Image credit: Surf Gear Ltd
Doomed To Fail
I have my father to thank for the 8 Ways to Fail Fabulously. You see, it was always his love that, as a young girl, I craved most. Early on, I convinced myself that I had to be perfect to get it. After all, he was perfect, at least in my eyes. So, I set about trying to be perfect too.
It won’t surprise you to know that I have failed outstandingly in my mission to be perfect. Yes, I have flopped all over the place; in every area of life, with some frequency. Heck, in some things, I have blundered spectacularly! I like to joke that I am a massive success at failure.
Given my childhood desire to be perfect, learning to accept the failures in my life has often presented quite a challenge, and I can honestly say, failure once terrified me.
When I was a teenager, I would often become paralysed by my fear of failure. I remember playing tennis, a game I loved, especially when I was training or winning, but oh, how I would break down whenever I lost. The sad truth was that I simply didn’t know how to love myself when I wasn’t winning.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s, that I figured out that trying to be perfect was both impossible and ridiculous.
Around the same time, I started to clue into the fact that my fear only made it more favourable for me to flop. As a student of psychology, we learned that high performance happens at the optimum level of stress – and straining to be perfect created way too much stress, causing performance to plummet.
For years, I would berate myself for bombing, which of course didn’t help; it only hindered me and left me feeling flat.
Overcoming Fear of Failure
I started selecting activities where I could control the outcome and avoid performance anxiety. In these places, I found I could manage the stress and actually excel.
Study was one of these places. Writing another. Things like public speaking, I avoided at all costs.
I wasn’t alone. A University friend comes to mind: she was some ten years older than me, and she would get so anxious before every spoken assessment that she’d throw-up.
That wasn’t me. No, I had an ability to appear confident and calm, while shaking on the inside. All part of appearing perfect, I guess. My philosophy was “fake it ’til you make it”.
For years, I continued my attempts “to be perfect” – but failure would not be avoided!! It just kept showing up.
After graduating from Uni, I began helping others, and I started to observe that others shared my fear of failure, and that I could actually help them.
Somehow, despite my own fears, and perhaps because of them, I knew intuitively what to tell people who felt like failures, or feared flopping. And this had the propitious effect of lending me some authentic confidence.
I’d often catch the wisdom coming out of my own mouth and wonder at its origins. Whilst I couldn’t trace the source, the counsel seemed legitimate, and so it wasn’t long before I began applying those same techniques to my own life. This is where the 8 Ways to Fail Fabulously began.
I’d like to say that my failures fizzled. Of course, they didn’t. In fact, I could bore you all day with my bountiful blunders. But I won’t.
Eventually I learned to deal with and accept failure since it seemed it was here to stay! It wasn’t until my forties that I found the freedom to fail fabulously.
Learning To Fail Fabulously
Almost everyone has an irrational fear of failure. Not you, of course, but everyone you know. lol 😉
Q: So, what do we do, given failure is inevitable, and we all struggle to deal with it?
A: We learn to Fail Fabulously, of course!!
Over the last 10 years, I have been researching the psychology of failure. I’ve looked into the links between failure and success; how to overcome the fear of failure; and how to rediscover success after a period of failure. I’ve examined what people say about failure and it’s relationship to success. I’ve even created a massive Mind Map of failure – so I can understand how it all fits together.
And after all this research, here’s what I think Failing Fabulously looks like:
8 Ways To Fail Fabulously
1. Fail Purposefully
To begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognise failure as one of the pathways to attainment.~ James Allen
You’re going to fail, so you may as well fall flat doing what you were put here to do.
Don’t waste your life failing at unimportant things. Fail with purpose and passion. Find a bigger mission that dwarfs your failures.
The awesome thing about purpose is, that it has the power to pull you through your failures. That’s because you care way more deeply about the outcome. You’re invested.
Failure simply won’t stop you – if your vision is compelling enough.
Interestingly, research now links purpose to pain relief. A clear purpose keeps you focused on moving towards your goals, so your brain doesn’t stop to notice the hurt.
With purpose, you’re much less likely to quit or suffer – even if there’s pain en route – and that’s the key!
Purpose essentially nullifies failure.
Okay, so what if you haven’t found your purpose yet? Well, I’ve got great news for you: Failure can help you by setting you on your true path.
Those roadblocks, detours, wrong turns you take, well it turns out that these are more like corrections, realigning you with the right road for you.
It’s the mind taking you off-track – and your soul will bring you back on track with a little well timed failure as required.
So, basically, you can’t go ‘wrong’ – wrong is only a state of mind.
You are exactly where you are meant to be, and you’ll make the mistakes you need to make, so that you get where you are meant to be going.
2. Fail Successfully
Failure is success if we learn from it.~ Malcolm Forbes
We tend to see failure as the opposite of success – and this is where we have it all back-to-front.
Instead, I want to encourage you to start seeing failure as part of success. It’s not failure or success; it’s failure and success…this will help you fail fabulously!
Adopt a success mindset; the belief that you are always learning, growing and capable of change, and with hard work and determination you can succeed.
Treat life like a classroom (win-win), and not a competition (win-lose).
Expect to make mistakes. And appreciate that you will learn more from your mistakes than from any successes you have.
This alone should give you reason to feel triumphant; the more you fail, the more you learn, and the greater can be your eventual success.
Reposition yourself as a student of failure, whether that’s in your business, personal life, creative pursuits, or relationships. And look to your so-called “defeats” as fine-tuning or training in the “dojo.”
Fail like you can’t lose. Be continuously curious. A life-long learner. Like the small infant who, despite being completely uncoordinated and lacking the necessary muscle strength, gets up every day determined to crawl, sit up and finally to walk.
Remind yourself of those crazed inventors who keep trying; rehashing, rebuilding, reconstructing, reimagining…until finally…success!!
Believe in your humanity; in the size of your forebrain; in the ability of your neurons to adapt and change; and in the capacity of the mind to seek out creative solutions.
Choose to believe in yourself and your capacity to learn, to grow, to find a way.
Finally, see success as your ultimate destination and failure as your stop-over.
3. Fail Joyfully
I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.~ Oprah Winfrey
Surfing has to be the most joyous activity on the planet. Playfully gliding through crystal clear waves, you feel like you are completely one with nature.
When I began surfing, it was a dream come true. Only problem was, I sucked.
My time spent standing I could count in nano-seconds, and my time falling-off in “dog” years.
I desperately wanted to surf better. I’d sit on the beach and watch experienced surfers with jealousy as they danced upon the water.
Frustration was my main emotion because my expectations were greater than my skill. Thankfully, I soon realised it was silly to take something magical and make it miserable.
I had 2 choices: 1. Ruin every moment; or 2. Enjoy being a beginner.
Ultimately, there was no choice: I decided to get grateful in large doses and enjoy the process…
Instead of focusing on my flaws, I began focusing on my fortune. I mean, it was still pretty incredible; playing in the ocean, surrounded by incredible views, the sunshine warming my skin.
“Alright”, I said to myself, “You won’t be a beginner forever, so enjoy this phase!”
Surfing instantly became fun, enjoyable, pleasurable; because in that moment, I chose to embrace failure and focus on becoming completely exceptional at falling off my board in 4ft of salty water.
Falling into the ocean can actually be a lot of fun and so I made a game of dismounting with style, joy, and child-like exuberance.
This is where I really started to live the 8 Ways to Fail Fabulously, and soon I was riding proper waves and zipping past beginners.
4. Fail Persistently
Failure is only postponed success as long as courage ‘coaches’ ambition. The habit of persistence is the habit of victory.~ Herbert Kaufman
As the idea that failure is success becomes embedded in your mind, it will feel easier to accept persistent failures, so that you may touch the reality of your ambitions.
You will remain tenacious and incessant even when you flounder, because you know this to be the path to success.
Bomb diligently. Flop often.
And no matter what, persist.
You already know that failure will not be foiled, so you must find the audacity to maintain your ambitions as you repeatedly bungle it.
Expect defeat, and decide beforehand that your downfalls will not be met with collapse, but with courage and perseverance.
Set your jaw. Do not avert your eyes from your destination. Lean into the discomfort of your heart beating out of your chest. And most importantly, learn to cheer yourself on in these moments.
Whatever you do, just keep going. Don’t contemplate the odds of success, or your distance from it’s company.
If your purpose is clear and you are in love with the journey, then do not be tempted by hesitation.
Feel victory drawing nearer with each misstep and disappointment.
Be undaunted. And mostly, be daring.
You may wish to recite a mantra in the toughest moments, such as:
- When I fail, I persist.
- Persistence is rewarded with progress and prosperity.
- Fortune favours the brave.
- Failure is a mere stepping stone to success.
5. Fail Optimistically
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.~ Napoleon Hill
Optimism, by definition, is a state of “hopefulness and confidence about the future success of something…”
But, how exactly does one remain optimistic in the face of failure?
I believe the confidence comes from knowing that failure and success are one and the same.
And hopefulness arrives when you recognise that failure is not your destination; merely a short, albeit necessary stop-over on the journey to success.
But what of the quote from Napoleon Hill, that failure, adversity, and heartache carry within them “the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
So, now failure is doing us favours? Helping us out!
Surely, asking us to believe in the amiability of adversity is stretching the friendship, Mr Hill?
A lesser authority would bring cause for doubt – but Napoleon Hill knows his stuff. I think we can trust him.
Better still, look to your own experiences.
Examine past or present failures with an open mind, and contemplate the following questions:
• How can I use this?
• What else can this mean?
• Is there something I can learn from this?
• Are there any unintended benefits I can see from this?
• If I can’t use it today, how will I use it someday?
This is so much more powerful than simply saying, “Stay positive, don’t give up.”
It reminds us that there is wisdom in looking to your so-called failures for the gifts, the lessons, the deeper messages. Failure brings unintended benefits, and that makes it fabulous to fail.
By asking these questions, you can rewire your brain for optimism, and as a consequence you will enjoy the process of failure more.
6. Fail Impersonally
Remember that failure is an event, not a person.~ Zig Ziglar
When you have a problem with failure it’s likely because you personalise it – meaning you think you are a failure when in reality a failure has occurred.
Sure, it may come as a result of your miscalculations – but still, it remains an event, and not your identity.
Failure is seperate from you. Therefore you can draw a boundary between your sense of self and the failures you experience.
You can adopt more neutral language:
“I have experienced a failure.”
“I am a failure.”
One of these statements will allow you to keep moving; the other will instantly demolish you.
Where does this voice come from, the one who is so quick to call us a loser?
It’s the Ego.
In its desperation to construct an identity, your Ego will even construct one out of deficiency and defeat. It rationalises:
If failure is external to me, then I’m out of control. But, if I’m the failure, then I am in control.
However, when you deconstruct this last statement, you find it makes no sense.
You cannot be a failure. Failure happened to you, near you, perhaps even because of you. But it is not YOU!
It’s a mistaken identity.
You are so much more.
It amazed me to discover the word ’failure’ comes from the Latin ’fallere’, which means to deceive, trick, or cheat.
It is you who is being deceived when you allow ego to merge your beautiful self with the event of failure.
Failure is not who you are – it is simply feedback – so fail fabulously by not taking it personally.
7. Fail Resiliently
You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.~ Mary Pickford
Imagine that you could jump 70 metres into the air from where you sit right now. Now that would be impressive, wouldn’t it?
It’s actually equivalent to the height that a flea can jump. And what gives fleas this superpower is an extremely springy protein that lives in their joints, called Resilin.
The unique property of Resilin is that it stores energy very, very well, and it can bounce back to the same capacity millions of times over, much like a rubber band can be repeatedly stretched and still return to its original shape.
Certainly, you will never leap 70 metres in the air, but you can develop similar abilities to the flea. With the right mindset, you can reduce the energy you lose to impactful events, and you can learn to bounce back more quickly to your original shape…
That’s resilience. And you need resilience to face failure successfully.
Resilience is about about springing back quickly; it’s about letting failure slide off you like water off a duck’s back, it’s about returning to your full self confidence as quickly as possible after the fall.
Remember those plastic punching clowns with sand in the bottom? Those things know how to fail fabulously. You knock them down, and they pop right back up, over and over again.
Well, that can be you too – bouncing back up every time you get hit, losing almost no energy to the event of failing, because you understand that to try and fail is not true failure…
The only time you truly fail, is when you fail to try.
8. Fail Epically
If you set your goals ridiculously high and its a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.~ James Cameron
We’ve established by now that failure is not optional – no matter what you do, how smart or skillful you are, you are still going to experience it!
I think we’ve also established that failure isn’t real unless you give up. It’s just a thing that happens on the way to success.
Finally, we’ve clarified that failure is not personal; it’s an event. And as an event, it can even be joyful and filled with optimism.
With all this in mind, I give you my last mindset hack on failure – and that is to FAIL BIG TIME.
That’s right. I want you to become the best and biggest failure you can manage. Because the sooner you fail big, the sooner you will succeed big.
You see, your successes are only as big as your failures. So the level of failure you can tolerate will determine the level of success you can create.
That’s why I recommend you aim for the skies where failing is concerned.
Yep, I’m suggesting you raise your standards and fail fabulously, knowing that this will have the consequence of lifting your level of ultimate success.
Of course, you still need to assess the risks, and don’t be reckless with your life or business.
But just stop trying to avoid failure, and instead, embrace it!
Fail as ambitiously as you can; Bungle things gigantically; Botch them colossally.
Because, let’s face it…
If you succeed without failing, then you haven’t set your bar very high…
Well, that’s it!
I hope you feel more excited, or at least less fearful of failure. And I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my 8 Ways to Fail Fabulously.
Embracing failure has been an epic journey in my life: from totally afraid to fail, to loving and learning from, and even looking forward to failure.
Failure has taught me more than I ever could have imagined when I was just a young girl looking for her father’s love by trying to be perfect.
My failures have caused pain for me – that’s for certain – but only when I’ve resisted them, personalised them, misunderstood them, and under-appreciated them.
These days, I’ve stopped trying to be perfect. We are all perfect just as we are…
So now, some questions for you:
- What is it that you have been putting off doing?
- And what have you been berating yourself about lately?
- Is there an event that knocked you down that you haven’t picked yourself back up from?
- Which massive failure can you go back to and extract more learning, wisdom, knowledge from?
Please share your answers, comments or stories below, because we’ve all have had encounters with failure, and you will help yourself and others if you share.
The Mindset Mentor
Michelle McClintock is a Life & Business Mindset Strategist who specialises in transforming your mindset so you can experience more peace, happiness, success and fulfilment.
Michelle has 30-years experience in personal development, as a Psychologist, Facilitator, Speaker and Results Coach. She loves it when people get new insights that spark massive growth and positive transformation.
Through her writing and videos she makes complex coaching and psychology ideas easy to digest and assimilate, so you can create your ultimate life.