Failure is a pervasive theme throughout pop culture. Movies like Iron Man, Toy Story, and Gladiator present a main character who initially fails to rise to the occasion, but in the end, almost always triumphs over failure. We cherish this redemptive story framework in movies and books but, in our lives, we dwell on our failures and struggle to take second chances. The very thought of failing is crippling and overwhelming.
I am no stranger to failure. To name a few, I failed to start a successful rock gym, to pass a scuba certification class, to downsize before moving into a tiny house, to complete my Ph.D. program, and I have failed many times to be content.
I do not regret the choices that led to the failures above. In fact, it was often the lessons learned from these failures that eventually led to my success the second time around or opened opportunities for other successful pursuits.
Life experiences – like those I’ve shared and those I’ve read about – have revealed to me two necessities to be fearless in the face of failure: preparation and confidence.
1. What is Plan B?
If you already know what to do in case of a failure, then you won’t get caught off guard. Those who wait until it’s too late will have to scramble to find their next move.
2. Let go of external factors.
There may be variables on the path to success where one has little influence. For instance, someone learning to dunk can’t affect how tall they are.
Still, it is tempting to focus on all the things we wish we could change, but this pulls our attention away from what we can do right now.
Concentrate on the things you can control, and your efforts will be more effective and productive. After all, Spud Webb didn’t win the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest by wishing he was taller than 5 ft. 7 in.
3. There is more than one path to success.
Sometimes while pursuing a goal, we come up against a roadblock. Is it a warning sign that we are on the wrong track or just should we just persevere onward?
Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, is known for his innovative assembly line and American-made cars, but he didn’t have instant success. In fact, his first three businesses failed and forced him to start again with a new car model.
If we become too attached to a particular plan, it’s hard to see the signs of impending failure. Instead of trying to force a plan to succeed, take time to assess the situation and determine if we need to tweak the approach.
4. Reverse the Golden Rule.
Psychologist Shad Helmstetter found that 77% of everything we think is harmful, counterproductive and works against us. We are hypercritical of ourselves and put so much emphasis on our shortcomings.
Think about the way we speak about ourselves compared to how we talk to our friends. Personally, I show a lot more grace for their mistakes than I do for my own.
The golden rule teaches us to treat others the way we want to be treated, but I believe we should also treat ourselves the way others want to be treated. Don’t overlook all the skills and talents you have. You are capable. You can succeed.
5. Consider the words of others wisely.
Contrary to widespread belief, the answers are not all inside us. We can learn a lot from the wisdom of others. Seek out instruction from people you trust and admire, but take caution not to let the doubts of others discourage you from pursuing your goals. Use discernment when listening to the advice of others.
6. Take a step of faith.
Sometimes all the preparation in the world will not give us complete confidence in our success. There are always uncertainties, but if we are not willing to fail, then we will never pursue anything extraordinary.
Let’s take a step of faith outside of our comfort zones knowing that failure is not the end of the world, but the start of our next try.
To Be Continued
Remember, the goal is to not let the thought of failure keep you from attempting something fantastic. Failure is part of the journey towards success, and preparation alongside confidence will give you the fortitude to fail.
Next week we will talk about methods to overcome failure and grow stronger because of it. If you want more useful tips now, check out my free 3-Day Contentment Challenge. You will learn three simple techniques to help recognize discontentment in your life and eliminate it.
Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. – Babe Ruth