Get Out There And Fail


       by Jeffrey Keller


Remember when you learned how to ride a bicycle? You probably began with training wheels. Eventually, when these were removed, things became more difficult. You struggled to stay upright, maybe even falling a few times and scraping yourself.


As you practiced, it's likely that one of your parents walked beside you shouting instructions, encouraging you and catching you as you lost balance. You were scared . . . but excited! You looked forward to the time when you would succeed when you would at last ride free on your own. So, you kept at it every day, and eventually mastered the skill of riding a bike.


A similar process occurred when you learned how to walk. Were you successful on your first attempt to stand and stride forward? Of course not! No child succeeds on his or her first try. You had one failure after another. You'd try to stand, then plop down on your behind ... again and again. When you finally did stand, you probably took one or two wobbly steps and nearly bumped your head on the coffee table as you fell. Over time, you became more and more adept at walking until it became second nature.


What contributed to your ultimate success in these two childhood examples? Well, persistence and sheer repetition, certainly. You were going to stick with it no matter how long it took! It also helped that you were enthusiastic about what you set out to achieve and that you could hardly wait to reach your goal. And, finally, letís not underestimate the impact of positive encouragement. You always knew that your parents were in your corner, supporting you, rooting for your success.


But that was a long time ago.


Yesterday And Today


Let's examine how you now approach the development of new skills. Do you move forward with excitement, willing to perform unsuccessfully until you master the challenge? Do you jump at the chance to try something new or to "prove yourself" in the face of unforeseen obstacles? If you're like most people, the answer is probably "no".


So, what's changed between your "bike riding days" and today? For one thing, I'll bet that you've become a lot more concerned about the opinions of others, often hesitating because of possible criticism and ridicule. Sure, it can be "uncomfortable" to try something new, perhaps even scary. But if you take your eye off the goal and instead focus your attention on how others may be viewing you, you are doing yourself a grave disservice. To develop a new skill or reach a meaningful target, you must be committed to doing what it takes to get there, even if it means putting up with negative feedback or falling on your face now and then.


Successful people have learned to "fail" their way to success. While they may not particularly enjoy their "failures," they recognize them as a necessary part of the road to victory. After all, becoming proficient at any skill requires time, effort and discipline ... and the willingness to persevere through whatever difficulties may arise.


Take the example of a baseball player. He didn't start out able to magically hit each pitch or field his position with ease. He had his share of strike outs and made plenty of errors. But he dedicated himself to developing his skills over a lifetime of practice, some of it in the minor leagues where he learned the important nuances of his craft. All along, what kept him going was the incredibly clear intention of reaching his ultimate goal playing in the big leagues. As it is today, the player who gets just three hits in ten attempts is at the top of his profession, making several million dollars a year. That's a 70% failure rate! And the fans will no doubt taunt him when he strikes out.


We also know that show business stars and media personalities are no strangers to failure. Actors who start out get rejected an incredible number of times. Many invest ten or fifteen years, enduring hundreds of rejections, before landing a part that launches their careers. And then, even after achieving some degree of success, they may still experience occasional box office flops.


In a nutshell, all these individuals realize that success, to a large extent, is a matter of statistics and persistence. That is, if you keep trying, keep developing yourself and making adjustments along the way, you're going to succeed. You simply need to get enough at bats, go on enough auditions, visit enough potential clients, etc.


Undaunted By Failure


TV talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael, by her own account, couldn't pay her credit card bills for 26 years. In that period, she moved 25 times looking for work, was fired 18 times, and never earned more than $22,000 a year. Worse yet, there were times when she lived on food stamps and slept in her car. At what point should she have given up?


Another example is the phenomenally successful radio host, Rush Limbaugh, who endured years of low paying jobs and ridicule before he made a successful breakthrough.  After floundering in radio for 12 years, he was urged to get out of the business. In 1979, he left the radio industry and spent five years feeling miserable in a sales job for which he wasn't suited. In 1983, he returned to radio and the rest, as we know, is history.


So, when you get right down to it, there is no such thing as "failure" there are only results, some more successful than others. Failure means you've reached the end of the line and that success is not possible. The only time that happens is when you quit. Quitting is final. But continued attempts, with commitment and diligence, can be turned into success.


Key Questions


If you aren't getting the results you want or have been discouraged by failures, ask yourself these questions:


1. Do I have an unrealistic timetable?

Maybe you expect to "skip steps" and succeed on a grand scale immediately. Success is usually achieved by climbing one step at a time. And you don't always know how long it will take to advance to the next level. So, be patient with yourself and resist the temptation to compare your progress with that of anyone else! You'll advance faster than some, slower than others.


2. Am I truly committed?

Do you have a burning desire to achieve your goal? It's essential that you be willing to do whatever it takes and that you banish any thought of giving up before you accomplish your objective. Of course, it's much easier to be committed when you love what you are doing. Therefore, go after those goals which you are passionate about, and harbor no thought of quitting.


3. Do I have too many discouraging influences?

Unsuccessful results can be frustrating. That's why we need to surround ourselves with those who support and believe in us. If you hang around with negative people who are highly critical or who are doing very little in their own lives, your energy and enthusiasm will be drained. Therefore, develop a network of individuals to encourage and "coach" you toward success.


4. Am I preparing to succeed?

Success in any endeavor requires thorough preparation. Are you taking steps to learn everything you can about accomplishing your goal? This means reading books, listening to tapes, taking courses and networking with highly successful people in your field. It might mean finding a mentor or getting a coach to work with you. Successful individuals are always sharpening their skills. Those getting unsuccessful outcomes often do the same things over and over without making necessary adjustments. So, be "coachable." Accept the fact that you don't already know it all and find resources to keep you on track and moving forward.


5. Am I truly willing to fail?

Face it, it's going to happen. You will encounter defeat prior to succeeding. Look failure squarely in the face and see it as a natural part of the success process. Then, failure will lose its power over you. The truth is, when you are not afraid to fail, you're well on the way to success. Welcome failure as an unavoidable yet vital component in the quest to achieve your goals.


Your failures are learning experiences which point out the adjustments you must make. Never try to hide from failure, for that approach guarantees that you will

take virtually no risks and will achieve very little. As Beverly Sills once remarked, "You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."


No, you won't win every race. And you won't make money on every investment. Life is a series of wins and losses, even for the most successful. The

winners in life know that you crawl before you walk and you walk before you run. And with each new goal comes a new set of failures. It's up to you whether you

treat these disappointments as temporary setbacks and challenges to overcome, or as insurmountable obstacles. If you make it your business to learn from every defeat and stay focused on the end result you wish to attain, failure will eventually lead you to success!



Jeffrey Keller, President of Attitude is Everything, Inc.