Talking About Failure
Let’s talk about Failure. Not the kind of failure that everyone talks about. This isn’t the “fail early, fail often” type of failure that helps you learn, and iterate ideas faster. I want to talk about the kind of failure where you worked so hard toward a goal and you did everything right, but in the last moment it fell through. You didn’t get the job, you didn’t get accepted to school, you didn’t make the team. You failed.
Coping with that type of disappointment takes so much strength, so much determination, and not everyone has that. Some people give up. Some people take it as a sign that they weren’t meant to do what it is they set out to do. They were afraid to try again and ultimately they did fail.
Others strengthen their resolve. They try again. Those are the people that will succeed in life because they never give up.
Recently my brother has experienced a failure of this magnitude in his career before it even got started. He spent four years dedicating himself to his chosen career path, one that requires a rigorous training process. He waited in line for his turn, he worked while he waited, he studied hard, took every form seriously, and he was at the top of his class. But when the final evaluation was worth 70% of his grade, he hit a snag, got frazzled and couldn’t recover. It was a devastating blow to his confidence. Not to mention shattered his plans to finally get out of school and “start his life”.
At that moment it would have been easy to give in to the fear. When you work so hard and your failure means starting over, you can be stuck in a “now what” mentality. What do I do with myself now that I’ve been denied access to my career of choice? Do I re-apply? Do I look to do something else?
Fear of failing is a huge reason why some people don’t ever try at all.
Every speaker I’ve ever heard that speaks about success has had a moment in their life where something wasn’t going the way they wanted, and fear was holding them back from continuing down an un-known path (i.e making them fail). The reason why these people were standing there, speaking to a crowd about their success is because they pushed past the fear, and came out the other side. Their determination and drive lead them to a place of success.
Brian Flynn Speaks on Fear
Coincidentally, this month’s Creative Mornings was about the topic of failure and the super talented Brian Flynn was the speaker. *Side note, this creative mornings was hosted by Pinterest and they have such an awesome design-nerdy space! Even down to the bathroom with the pink flamingo wallpaper! Brian started out the talk by saying he wasn’t going to talk about projects he failed on and how he got through them, but instead talked about how failure is a symptom of fear and that we really only fail when we don’t try at all (or try again when the first time didn’t go as planned). When Brian approaches every new “risky” project, he asks himself this:
What do you have to lose? And what is the worst that could happen?
Brian had a very positive and healthy attitude toward failure, that even if you do fail, the results from that failure usually aren’t so devastating that you’ll lose everything precious to you in your life. It might mean leaning on your resources a little more for support while you pick yourself back up, but If your determination to reach your goal outweighs your fear of continuing, you have a much higher chance of succeeding. So just get out there and start making things. Put them out there for the world to see and eventually you’ll gain some traction. As Brian Flynn said, there’s no award for not participating.
There’s one more really great nugget from Brian that I wanted to share and I think this is a KEY piece to his outlook on life and his success. With every new personal project he takes on, whether it’s designing a new toy, or remodeling a new office space, he said has faith that he will learn how to do something “in real time” and as long as he breaks even, he considers it a success.
“The project was successful as long as we broke even”
Does this Sound familiar?
To finish my anectdote…
My brave brother has decided to move forward with his life and re-apply for his dream job. In the mean time, he has not let this set back change his plans. He moved in with his girlfriend in a small, but cozy apartment back where they call home, and got a decent paying job while he “waits his turn in line” again. I really admire his courage and his spirit to never give up and never surrender. If we train ourselves to believe that failure is not the end and that we can pick ourselves up and try again, the debilitating fear will un-cloud the road ahead of us. Stay fearless.