some control over the outcomes. In theory, we should be able to prevent mistakes.
Failures are new experiences in an unfamiliar situation. Because we haven’t been here before, it’s likely that we don’t fully know what to do, how to do it or what might get in the way, let alone what to expect as an outcome. Despite all this, we too often beat ourselves up because we treat it the same as we would if we made a mistake.
Failure is about learning.
We have to recognise that it’s not a mistake of something we already know, but that it’s a new experience in our lives. We should shrug our shoulders and do our best to make it fun to learn from.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger
Friedrich Nietzsche coined the above statement so eloquently – in short, let your failures grow you.
So here our tips for you to help you embrace your failures as fuel for your future success:
- Gamify it: Take control of variables in an unfamiliar situation. For example, if you hate the thought of networking, turn it into a game. Set yourself the challenge to speak to five people just for the heck of it. No expectations, no new business, no nothing. Just meet five people for the heck of it. See what you learn from it.
- Congratulate yourself for epic bombs: if every comedian stopped whenever they told a tumbleweed joke, we’d live in a very unfunny world. As mortifying as a bomb (presentations, job interviews, startups) can be, embrace it. Learn from it, congratulate yourself for getting out unscathed and come back stronger next time.
- Ask yourself: what can I learn from this from next time? What things can you take away from an experience of failure that will make the next time better? How did you feel? What did you do? How did others react? Take note, either mentally or write it down, but it’s important to acknowledge it.
- Learn from others: Ask your friends about their failures. Explore the internet to learn how famous (successful people) failed and came back stronger. You can also read our article on the art of the reframe by clicking here.
In summary, it's ok to screw up. In fact, it’s more than ok. It’s imperative. But equally important is the need to learn from it. From there, you grow stronger for the next time around.
We’re no strangers to failure at Mavericks Unlimited. We've definitely bombed, crashed out, epically failed along our journey. But, just like Nietzsche said, it's made us infinitely stronger.
Switch launching in December 2017
We’re launching our course, Switch, next month. It’s designed to help people through moments of change and in it, we feature failures as an important tool to map the future.
If you’re in a change moment or about to go through one, then Switch might be super important for you.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more details, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can’t wait that long and we’d be delighted to tell you more.