Some people who are friends of mine simply love to analyse the shit out of pretty much everything. They’re scared of failure of course, who isn’t? They love to be organised and planned out. And indeed, nobody wants to fail. None of us set out to fail. You can analyse things forever and worry until you’re almost sick whether you’re doing the right thing. However, at some point in your life, you need to pull the trigger and move. And failure is a possibility. Here’s why it’s OK to fail and why I learned more from failing than in any of the successes I’ve had.
None of us get it right, first time, very time.
Just like wild animals, we need to be taught and mentored by our peers and seniors to learn, fail a little, learn some more, fail a little more. Like tiger cubs learning to hunt, our first attempts aren’t going to be too successful. Then we learn from that, adjust, go again. Learn, adjust, go again. And so on.
Then we have a win.
That first win means so much, because it was tempered with the failures that came before it. The success tastes sweet, whether it’s a personal success, a relationship or a business. Success in any of those areas feels the same. BUT, we had to fail first.
The Fear Factor.
That’s probably the biggest element of failure. The fear of failing before our colleagues and peers, of looking foolish before our friends.
Here’s a great video (the full version) of Will Smith talking about the point of maximum danger. He says, “Everything up to the stepping out, there’s no reason to be scared, it only ruins your day. In fact the moment where you should be terrified is the most blissful experience of your life”
“God places the best things in life on the other side of terror. On the other side of your maximum fear are the best things in life.”
As we grow and go through this process of trying, failing, conquering fears, trying again more and more, several things may happen. Firstly, the stakes of winning and losing get bigger. We go from a toddler working out if it’s ok to let go of the sofa and take those first steps towards the arms of our parents.
We move on to that moment that we ride our bicycle without trainer wheels fitted. Than can sometimes be a painful fail, with grazed palms and knees. We’re learning.
The stakes get bigger and hopefully as people we’re mentored through our failures and encouraged to keep going for the wins. That is what creates society and as long as the winners aren’t too victorious and the losers aren’t ground into the dust with great vindictiveness, we move on as a society.
Another thing that can happen is that somewhere in our education systems and in our society people decide to try and remove the pain of failure and make winning an all inclusive event that everyone is entitled to. Without failure.
It goes wrong when we no longer realise that this Darwinian state of affairs is not only acceptable, failure and the fear of it are actually needed. When we feel that we all have a given birthright to win without much of the failure part, that’s when things to wrong..
As a society, we need to accept that there should actually be winners and losers. Trophies down to 8th place? What on earth is that all about?
Gary Vee has been saying it a lot recently. We are breeding a generation of zoo animals. By this he means, breed a tiger in a zoo for years then when he is a young adult, let him loose in the jungle. The tiger will die, simply because they have never lived in the real world of success and failure. The first time they fail, it will be simply to big a concept to grasp. And they can easily become damaged.
The final thing that can come from failing of course, is that some give up.
I have failed many more times than I have succeeded. And at times that has been very, very painful. I’m not ready to give up yet.
The most important thing I found out, sometimes years afterwards, is that I can only win by failing. Failing hurts. I don’t like failing and I don’t like losing.
Ask people who know me.
One of my favourite quotes is former McLaren F1 boss Ron Dennis “Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser”
That doesn’t mean that I am ruthless, super competitive and will step on and over people to get what I want. In fact I think you can get a far bigger win by bringing people along on the journey with you. By helping friends, colleagues and associates, with the expectation of nothing in return, we can lift everyone’s performance so that more of us win and less of us fail.
I heard a great analogy of the word FAIL this week.
Winning does of course mean that somewhere there’s a loser. I’ve been both many times.
Just remember, failing can actually empower you. Once you realise that actually, failing wasn’t the end of your life and that actually, emerging from the other side into the sunshine is just fine. And that once you’re made that first big failure and survived, life goes on.
And nobody was watching anyway. Then the fear goes away.
I know people who have failed massively in business, in sport, in relationships. It’s a brutal, brutal process and at the time, I can remember them being written off as finished. Yet they came back far, far stronger. Simply because as the pain receded they realised that actually, they still had the respect of the people who were important to them, they were still alive and that they now had a great chance to start over again, a clean sheet.
They are people who I have huge admiration for.
So I want to hear from you. I want to know more about your fear, the pain of failure and the elation of success. Whether it is in business, in life or in love.
Tell me your story.