“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy
If you aren’t failing, you aren’t innovating. Wow. That’s a scary realization. I had a project go off the rails recently and I have to say that at the time I was reading, Scott Adams‘ book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. It was an eye opener. Scott Adams has failed at countless projects. Video games, restaurants, internet services, Velcro Rosen bags, and Webvan to name just a few of his failures. He suggests actually being steeped in failure. If I was not in the middle of the book reading about all of his failures, my project that failed would have stopped me. I’d have thrown in the towel. I’m not meant for this. But Scott’s consistent optimism and his systems orientation showed me that failing is inevitable. As Scott said to look at “failure as a tool, not an outcome”. It’s reshaped the way I see failure. Don’t avert your eyes from failure, learn from it. Find the one little nugget of information and move on. Thanks, Scott.
Now I’ve started reflecting back on various other projects that were less than stellar in my life. Like this blog. I write it weekly and I can never predict if more people will click to open it or not. Frequently, the subject line or title has a lot to do with whether or not someone like you even decides to open it. This becomes a delicate dance between a quirky title like Lawnmower Fairies or something more main stream like The Butterfly Effect. One Small Change Can Have An Impact. So which do you think had more opens? The second one. It’s more straight-forward. It’s something that is relatable. I’m sure you are thinking, yeah, I can handle one small change…let me see what that’s all about. On the other hand Lawnmower Fairies was published in July of 2012 and has precisely 26 opens…ever. The Butterfly Effect was published in July of 2014 and has had over 154 opens as of this morning. Big difference. I don’t write cryptic titles any more. I mean what the heck IS a lawnmower fairy and why would anyone but immediate family (thanks Mom) want to read about it? The most important thing is to learn from it. Otherwise, I could have packed up this blog two years ago and thrown in the towel.
So here are some of the secrets on how to get to success through all those failures:
1. Do. My friend, Janine quotes Yoda frequently, “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” Do the work. Write the blog. Contact potential clients. Raise the money. Research potential locations. Read books on the topic. Put a business plan together. Network. Update your resume. Make a LinkedIn profile. See who else sells Purple Squirrel catchers. Decide what you want on your menu. Figure out how many items you want in your product line. Decide if you want to self publish or not. Show up and do. Do do do.
2. Energy. Scott Adams spends a lot of time talking about energy. If want to be constantly “doing”, you can’t be sitting on a coach eating Twinkies all day. Think about how you are going to keep the fire in your belly roaring. Regular movement is one of the best things to keep you optimistic and motivated. There is no downside to exercise except for over doing it or the cost of equipment. Eat fuel that helps your body keep in tip top shape. You know if you eat that cream filled donut you will feel miserable in an hour and want to go back to bed. So don’t. Keep you energy stoked.
3. Reframe. Anytime you have a setback or make a mistake, reframe it. Say to yourself “Hmmm, that was interesting, what can I learn from this?” I have to say I use this when I coach. A client will say that they want to do yoga 5 times a week and they don’t follow through. Goose egg. So I say, “No sweat. What did you learn from that?” Client says, “I don’t like yoga”. Me, “Great. Is exercise still important to you?” Client, “Yes. I think I’d rather play tennis 3 times a week”. OK so now we have reframed and moved on.
4. Keep on. Keep on keeping on. It’s so easy to fall under the shadow of one small failure and decide to succumb to fear. “I’m not meant to be an entrepreneur.” “I’ll never get into that college.” “I’ll never find the right partner.” Do not sit and catalog all your failures from the last thirty years in order to rationalize why you should give up. Think about Thomas Edison and his 1,500 failures at creating a light bulb. Thank goodness he didn’t give up. Keep on.
5. Systems. Scott recommends creating systems instead of goals. So a system is getting daily movement. A goal is running a marathon. A system is eating three vegetables a day. A goal is losing 20 pounds. Systems are just habits in disguise. As Scott sees goals as limiting. Once you achieve it you are done. With a system, you are constantly updating and looking for opportunities. Take the system of daily movement. I don’t need to worry about whether it’s yoga, running, walking or jitterbugging. I just make sure I get daily movement. It’s a habit. A process with no end point. Set up systems.
6. Acceptance. Make sure to accept the failings of others. When you start judging those around you for their failures, it’s just a reflection of how you see yourself. If you think your son isn’t athletic enough or your daughter isn’t smart enough…there is a good chance that you don’t see yourself as “enough”. We are just works of art in progress. At one point, the Mona Lisa was just a few strokes of paint waiting to be brought to fruition. Let go and accept.
I’m not sure why I never realized it before but Scott Adams’ book just made me understand that we are all out here just trying our best. He was drawing Dilbert for 8 years while still working full time at Pacific Bell. He’s a real human just like me. We are all humans just like me.