Of course you have. I have. We all have. The only way to not fail is to not do anything and then you are still failing – at life! The problem doesn’t lie with you – the problem lies with the word itself and the meaning we attach to it.
Here’s the thing. When a baby is learning to walk, it (sorry – he or she) doesn’t just get up and walk and that’s it. Job done.
AS we all know, the baby will watch others, figures out there is another way of getting around apart from crawling or bum shuffling, and heaves its tiny self off the ground. Great it is standing up. So it (let’s call it she), she moves her leg, lets go of the couch and then….falls over. There may be crying, or just a look or surprise as she realises she isn’t waking. So, she hauls her self up again, moves her leg and falls over. She does it again, and again, and again until she is able to take 2 steps before she falls, and then 3 and then 5.
This doesn’t happen in 2 minutes. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours for the first couple of steps, sometimes it comes a couple of days later. But Baby doesn’t stop, till she has this walking thing cracked. Why is that? Because she doesn’t know the word failure, and no one told her she failed. In fact rather the reverse. Everyone got very excited about her trying, so she thought she would keep trying.
There were physical set backs to getting this walking thing to work, but there were no emotional set backs. She didn’t beat herself up about it. No one made her feel bad or told her to stop trying.
So – when does it change. When does trying, and getting a bit better each time – turn into failing? How is it that as we get older, we stop trying so hard? We allow ourselves to think we are failures?
Well, I am no psychologist but I know that somewhere along the way, when we stop being cute babies and sometime in early childhood, we start to pick up messages about failure. We realise that OTHER people – like parents, siblings, teachers, friends or any other significant person we come into contact with thinks we can’t do something. And since they are older and therefore (in our childish mind) wiser, they MUST be right.
And of course, once you fail at one thing, then it must be possible to fail at something else, and something else. And suddenly we are living to other people’s standards and failing at lots of stuff. We fail to keep our room tidy or bring down our pots from our bedrooms, so disappointing Mum. We come 29th out of 30 in the Maths test at school, so feel like a failure in front of our peers and teacher. We fail to wash all the dirt off Dad’s car, which we were trying so hard to make a good job of.
It’s really easy to fail isn’t it?
And so, by the time we are adults, we have programmed ourselves with stuff ‘we can’t do’. We believe we are ‘no good at languages’ or ‘can’t do financial stuff’ or ‘hopeless with technology’. Because, somewhere along the line, someone told us we were hopeless, or laughed at us when we tried to do something.
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine was a young child when decimalisation happened in 1970 (weren’t we all?). She went to the shops with her Dad and the at that time all goods were marked in ‘new money’ and you had to work out what that was in old pence, which you could still use. Well, she picked up a sweet and went to pay in ‘old money’ without knowing (because she was a child) that the price was the new 2.5p (yes there used to be half pence’s up until 1984) and not the old 2.5d. Of course, she didn’t have enough money. And that would have been OK if her Dad had not laughed at her, and told her she couldn’t have it and she would have to choose something else. She felt humiliated in front of the shopkeeper, she felt angry at her Dad for laughing and not ‘protecting’ her, and she felt like a total failure where money was concerned.
It was not until her 40’s that she realised that her self belief that she was ‘no good with money’, stemmed from this one incident. And when you believe stuff, you can always find evidence to support it (often by self sabotaging).
How much better would it be if we eliminated the word ‘failure’ and replaced it with ‘testing’. That’s what they call it in marketing. You test a headline, an image, come copy, and ideally you test it against others. The most popular headline is the one you run with. That doesn’t make you a ‘failure’ on the other 5 headlines you tested. It is just a sensible way of doing it.
You see, most people have that little voice running in their head. The one that stops them trying, because they are freighted of failing. That voice is trying to protect them, but really it is just confirming each time, their feeling of being a failure. What if they though about it differently?
When a reporter asked Thomas Edison how it felt to fail 1000 times before inventing a working lightbulb he replied “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps” What a great attitude. And thank god he felt that way!
So if a clever guy like Edison can see the truth – that some things take time, and failure only happens when you give up – why is it that we feel we have to get it right first time, every time? Who are we …..God?
So – listen to me. There is NO failure, there is just testing. Was Sylvester Stallone an established actor when he wrote and then made Rocky? NO. He was offered $25k for the script and turned it down because he wanted to play the lead role. The price went up, and up. He still turned it down. He know the part he wrote could only be played by him. Failure did not come into the equation. Eventually he took 35k, and starred in the film that went on to make him as a Hollywood star.
Trust me, at the end of the day there are millions of talented people who get nowhere because they limit themselves but their own fear of failure and beliefs that they are not good enough. But ultimately – the people who succeed are the ones who believe they can. That is the difference that makes the difference. It is not to do with money, looks, communication skills or intelligence (look at Stallone), it is completely to do with overcoming your fear of failure and believing that you can.
If you want to meet some WHY’s Women and Men – who don’t believe in the word ‘failure’ – then come along to our FB page, or find us on Twitter and join in the conversation. And remember – Live, Love and Laugh every day and continue to be you in your own unique way.