How often do you experience failure in your life? Do you consider that failure is a rare thing or something that’s common?
I was a few days ago at a conference about failure and all the speakers shared different ideas and definitions about failure, eventually leading the audience to think that failure is common and you should treat it as part of your life.
“I don’t agree,” I kept telling myself during and after the conference. “The only failure is when you stop doing what you’re doing! Everything else is just obstacles.”
Imagine you are trying to bake lava cake for the first time and you don’t like how it tastes. Or maybe it doesn’t have the consistency you’re looking for.
If you call that a failure, chances are you’ll never try baking lava cake again. And it’s not even a failure. You simply experienced some obstacles in the process and you got a result different than expected.
Read that again.
You simply experienced some obstacles in the process and you got a result different than expected.
In this sentence, there are 5 unique keywords that we should pay attention to whenever we think we fail. These 5 unique keywords are the reason why I believe failure is so rare.
The keywords are: experienced (1), obstacles (2), process (3), result (4), and expected (5).
Let’s take them one by one.
In what way your experience makes failure rare?
I would like you to view experience as experiment here.
With everything you experiment, you get to gain experience.
Going back to our lava cake example, experimenting with the recipe will give you the experience that will eventually help you bake a delicious lava cake.
If you look at it this way, it means there’s no failure. Instead, it’s just your willingness to experiment and experience the recipe enough times until you get the desired lava cake.
What is the difference between obstacles and failure?
In your journey to bake the desired lava cake, you’re going to experience some obstacles.
Maybe you won’t know for how long the lava cake has to be in the oven to get the right texture. Maybe you won’t use the right type of chocolate.
When it comes to obstacles, they appear because there’s a lack of knowledge. There are things you don’t know therefore the end result of the lava cake is different than what it should be. But the more you experiment, the more you learn.
The difference between obstacles and failure is that obstacles can be overcome. You can move past an obstacle.
Instead, when it comes to failure, overcoming it is difficult as failures tend to be permanent. I’ll share with you in a second why I believe failures are permanent, but for now let’s move on to the third unique keyword.
What part of the process changes an obstacle into a failure?
The part of the process that changes an obstacle into a failure is connected to a few elements: patience, curiosity, excitement, and the relationships that influence the first 3.
Going back to our example of backing the lava cake, how patient are you with it?
Are you going to stop after the first 3 tries or are you still trying?
The patience you have is strongly connected to your curiosity. If you want to know how to bake a delicious lava cake, it will make you curious about the process and eventually this curiosity is what will help you get the recipe right.
But sometimes, being curious is not enough. You can be curious about the right recipe for baking the lava cake but it doesn’t mean you’ll be excited about putting it yourself into practice, over and over again, until you do it right.
Knowing a recipe is right and putting it into practice until you bake the lava cake properly are two different things.
Patience, curiosity, and excitement can all be influenced by the relationships you have in your life. If your life partner, children, or parents never tried lava cake before but are intrigued about it, it will give you the needed boost to be more patient with your experiments, get curious about different kinds of recipes, and become excited about the end result.
When any of these elements are lacking, there’s a high chance you’ll give up and the obstacle will turn into a failure.
Did you know that optimistic decision-makers have a 25% higher success rate?
The end result and the dopamine around it
For how long are you willing to keep the idea of the perfect lava cake in your mind?
The answer is simple: until there’s no dopamine left to help you stay engaged and focused.
But things are tricky because that dopamine is tied to your progress. If you don’t advance at all after your first three tries and you make the same mistake, your dopamine levels will become lower and lower.
In the process of baking a lava cake, you need to pay attention to your improvements because these improvements will give you the energy to keep going.
In an ideal world, there are no expectations
I believe we should replace the expectations we have and the energy behind them with a vision we have and the energy behind it.
Instead of saying “I expect this lava cake to be perfect” say “I envision making the perfect lava cake”.
Simply setting yourself a starting point like this is going to change everything.
When you have a vision, you feel in your whole body the result that you’re going for. Instead, when you have expectations, the conflict between the desired result and the actual result is going to give you a negative feeling.
Why failure is permanent?
As you can see, failure is pretty rare.
Maybe you feel like you are failing constantly, but that’s happening because you see your obstacles are failures. They’re not. They’re simply obstacles and you can move past them.
So, how do you do that? How do you move past your obstacles?
Just don’t stop whenever an obstacle is present.
Most people stop at the first obstacle and they never try again.
Instead, learn to take breaks. Take a break of one day, one week, or even half a year. You can take a break of two years if that’s what you need.
It may sound stupid to take a break of two years, but imagine it’s your career we’re talking about.
Imagine you want to be a painter and you have a hard time selling your paintings. Things don’t work out for you therefore you decide to quit.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a two-year break and then resume your painting instead of deciding to give it up forever?
We only get to experience failure when we quit. Don’t let your obstacles be the reason for failing.
With love and optimism,
What did you learn?
What are some valuable things you learned about failure? How rare is failure in your life?
I would love to know what you think, so share your insights with me using the form below.