Fail forward, and make it epic!

forwardA lot of things have been shifting in my life recently-  things are changing, I have to take risks and push myself to my personal limits at times. This has led me to a completely different way of viewing failure. I’ve actually come to embrace it. So now, I wanted to take a bit of a closer look at this phenomenon of failing your way to success that everyone is talking about.

Failure notice.

We’re human. We fail. Everybody does. Even at the height of success, there is always failure. It’s part of life. You can’t escape it, so you’d better learn to deal with it and make the best of it.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you love so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling

Cut to the chase.

When it comes to approaching something new – something we haven’t done before – we always run the risk of failure. No matter how much information you get or how much you think about the pros and cons of something, it’s never enough to guarantee that the outcome of what you do will be a success.  At some point, you have to take the leap of faith. If you don’t, you’re stuck in never-ending paralysis because of over-analysis. It’s typical. You can think about something for as long as you want, but you won’t know what will happen unless you try it out.

Anxiety is natural, but it’s also manageable. The secret to sanity, even under intense pressure, is to act with faith. Either that or you keep worrying forever, thinking “What if…?” It’s that simple.

“You won’t get anything done by planning.” – Karl Pilkington

Positive thinking is not the same as a practical approach to life here. I’m all for positive thinking, but sometimes that alone is not enough. You can whitewash and sugarcoat pretty much any situation that you’re in, but at the end of the day that won’t change anything. What counts is that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, use your common sense, and start finding out what works and what doesn’t.

There are a lot more things in life that I have no clue about than there are things that I believe I have some understanding of. This puts me in the situation of constantly wanting to try things out. I’m curious by nature and I need to see what happens. Of course, I don’t do ridiculously stupid stuff all the time – I usually save that for special occasions – but you have to somehow step out of your comfort zone to grow.

And that really is what failure is all about. It’s not a defeat, if you approach it with a growth mindset. Failure can teach you what didn’t work, but also how to do it right the next time. There is a lot to learn from what went wrong. And it’s best not to shove it under the rug, because it’s inevitable.

There’s no success like failure.

It’s like learning how to ride a bicycle as a child. You probably fell. Many times. You know how painful it can be. But you get back on it anyway. You do it again and eventually, you learn how to do it properly. And even then, you might occasionally fall or crash. So what? Does it prevent you from ever getting back on that bike again? No. Of course, not.

In fact, it is through failure that we learn to overcome the fear of failure. And once experience shows you that failure isn’t fatal, you can move forward, full steam ahead.

Some people, when they experience failure, give up trying altogether. Others bury themselves in guilt. But there is a difference between responsibility and guilt. You should never feel guilty unless you did something dishonorable. Don’t curl up in fetal position, hiding under the covers of your bed never to be seen again. Life goes on. You’re going to make mistakes. Some earthshaking ones, too. But life goes on.

Personally, I keep challenging myself to see what’s possible. I constantly bite off more than I can chew, but you know what? I haven’t choked to death yet. People tend to grow into and with their new roles. It’s okay to start from where you are right now and grow to where you want to be. Sure, this doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have to convince myself to continue. Quitting would be so easy sometimes, but it’s not an option for me to seek the easy way out.

A lot of people would rather live mediocre lives under the protection of the “It’s too risky.” excuse than to face the world as it really is and do what is necessary to get to where they want to be. They desperately cling to certain beliefs and behaviors even at the expense of what they truly desire. And this, like almost every other choice in life, comes with a price. Many people pay that price in boredom, frustration, and quiet desperation of unfulfilled, untested potential. It’s your choice if that will be your path. I know, it’s not mine.

The good thing is, there is probably nothing like that “high” of taking the germ of an idea and nurturing it, step by step, embellishing it, developing faith in it, implementing it, making it work, and turning it into something tangible and substantial.

Be the scientist of your success.

When you try something new, think of it as an experiment. It’s a hypothesis that needs testing. It’s essentially a trial-and-error approach. You cannot trust your own judgment and knowledge on certain things. You may map out all kinds of scenarios but eventually you’ll have to test it and get down to the nitty gritty. If you are to succeed at whatever it is that you want to do, you have to break free of your old reacting and responding behavioral patterns and switch to becoming more proactive.

Back your ideas with a little bit of faith and then go ahead – have the guts to act on those you really believe in. Determination makes all the difference in the world. I’m talking about total, unwavering commitment to your goals. That means you have to develop and embrace attitudes, habits and behaviors that are markedly different from those of most other people.

We all carry a lot of mental and emotional baggage. When we were little, there was always some authority figure determining, if we were qualified to do a certain thing or handle a certain responsibility – Mom and Dad, our teachers or any other authority figure.  And as a child you may have been urged to color inside the lines, but now you’re a grown up. And it’s okay to draw way outside the lines. You don’t need anybody’s permission to go after your dreams. And if you wait for “the establishment” in any given field to grant you that permission, you’ll wait a long, long time. You don’t need a sheet of paper or your boss or whoever allowing you to do something. And you also don’t need anyone’s approval, reassurance or recognition to do it. Only you know what the next step is going to be. It’s your life.

The problem with depending on others is that you start to collect and store excuses. You start to talk yourself into believing that this sorry state of affairs isn’t your fault. And you try to sell that belief to others. But if you want to achieve something, you need to become emotionally independent. Cut the umbilical cord. The sooner you arrive at 100% responsibility for everything the more successful you’ll be.

Sure you can blame others or the circumstances – and this might even make you feel a little bit better about yourself – but it won’t get you anywhere.

Most people actually grossly underestimate themselves and overestimate what’s necessary for the success they seek. We’re giving ourselves way too little credit than we deserve. We limit and sabotage ourselves because we don’t believe we are worthy of success, when in reality, the determination to prevail far out-shadows talent, genius, and education in importance. The single most important characteristic that all successful people possess is the refusal to give up.

And you will want to give up. More than once. Especially, if you take action on something and not have it proven successful or not for months and even years. There’s times when you don’t have an instant outcome following your efforts – no definite answer if you succeeded or not. And you could go days or weeks without being able to see any clear, measurable progress. This really can take a tough emotional toll on you and will test the core of your being. It will foster self-doubt and you’ll have to keep motivating yourself to go on. That is probably the biggest battle you’ll fight – the one with yourself. You’ll get angry, frustrated, anxious and overwhelmed.  But you are the one in control of the amount of time and energy you waste on those emotions. You have to learn to quickly get through them and stay focused on why you do what you do.

There ain’t no rest for the wicked. Get comfortable with discomfort and risk, anxiety, even pain, but keep working hard and keep throwing yourself in at the deep end.

When failure strikes…

The very first crucial step is honesty. You’ve got to forget about protecting your ego. None of that matters when your hat is on fire. You have to diagnose and identify the problem and then solve it. But that is actually easier said than done. Everybody’s natural response is to cover up what happened as fast as they can. But really, there is no shame in screwing up. The only shame would be to give up without a fight. If you were genuinely trying your best, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Beating yourself up over it, won’t do you any good. Be honest with yourself and others. Brush the dirt off your clothes and move on.

You’re not married to your ‘experiments’. When one of your ideas proves itself unsuccessful, don’t do it again! Move on to the next way of achieving your overall goal. You don’t have to invest all your identity and self-esteem into one particular idea.  Be flexible enough to change directions in your life as you learn, grow, and change. Don’t cling obsessively to something.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

Failure is just success in disguise.

What took me some time to realize is that a failure is hardly ever a true failure. It’s very hard – if not impossible – to completely and utterly fail. Let’s assume you only reached 30% of your goal. Seems like a failure right? Well, no. You’re still 30% ahead of those who never tried, and you’re more than a third closer to your goal.

Failure means you’re out there. You may be stumbling, even falling sometimes, but you’re moving forward. That, in turn, will result in connections with people who could help you succeed, it will get you involved in situations where opportunities can arise, while at the same time you are continuing to learn and progress.

Exposing yourself to the risk of failure clearly means you’re stacking the deck in your favor. Don’t miss out! ;-)

– Gabriela

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0 thoughts on “Fail forward, and make it epic!

  1. Wow, what excellent and well put information! It’s so true, if you just move forward with firm determination that you will arrive at a goal! You may stumble along the way, but if you just take that stumbling as moving you back onto the correct path,–showing you the hidden opportunities that were missing from your original thinking–you generally arrive at your destination (or one more fruitious than you previously thought).

    • So true!! It’s also often surprising to find out what you are capable of. Things that seemed so impossible… And the experience and learning along the way is incredibly valuable. With every step forward you grow and suddenly realize you’ve progressed from the person you started out as. In the moment, you may be so caught up in stumbling and not falling that you don’t notice, but it becomes apparent when you look back how much further you are now… :-)

  2. Great post. Motivating and well-written. Recently watched the Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons. The quote at the end is, “Keep moving forward.” Sounds a lot like what you’ve described above. Moving forward makes me feel like I’m going toward my destiny, while sitting and waiting is going nowhere. Thanks.

  3. If I could only take a step BACK and risk my relationship ending just for the chance to give myself some space…. then I would be doing what you are saying here. Instead, I am holding on with a death grip. Albeit I am doing some things right. But you see the folly, yes?

  4. Completely and utterly agree with this post. I think all of us would benefit more if we ditched our “minimizing failure” attitude and instead strived to learn how to fail (succeed) faster.

Let me know what you think and leave a comment below.