Not Being Afraid to Fail Forward

How much are you willing to step into the pitfall in front of you if it means crossing the finish line later?

Failure is a strong word for some. With it comes the context of typically falling short of something you had originally set out to succeed in. It’s also a term we apply to larger things in our lives. Something with stakes that we feel we have to hit.

Yesterday I finished Scott Adam’s, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. This is the third book of his that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The first being one of my favorite books of all time, God’s Debris, and the second being the sequel, The Religion War. Needless to say, I have an affinity for the guy’s quirky view on life and his place in it. Even if I’m not a big fan of his Dilbert comic.

Adams uses the premise of admitting that he’s failed at so many things in his life that he was left with the building blocks to later succeed. Through a narrative of recovering his voice due to a rare vocal disease, he explains that the biggest winners in life cross the finish line due to a few components:

  • A higher level of personal energy due to taking care of their health.
  • Developing a collection of skills (even mediocre ones) that can be combined into something greater.
  • Affirmations through optimism.
  • Developing a system for accomplishing tasks and NOT making simple goals.

He’s not reinventing the wheel with his opinions, nor does he ever purposely come off as if he knows all the answers. In fact, he mentions several times that this is merely the unfolding of his life and how events transpired. An honesty I appreciate; and although I wasn’t left blown away, I did feel reinforced in the idea of working through difficulties despite tribulations. Which is why I’m weaving this short book review into my point.

I think our views can be shortsighted. Sure the work you put in didn’t amount to the ‘W’ that you wanted next week. But does it mean it was all for naught? Sometimes our immediate snafus are simply stepping-stones into something much farther down that we’re not even aware of yet? Adams failed upward in corporate life, botched entrepreneurship ideas, dropped the ball on technology ventures, failed at patenting, and almost lost his cartoonist career. But at the end of it, he realized that all those separate experiences had led to the culmination of useful tools that could be applied later. Especially if you will it to be.

It’s not a radical concept. It just requires a bit of re-prioritizing what matters. Developing a system, rather than a goal. Don’t make a goal to lose ten pounds, develop a system to eat healthier overall. Why rely on willpower when the knowledge you gain is more powerful and less draining? Using your willpower to resist one temptation only empties your reserves to fight another.

Bottom line, it really is a marathon that we’re running. The culmination of our lives are very long foot races with stations along the way that provide experiences (and not water). I think we end up in a much better place thinking on the finish line (the big picture) than simply trying to pass the runner in front of us (temporary satisfaction).

Until next time.

Author: Mr. Nifty

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