Fail More, Succeed More

Posted on January 25, 2010


Today’s lesson can be summed up as:

Failure = Success

Hmmmm.  You may be wondering if I have finally lost it, if the English language has any meaning left, or if your eyes are tricking you.  But hear me out.

For all of us on the Wanting Our Lives to Matter boat, one of the great obstacles to Mattering is getting started.  Getting started is hard because, well, I need to get everything perfectly prepared, I need to do more research, I need to find some time.  And I can’t launch my Great Calling and flop – how would I look to my friends and family (and those obnoxious naysayers).  So I must launch when I’m good and ready to be a Grand Success.

Talk about Analysis Paralysis.

Now, all of these excuses and reasons are valid.  AND!  They make me feel . . . unmotivated, bored, . . . procrastinatey (yes, that is a word, it’s on the internet so it must be).

But Failure!  Now that’s something that, strangely, can generate energy.

Think about a kid learning to ride a bike.  Getting on, wobbling, getting so close, feeling the wheels grip and get steady, seeing that fire hydrant coming up, braking, slowing . . . and falling over.  Does that failure signal the end of the effort?  No!  The intrepid cyclist hops back on the bike and tries again.  And, usually, falls over again.  And again.  And continues to FAIL, over and over again.

Until.  That one time.  Something clicks.  Those failures provide data that the kid can use to adjust her balance, change her speed, tweak the steering.  And, suddenly, she takes off.  And she’s riding like a pro.  Like she’s always been on that bike, flying around the neighborhood.

Thomas Edison failed thousands of times.  What kind of loser fails thousands of times?  The type of loser who issued over 1000 patents and invented life changing devices like the lightbulb, the microphone and the phonograph.  The type of loser who epitomizes American ingenuity.  The type of loser who said things like:

  • I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
  • I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
  • Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.
  • Tell the preacher to hang on, honey, I think I’ve just about got it.  Ok, that one was made up, but provides a segue to this pic:

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=thomas+edison&iid=7203205″ src=”1/3/9/b/Thomas_Alva_Edison_129f.jpg?adImageId=9479054&imageId=7203205″ width=”380″ height=”309″ /]

What’s the lesson that a new biker and Thomas Edison teach us?  All together now: Failure = Success.

So here’s how to make Failure = Success:

  1. Go for it!  Try!  Do!  Experiment! Simply making the attempt creates muscle awareness/memory.  Making the attempt helps you realize that maybe the effort isn’t as epic as you initially thought.  Barrier #1 knocked down!
  2. Pay attention.  Relax, enjoy the attempt AND pay attention. When you pay attention, first of all, you’ll enjoy the attempt more.  More importantly, you will gather data.  Data is important for step #3:
  3. Assess and analyze.  (Look ma – analysis, on the back end, is a good thing) What worked?  What didn’t?  Keep track of what you did, what you learned from the failure and ideas about tweaking the effort to make it more successful the next time.  For your biggest, most meaningful efforts, consider keeping a journal of your progress.
  4. Rinse and repeat.  Until, finally . .  You make it!

Note: You learn from your own failures.  But when you share – other people can learn from your failures.  So share the wealth!

On that note: My 2010 goals are chugging along, with some misfires and adjustments in progress.  My goal to do something exercise related every day is running into the logistical challenges of being a mom.  I am considering a couple of options, one being to get up an hour earlier and continue the attempt at daily activity or to simply adjust the goal (completely permissible!!) to what’s reasonable given my current schedule to something like 3-4 times p/week – but schedule it on the calendar to ensure it happens.  Will experiment to see what’s more likely to work.  At the same time, I have done much more to Love My Body at this point in the year than I had last year – and I feel optimistic about running without injury and having fun with it.   So, failure = success!

How about you?  Any great failure stories?  Share!

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