In order to increase your rate of success, you must increase your rate of failure.
Let that thought sink in for a moment….
The converse is true as well. If you decrease your rate of failure, you will decrease your rate of success. This is a hard concept for me. My gut reaction is to avoid failure, the appearance of failure, even the slightest hint of failure at all costs. Failure aversion is my negotiation method for interfacing with the outside world. However, that is not the formula for success. Success is directly tied to failure. Contrary to popular opinion, failure and success are not antonyms. They congruous. First your fail, often, then you succeed.
Fail, Repeat, Fail, Repeat, Success!
Unfortunately we are in a culture where we are trained to celebrate success. Instant success is even more attractive to us for some crazy reason. The superstar child who seemingly had talent at birth is celebrated, whereas the older person that has failed their entire life and yet in the twilight of their life found success is rarely even noticed. Who is the master? Someone who has never tasted bitter defeat or the person that has drank from its dregs repeatedly and finally in a moment of triumph figured out how to overcome one of life’s greatest challenges? Who is the better musician? The talented child that has learned 3 cords and has learned to sing a clever poem or the person that has spent 50,000 hours repeatedly failing to produce their master piece? Instant success is a complete myth trumped up by the modern day snake oil sales people of our day.
The only real way to succeed is to fail and to fail often. To embrace failure, to enjoy failure, to seek to fail, to want to fail, to appreciate when you and others fail. Instead of mocking failure or making fun of failure we should applaud, laugh and get excited when failure occurs. Failing fast is good. Failing repeatedly is good. Failing when you should not fail is good. Failing to fail is what is bad. But you are probably like me, you have a very negative response to this concept. You are already shaking your head. You still believe that you can avoid failure and still succeed.
Instead of spending energy on avoiding failure, should we not be spending on our energy on figuring out how to increase our failure rate? To fail fast? To fail frequently. To harness, learn from and adapt when failure does occur? Do we learn from failure or to we run from the activity that caused it never to return? It seems to me that we have it backward. When we try something and fail, we are getting close to success not further from it. How many would be successful people quit one failure short of success!?
I am applying this concept to some of my commitments. I feel horrible when I fail sometimes, but why should I? It seems that if I am pushing myself so hard, that I start to fail with more frequency then that is a good sign! That means I am getting closer to the edge of my capability, I am now stretching the boundaries. If I am always successful, then I am will within my comfort zone. This is the ultimate life balance.
You have all seen the symbol that supposedly represents the Chinese concept of yin and yang? One way to look at this is that when you are in yin (the white part) you always have a chance to suddenly go to yang (the dark part). Vice Versa as well. When all things are bad and chaotic, you have the possibility to suddenly discover success. This is why there is a small dark spot in on the white side and a small white spot on the dark side. When you are dancing on the edge of chaos is when you are closer to great achievement.
This is what is meant about “life balance”. We mistakenly think that life balance is all about peaceful, harmonious living. That we are spending an appropriate amount of time on all things. Rubbish. Real life balance is knowing how to push yourself as close as possible to edge of complete failure. The only way you know that you are getting close to complete failure, is the frequency to which you fail. If you are starting to fail more, you are getting closer to balance!
In my physical conditioning, I have to realize that if what I am doing is easy, then I am not any where close to what is going to help me strengthen and grow. I must, I need to be failing to reach my targets frequently and often. I need a few successes, but I also need a lot of failure. So this little blog is dedicated to all of you who failed last week. Good Job! Woohoo! You are on the right path now! Keep failing, learn as you do, and your success will be right around the corner.
Guy Reams (434)
79 Days Left to 1st Marathon