So I wrote about this a little bit yesterday, but I just wanted to re-iterate the point.
My greatest fear around succeeding has always been something of a stumbling block for me. In the past, I always put it down to being afraid of succeeding, but for whatever reason, I just hadn’t been able to get past it. There would be moments when I would just hit a wall, and not be able to break through it. I would just shut down, and just stop in my tracks. In time, I’ve come to accept those moments as the natural limits of my abilities (as I always imagined abilities could only stretch to a certain point). Now, the more I’m learning about the malleable nature of our talents, and abilites, it seems I might have been very wrong.
Far from being afraid of succeeding, it looks like I could have been more afraid of losing face. Of failing. Of trying, and looking stupid, or dumb. Of just make a right royal mess, and looking like the fool.
Well, it turns out that being afraid of failing, isn’t that uncommon. In fact any child, or adult that has been regularly praised for being smart, or intelligent, and taken that on board, and ‘owned’ that feedback, is afraid of losing that public persona/image. Enron being an example of a corporate entity where ‘talent’, accomplishment and success were celebrated above effort, and constructive feedback. That vicious cycle of being told you’re smart, or intelligent, or brilliant, coupled with a very public desire to not be seen to fail in public, and lose that front, leads us as a species to lie, cheat, steal, beg, borrow, in fact do anything and everything to avoid losing face. (I read about this research in a book recently, at some point, I’ll pull out the reference and pop that in here as well).
Having been on a journey of weight loss, and health challenges, for more than 10 years now, I’ve come to realise just how important failure is a crucial part of the learning process. Typically, when looking at the process of losing weight, and becoming healthy, it’s not uncommon to have a ‘good’ spell, then to have a single moment of failure, and from that point on to relapse into old habits and behaviours that led to the same old patterns. (It doesn’t help that certain foods are generally more addictive, or desirable when your body’s biochemistry is off whack, but that’s a topic for a whole other discussion
The single biggest constant in my journey of weightloss, and health re-discovery has been the constant learning, failing, and trying again. It’s not been uncommon for me to do really well for a stretch, hit a barrier, and fail to continue. The hardest part though, is accepting the failure, taking stock of the situation, understanding why the failure occurred, and then getting back into the good routines again. With the succesful stretch of a good solid 8 months of eating a Paleo Based Diet, this year, and benefitting from the associated weightloss that comes with being in a healthy state of ketosis, I’m determined to make it a full year of Paleo eating/living – purely to see what effect that might have on my body. Weighing myself, on the 1st of Jan 2012, it appears that I’ve risen in weight to 140kg, from the last time I weighed myself a few months ago. Not entirely a surprise on my part to be honest, as I had started to feel my clothes start to get tighter again. But a situation that can be remedied pretty quickly and easily.
However, without the knowledge of what caused that failure to occur, and without taking stock of the experience, and learning something from it, that failure wouldn’t account for much at all. It’s only when I review my life circumstances, around the time that the change in my eating habits occurred, that I start to get a really clear picture of why the failure occurred, and what steps I can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, once I go through the same life circumstance again. I’m confident that having learnt this time round, I’ll be smarter the next time the same things happen, if any of those contributing life factors happen again.
Ultimately, I’ve come to realise, that my biggest fear is not about success, but about making a mistake. I’ve been afraid of pursuing my dreams, living my life to the fullest, or pushing myself to work harder, smarter or faster, believing that I have natural limits, and that when I reach those, there’s nothing more that I can or should do.
Now I know that’s entirely false.
We as humans have no limits. We can limit our potential, the moment we stop trying to make an effort, or stop trying to progress. Lady Gaga and Mark Zuckerberg, both have strong work ethics. They take feedback, and use it to steer their course. They don’t ever use it to be the result, or consequence of anything more than a set of actions, with a set of results. If they want different outcomes, they’ll take different actions.
Likewise, I’m going to stop being afraid of trying. Of getting all the work done. Of making the effort. Fortunately, the clearest feedback I can get, when I try, is that I either get the result that I’m after, or I get a different result. Either way, the result is just a result. One result means I need to try something different, the other means I need to keep doing the same thing.
I don’t know what will happen. But I do know that if I’m not afraid of trying, and making mistakes, I should start to see many more mistakes happen. The fastest way to learn, is to make the greatest number of mistakes.
Starting from January the 1st 2012, I made the firm commitment to myself, that this year I’m going to try more often, try harder, try more frequently, and try many many different things. If from all those attempts, I find 100 ways that don’t work, I will consider myself successful. For to have properly tried, and put my heart and soul into 100 different approaches, efforts, and attempts, I’m sure I’ll start to get a much much clearer understanding of what works, and what doesn’t. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so afraid of failing sooner, I would have started earlier, and learnt quicker. But clearly that didn’t happen. Oh well, guess that means I can’t be as smart as I thought I was, and I must be pretty dumb! Well good thing I caught that now. Guess now that I caught that failure, I can start to just focus on ‘effort’ and time spent trying, and let the results, and outputs, and consequences evolve into whatever they end up being.
I encourage you to embrace failure, and to start being more confident, and keen to fail. For the surprising thing with failure is that the harder you try to fail, the more often you try, and the more frequently you keep trying to fail, the sooner you’re going to realise just how little effort it really takes to succeed. Often, the mindset is the only thing standing in our way. The rest of the solution, being readily available, once we’ve gotten over our own sense of self-importance and feeling of entitlement.
So buckle up, batton down the hatches, roll up your sleeves, pull out the stops, and get to work. Whether you succeed or fail, it’s almost irrelevant. What matters, is that you honestly and sincerely made the effort, and continue to do so. For the only failure that is irreversible is the failure to try. Only then are you guaranteed to fail. Otherwise, all failure is nothing more than the navigational correction needed to steer the ship towards it’s correct destination, which is a result, or outcome which has yet to be revealed, as a consequence of focussed effort, and unwavering resolve to keep working.