Most people are terrified of failure — and this is exactly why they fail.
Failure is often defined simply as a lack of success or, to get more specific, nonperformance of expected or required action. It basically means things didn’t turn out as you expected. Boo hoo. In reality, that’s just life and failure is a crucial part of it; it happens to everybody, it’s normal, nobody cares.
Still, most people see it as something terrible.
They envision their goals as a Hydra, a big scary monster with multiple heads representing individual failures. For every head cut off, two more emerge, just as every time you conquer something in life, two bigger problems sprout up. So they ingrain a notion within themselves that the only way to reach success is to remove all failure from their lives.
This is the same flawed logic people apply when dealing with pain, fear, uncomfortable emotions, or problems of any kind. You can’t stop having certain emotions. You can’t prevent yourself from ever feeling pain. You can’t stop being afraid forever.
As with everything, the only manageable aspect is how you deal with these situations.
You feel pain, but you don’t let it distract you. When you’re at the gym pulling heavy weights, focusing all your physical and mental strength just to get one more rep, it hurts like a motherfucker. But you still do it, because experiencing pain now will enable you to build muscle and become stronger later on.
You experience fear, but you don’t let it rule your life. Things you desire most are ones that usually scare the crap out of you. Be it literal fear of darkness or fear of approaching love interests, it will always be a part of you. You can’t numb fear, you can only feel it and still do whatever the hell it is that frightens you.
Makes sense, right? Now let’s apply the same logic to failure.
YOU CAN’T AVOID FAILURE
You know those typical sports dramas or rags-to-riches stories where the main character is an underdog and only has one shot to get the job/win a tournament/become famous/whatever? Yeah, I’m talking about you 8 Mile, Rocky, The Pursuit of Happyness, and all movies of that type. Don’t get me wrong, they’re usually great movies, but they do display success and failure in unrealistic ways.
What would happen if they had failed? If they lost the tournament? If they lost it five years in a row? If they didn’t get the job? If they got demolished in the final battle? If they had to start all over again?
These movies make it seem like the whole world is going to fall apart if the character doesn’t achieve what they set out to. The ground will split open, fire-breathing demons will fly out and turn all surface-dwellers into slaves, and our beautiful lands will become Hellish-like badlands.
In real life, there is rarely an “all or nothing” situation. Okay, something like The Pursuit of Happyness is a rare exception to this rule where our protagonist actually is in an all-or-nothing, life-or-death situation, and is actually based on a real story. But even then, he underwent extraordinary amounts of failure before getting one tiny hint of success.
What these stories seemingly teach us is that success and failures are black and white antonyms; you win, you’re amazing and talented, but if you lose, you’re worthless and incompetent. The truth is, to get to one win that matters, you need to experience an infinite amount of failure. Hence, success and failure are more likely two sides of the same coin.
Just like destroying your muscles is how you make them grow, failure is how you reach success. Failure isn’t a lack of success in general; it’s the lack of success at this moment. And like with many mindset guidelines, relationship between failure and success is a catch-22; you need to undergo lots of failures to become successful, but you need a successful mindset to withstand copious amounts of failure.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”— Thomas A. Edison
There is no success without failure. Failing is how you learn. Failing is how you develop skills, improve bad ideas, and build mental resilience. The more you fail, the more experience you will have. Niels Bohr defined an expert as someone who “has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” For every successful or groundbreaking idea, there had been hundreds of shit ideas which never saw the light of the day. But since we only see the majestic result, we are often blinded by misconceptions of golden ideas and privileged geniuses.
Everybody fails; at business, at relationships, at school. Some people fail at life in general. But the way you react to those failures is what differentiates winners and losers. The last thing you should do is want to avoid failure, because it would mean you never tried hard enough at something to have failed. On that note…
FAIL OFTEN, BUT FAIL SMARTLY
It is often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
A more specific definition of everyday insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again without making any changes to your method and expecting different results.
If you work out every day in the same fashion and expect your muscles to get stronger, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. All things worth our while require a level of repetition and persistence. But say that every night after your workout you get muscle cramps and inflammations. Continuing to work out in the same sense hoping the problem will go away on its own is, well…kinda crazy. Obviously, you need to make some changes to your current method, like paying better attention to form or stretching (more) before your workout.
Same goes for attaining success; failure is the best worst thing you can have, but only if you use it smartly. If your plans fail it means that you need to alter your methods, make some changes, do it differently, or that your original idea simply sucks.
Failures are worth only as much as you learn from them. Every shit experience in your life can be the greatest lesson ever if you learn from it and make sure to avoid similar mistakes in the future. I’m sure you’ve heard some people say that one of the worst things that happened to them was actually the best, because it made them open their eyes and change the course of their life for the better.
There’s no scarcity of people talking about success, while there are so little of us talking about failure. It’s like a big taboo that scares us out of our minds and signifies that anybody who has failed doing something big is somehow a loser. Realistically, that person showed more balls than you average Joe because (s)he wasn’t afraid to try.
If you are the type of person who really sees things black and white, then your opinion really doesn’t mean anything at all. You’ve got much growing up to do.
I’ve failed more times than I could count, and when I think about those moments, it’s with a big, fat smile on my face. Every stone along the way, every embarrassing moment, every trial and tribulation only made me want to never repeat the same mistake again. I’ve been learning, improving, and adapting all my life so I can move on from my past failures into new ones.
You are always going to keep failing. You’re always going to keep getting hit, but the only thing that matters in life is how much failure you can take and keep going – that’s how Rocky Balboa defined winning.
So stay set in your ways and brand me a loser for failing. Brand me the biggest loser in the existence and I’ll be perfectly happy holding my spot. People who fail the most are usually ones regarded by the common folk as “successful”.
Alternatively, grab failure by the balls and squeeze success out of it, because if you want to live like a winner, you need to be comfortable failing all the time.