As 2012 chimes in, and my Father prepares for his retirement, I’m going into 2012 with a very different attitude that I went into 2011 with.

On the morn of January 1st 2012, at about 4am, local time (GMT, in London), I’ve been spending a bit of ‘quiet’ time with myself, after seeing in the New Year, and everyone retired to bed.
At first, I wanted to stay up, to watch a movie, as was my tradition of entering into the New Year, and yet, there was no decent movie showing at 1am, in the UK, on any of the Sky or Terrestrial channels that I could see. I then thought that now might be a good time to watch some of the recorded movies I had saved up on Sky+. Scrolling through what was saved, I happened across a show I had saved, that followed Mark Zuckerberg, and told the story of Facebook. It had aired on BBC2, on the 14th Dec 2011 (at 22:00), and is called Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017ywty). Watching the show, suddenly put me into a very ‘different’ frame of mind, to the one that I was in, when I was about to watch a movie, before slipping off to bed. Watching Zuckerberg talk, understanding a little bit more about what allowed him to accomplish the success that he has (in the context of talent, mastery of skills, and development of myelin – there’s a whole bunch of book reviews that I’ll share soon, that explain this context) led me to start to understand just how passionate, focussed, and singled minded Zuckerberg was over his project, and made me really start to appreciate just where the gaps were in my own focus, and attention.

Then, I went and watched Lady Gaga, in the episode of ‘A Very Lady Gaga Thanksgiving’, which aired on PBS, in the US, and then here in the UK, on Sky. Ever since I saw an interview of Lady Gage, by Indian Celebrity Simi Agarwal, I’ve had a tremendous amount of respect for Lady Gaga, both as an artist, but also as a passionate individual, who’s been lit aflame by her work, and her  passion, and has the requisite skill and mastery to be able to have a meaningful impact with her music.

Watching her interview, when she starts to talk about her song, “Marry the Night”, she says the song was about:

“committing yourself wholeheartedly to the thing you are most passionate about.”
Lady Gaga goes onto say:
“It is about that moment when I decided I was going to tear it up, that I was going to get married to my work, and that my work would be my husband forever. That was the moment when I knew that there was no fire and no rain that could get in my way.”
Lady Gaga
Source: Growing Up Gaga http://abcn.ws/s6KJiL via @ABC (scroll to 5mins 08 seconds)
You can also watch the part directly: http://youtu.be/EDDkt8CjF-Q?t=4m58s

In 2011, both Mark Zuckerberg, and Lady Gaga, whilst in completely different industries, and sectors, represented a pinnacle of success, that is unparalelled in terms of how succesful they have respectively become in each of their fields, at such young ages. The one common thread, between the two is their dedication, and devotion to their work. In Talent Code language, it is the myelin that the two of them laid down internally at an early enough age, and continue to do so, that allowed them to break through the 10,000 hours of practice, make countless mistakes, and then ultimately succeed where others before them hadn’t.

It’s as much about the external success they appear to have, as it is about the internal motivation that stokes their fire, and their unwavering commitment to their own excellence that drives them forward in a way that continues to allow them to learn, to make mistakes, and to grow, and develop further.

The more I’m learning, and studying about how people became excellent in their respective fields, the more I’m starting to appreciate how important it is to make mistakes. In one of the books I read recently (I can’t remember which one, but when I find it, I’ll re-write this to reference it properly), I read about a world class ice skater, who in her trainings, regularly fell on the ice. She was trying to do a difficult jump, with a triple twist, and only had mastery of a jump with a double twist. As the author observed her practicing, she would fall down countless times, in her training sessions. But she would just pick herself up, brush herself off, and then try exactly the same thing again, and again, and again, repeatedly, getting a little bit closer each time, until eventually she had perfected her practice in such a way that she was able to spin 3 times, and land back facing the correct direction, after falling down many many times.

It’s the combination of seeing the commitment, that each of the above celebrities had to their work, coupled with the latest knowledge I’ve gleaned, from reading a few books, about how the brain and people in general stop trying when we’re being told we’re smart. We generally stop making an effort, when we’re congratulated on our skill or talent. It’s a safety mechanism, whereby instead of pursuing ever greater challenges, to try to get even better and develop more skills, we don’t want to lose face, and so try to stick with the easier, simpler route or options that lie ahead of us. Today, it’s finally clicked. Having read ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ many times, I started to appreciate the importance of ‘work’ in the story, but now, I’m starting to really see how fundamental it is, to getting to the bottom of the Talent/Success Myth.

You see, I firmly believe that success is not innate, or reserved for a priviledged few. It is actually available to everyone that works hard, and makes consistent effort, to continuously develop and improve themselves. The only people that really don’t succceed are the ones that stop trying. The one’s that stop making an effort. The one’s that stop growing, developing, pushing their boundaries, and who no longer wish to make the effort, or put in the hard work, those are the success stories that never make it, those are the entrepreneurs, and artists who never make it big.

Unfortunately, with ‘Social Media’ and ‘Reality TV’ doing such a great job of reducing the barrier to celebrity status, more and more children and adults alike, wish they could just step in, and become successful, rarely being able to see all the struggle, effort, or mistakes that were made on the often times 10 or 15 year journey that got them there.

I’m going to go out on a limb now, and say that Marianne Williamson went and got it all wrong. Her famous passage, quoted often as being part of a speech that Nelson Mandela gave, that says:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

had a most undesired detrimental effect. It made people open up to the possibility that they were so powerful, and so brilliant, that they deserved to succeed, and that they were entitled to success, wealth, happiness, the posh cars, the dream lifestyle etc. etc.. When in truth we are all equal, and that sense of ‘entitlement’ or ‘deservedness’ that comes from thinking your better, smarter, more talented, or more capable is actually the biggest weakness that anyone can have. I should know. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life acting, thinking, and behaving as if the world owed me something, and that I was entitled to a better life, or to more success, or better results.

Well, frankly, that sense of entitlement, and deservedness came directly from being repeatedly told that I was smart, and brilliant. You see, off the back of research that’s been happening to understand what makes some children excell and others to stop trying, it became evidently clear, that praising and congratulating a child on their effort, leads to the child making more of an effort next time. Praising a child on their intelligence and how smart they are had the completely opposite effect in all the countless cases of research, with the child then less willing to take on any interesting or difficult challenge always favouring the simplest, easiest solution, in an effort to ‘not’ be seen as being dumb, or as talented.

I think the quote should actually be updated to read now as the following:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we will fail, repeatedly, have to own that failure, and then pick ourselves up and do it all again, for it is not in our brilliance that we create true success, but in the infinite failings, and falling down from which we must pick ourselves up each time and try again, that is the true test of our character, and forges the necessary competence that we require to be able to succeed.”

As you can tell, I’m starting to have a very high opinion of failure. In a way that I never had before. You see, I’m finally starting to get how important it is to fail at stuff. The most spectacular Entrepreneurs have generally had to get good at dealing with all the problems, failures, and challenges that come their way, as well as equally being able to get back in the driving street, and to continue to push forward.

With that in mind, I’m making a commitment to being the absolute best that I can be in my field, and in turn, to make a lot more mistakes this coming year. Expect to see me regularly fail this year 🙂

Happy 2012 to you all!

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3 Comments to “Entering 2012 With Gusto”

  1. Thanks for sharing Farhan, I always read that “greatest fear” as a feel the fear and do it anyway. Or “beating the resistance” as Steve Pressfield writes about in ‘Do the Work’. I can see how people could read it as ‘I’m a tiger and the world owes me’. I have been thinking recently about how we all crave to ‘fit in’ and be someone who is doing well. Actually you start doing well when you are honest with yourself and others about where you are at, then people can support you acuratly – if you set out to fail in order to succeed maybe you won’t. If you set out to pay attention and learn then your failures are valuable lessons to get you there. “be prompt and watchful” I read somewhere. Have a great 2012!

    • Hey Bernie, indeed.. I’ll be sharing some more thoughts around this over the next few weeks, especially as I’ve been reading some really interesting research and studies around the area of success, and talent development.  Key thing is, failure is a neccessary part of the learning process, and often times, we don’t fail often enough, to be able to truly learn.  By playing it safe, and only going to the edges of our comfort zone, rather than pushing ourselves out beyond them, we limit our potential to develop new skills, or competences that are only possible through consciously pushing the envelope.

      If you can make 1000 failed telesales calls, chances are if you genuinely tried to succeed, and failed that many times, you’ll have learnt a tremendous amount more than if you fixated on the successes you were after, and ultimately, stopped trying, because you thought you didn’t have the right skill or competence.  Naivete, and comfort in being able to fail, are so important in allowing us to be able to develop and grow in terms of our skills and competence, just look at a baby learning to walk. The only reason a child can learn to walk, is because they’ve failed every time, but keep trying.  The only difference between how quickly one child learns and another, is the number of times they try, in a given time frame, as learning to walk, on a physiological level requires the constant firing of neural synapses, down the muscle fibres, until myelin sheaths are formed, that allow an ‘unconscious’ competence to be developed.  That same process needs to occur for any skill, or competence development.

      For me, I want to fail.  The more spectacularly I can fail, it means the more courageously I will have tried.  But more importantly, the more frequently I fail, the quicker I will learn what works and what doesn’t. Like the child learning to walk, constant feedback, through thousands of attempts will eventually lead to mastery, and competence.  But if I don’t set out to fail, and embrace the desire to fail, then I’ll never give myself the permission to fail in public, or openly or honestly.  In my mind, being honest with yourself and others, is as much about being transparent enough to acknowledge failure, as much as it is about failing itself.  It takes much more effort, and hard work to fail, publicly, and then to try again, than it does to try and succeed.  (Oftentimes, if you’re trying and succeeding, it means you have to try even harder, to get to a point of failure, before any new learning/feedback can occur in the process).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I’ll definitely be adding Steve Pressfield’s ‘Do The Work’ to my reading list.

  2. Khalidmair says:

    Hear, hear!

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