Avoiding failure could put off your success.
Failure: to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired or approved; to receive less than the passing grade or mark in an examination, class or course of study; to be or become deficient or lacking; be insufficient or absent; fall short; to dwindle, pass or die away; to lose strength or vigor; become weak
Honor: to hold in high respect; revere
In the world of personal development, I have heard bumper sticker statements such as “Honor yourself,” “Honor your feelings,” “Honor your shame and vulnerability,” and “Love yourself.” Never have I heard “Honor failure.” Most of us live in fear of failing, and therefore we never start putting ourselves out there.
What if failure was a road sign along the way to realizing our authentic vision? What if failure was a way in which the universe informed us that we need to pivot our efforts or to work harder? After all, when a failure occurs, it is not that we are failures. Failing is something that we are doing that just is not currently working. Unfortunately, most of us make failure about ourselves.
Personally, I am often paralyzed by both the fear of failing and the actual act of failing. Usually it is my thoughts and subsequent feelings about myself that occur in both experiences that are debilitating. I can see how this plays itself out in my work as a coach and speaker, as I stop putting myself out there with blogs, presenting opportunities, etc. when I am afraid of “failing” at these things. I can also see the effects of this as a mom and wife when I can “get in my head” when dealing with the logistics of those roles and don’t remain present to the experiences of mom and wife moment to moment. All of this means that I often live life conceptually and don’t take the inspired actions necessary to fulfill my greater purpose and mission—that through intuitive-results coaching, I empower soulful women to break through any barriers to loving wholeheartedly so that we shine with purpose, presence, love, abundance, joy and wonder together!
Nevertheless, when I sat down to write this article, I was faced with the fear of failure instantly: “What will people think of what I am writing?” “Am I sharing too personally?” “Can I even write?” These are all thoughts that rear their ugly heads in the face of living in line with my vision and intending to contribute through my work as a coach.
The key to vulnerability
Author and public speaker Brené Brown says in her TED Talk (which has had over 20 million online views), “We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.” I am going to say you cannot have access to vulnerability if you’re afraid of failure and you can’t fail without being vulnerable. It is the skinny end of the branch of what our lives are about, and we numb ourselves to it. I will add that being in touch with and living in line with your purpose means mastering the state of vulnerability because you have to be comfortable there to create the actions necessary to live in line with your purpose.
As Brown asserts, we often handle vulnerability by numbing ourselves, and numbing can show up in a plethora of ways. Numbing can range from developing extreme or mild addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, money, sex, etc. to practicing obsessive negative self-talk (as a habit) to engaging in constant states of distraction. This includes not being present to exactly how life is and exactly how it is not by distracting ourselves with texts, emails, TV, gossip, complaining, etc.
I am going to add something to the numbing list. I say that another way we numb is by not dreaming about the vision we have for our lives or going for want we really want for ourselves and others (also called resignation) in order to avoid the possibility of “failing.” The numbing we do to avoid getting clear about our dreams and visions, finding and living to fulfill our mission and purposes, is probably the most insidious of all mechanisms. Not being in touch with our visions and dreams means we get to tune out and not be responsible for who we are and who we can be in the world. The opportunity of getting clear about our visions and purpose on the planet can clear away much of the need to numb. It’s as if there is no time for distraction or negative addictions when we are in the kind of flow connected to who we really are—living our divine purposes.
A dear friend forwarded me this amazing video about how athletes have become arrogant and egocentric in their pursuit of winning and have stopped working hard building excellence in their pursuit of the win. The video refers to “failing hard,” to putting everything into the pursuit of winning. The journey is about the vulnerability that is necessary to work hard to accomplish something you are passionate about, not about proving how you can win with the least amount of work. It’s about being vulnerable enough to work at your vision and mission and fail along the way.
I love when Michael Jordan said, “I failed over and over in my life, and that is why I succeed.” He was never afraid of going the distance in the pursuit of dedicating himself to what he loved, which was the game of basketball.
What is your game? What do you love? What are you willing to fail at over and over again? What are you willing to give your vulnerability and passion to? That is the question.
Potentially, the technology industry has some of “honoring failure” figured out. Entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh says in her article called A Badge of Honor, “In fact, failing is viewed as a badge of honor in the start-up realm. Investors actually prefer to invest and even double down on entrepreneurs who are able to pick themselves up and go at it the second time as it exhibits qualities of resilience, resourcefulness and passion. Ideally, these entrepreneurs would then apply learning to a second venture, so they avoid the same pitfalls.”
According to a Harvard Business School paper, Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship, a first-time entrepreneur has only an 18 percent chance of succeeding in a first start-up. An entrepreneur who has failed has a 20 percent chance of success in the next start-up. Finally, with all else being equal, a successful, venture-backed entrepreneur has a 30 percent chance of succeeding in a subsequent venture. Strange but true, entrepreneurs who have failed are more likely to get funding (from the same venture capital firm) than their successful counterparts.
So there you have it. What if you were rewarded for taking risks that move you toward accomplishing your visions? What if you failed miserably each time you went out to practice accomplishing your vision, your purpose, your mission? Would you stop or know that part of the game called life is honoring each and every time you fail as part of the journey? Most important, what if you looked at failure just as road signs along that journey? Failures could be the universe’s way of orienting you toward the true accomplishment of living in alignment with your visions and purposes.
“Failure is the opportunity to begin, again. Only more intelligently” —Henry Ford
Photo credit: Adobe Stock, Karen Roach