What if Success = Failure?
What if real success equals failure and we know it? What then? Do we still want it?
I recently spent an entire day putting out fires, dealing with errors of my own making. It began with discovering the bill for my car license plates under a pile of random papers–due date: yesterday! It was right on my desk where I’d remember to pay it, but it got buried by less important things. I actually could have paid it back when I first got it, but didn’t. And so paying it late cost me nearly $20 extra. The F-word burst from my mouth, and that was just the beginning of an entire day of fixing things that could have been prevented. Every task I attempted seemed to have a roadblock involved which I had to deal with first: broken hyperlinks, locked accounts, forgotten passwords, wrong information!
I felt frustrated, like a real failure.
In the midst of trying to create some unique opportunities and cool new projects, doing things I’d never done before, I dropped a few balls and the unruly rebound stung a little. My business coach would tell me, I hadn’t failed, that I’d just fallen down and I could get back up and learn from all this mess. But to be honest, I felt tired and frustrated and didn’t feel like getting up. Whine and Moan!
I think that saying YES to the pursuit of any type of success also means saying yes to a certain amount of failure. For example when we say yes to partnership, we’re agreeing to face challenges and being wrong, sometimes failing even with honest communication. When we take on a new job, in order to become proficient, we’ll likely make a few blunders and have to learn from those along the way.
So this concept of accepting failure is nothing new. We all know that you can’t get better at something until you learn what not to do. As we define and clarify what success means to each of us, we’ll naturally want things we don’t know how to get. We often don’t know what we’re capable of until we try to do things we’ve never done. Slogging through the muck of uncertainty is where we build confidence, eventually. But first, we have to embrace this yucky uncomfortable place where we don’t get to feel on top of our game, where we risk looking dumb, not doing things well, and being forced to do over what we’ve already done, probably more than once.
And I guess that’s where commitment comes in, where we have to revisit our “why” and reaffirm what we’re here for. And to do this with the kind of regularity we need to gain success, we have to adjust our attitude toward failure. We have to accept the tiredness, frustration and uncertainty as a form of falling, a thing we already know we can recover from.
Give yourself the permission to whine and moan if you have to, (I’ll be honest, I’m pretty good at that part) but then brush off your skinned up knees, get up, go again, and learn what you can about what you need to do things differently to stay upright a little while longer. There is no limit to the number of times you can get back up when your commitment is strong and you infuse your work with passion and courage.
Tell me about a time you fell hard and got back up. What was the payoff? What did you learn?