How should you deal with “Failure”?


One of the core requirements of success is to unleash your passion. But the Hero’s Journey says very clearly that the way to success is laced with failure.  You WILL fall on your face, be betrayed, disappointed, rejected, ripped off, defeated. There is no way around it.  Deal with that reality.  


Because only pain tells you where the problems are, where the inadequacies are, where you need to grow, change, learn, gain allies.   And if you didn’t need to grow, change, learn, gain allies?  Usually, that means you already have “it”, that success, whatever it is.   In a few cases you find people who are hyper-prepared from some other arena (for instance, I understand Marine officers find themselves slipping into the executive suite with enormous ease: they already have many of the core qualities and experiences necessary).   In an even smaller number of cases, you have people who seem to have no previous experience at all, but can just DO it.  

They are freaks. Ignore them.  

That is as rare as getting struck by lightning as you win the Boston Marathon, and has nothing to do with what YOU need to do to succeed, or what most human beings have done to bring their dreams to reality.

For the vast majority of us, we must clarify our dreams, model success, pay the price, maintain our energy and enthusiasm over time, fall down a thousand times, and pick yourself up from the dust a thousand-and-one.

Remember that you control your emotions by controlling focus, language, and body movement.  One great way to control focus and language at the same time is to ask yourself questions.  Here are some great ones to prepare for that inevitable defeat, and get you up before the bell, ready for the next round.

  1. WHY do you need to do this?  The more urgent the need, the more driving the desire, the easier the motivation.  
  2. WHO will benefit from your success?  IT CANNOT JUST BE YOU.  When you experience failure, it hurts your ego.  Your self-esteem suffers.  When it is low, you simply can’t motivate yourself by doing something “for you.”   The voices in your head can become poisonous: “you are worthless.  You suck!   You never had any skill or talent.  Give up…”   But if you’re doing it for your children, your family, your community, your country, your tribe, the Glory of God or whatever touches your heart, you tap strength unknown to the ordinary mind, and can keep going.
  3. WHAT is your definition of success.  Be SURE that success is defined by YOUR actions.  Remember “Rocky”?    He knew he couldn’t beat Apollo Creed, the champion of the world.  But re-defined success so that it was simply being on his feet at the end of 15 rounds, something no one else had ever done. And because of that simple commitment, he (in the sequel!) beat the champ and became Champion of the World himself.  A simple shift in definitions unleashed his true power.
  4. HOW will you learn, no matter what happens?   If you study the lives of successful people, you know that they all, every one of them, find some way to meld their talents, experience, and passion with a keen perception of the market and sensitivity to the results they are getting.  Every single one of them finds THEIR unique way to succeed.  You model the basic techniques of your discipline, follow the footsteps of the masters until you achieve unconscious competence in your field, until you aren’t freaking out over the nuts and bolts.  And then…you do your own dance, find your own way.
  5. WHEN will you get back up and hit it again?   If you push for weeks or months, give it everything you have, and then don’t get the result you want (and real disappointment and anger comes not from some objective reality, but your perception that the results don’t match your expectations) then it is inevitable that you experience depression, sadness, tears, anger, disappointment.  IT IS HUMAN.    Don’t feel bad about feeling bad! The primary emotion is enough of a burden.   Personally I use the following:
  1. my daily ritual of Tai Chi, affirmation and visualization to break the negative pattern, and get back on the right path.
  2. Give yourself a period of time to be miserable.  An hour, or a day.  Literally tell yourself: “I’m going to be all messed up for THIS period of time.” The powerful thing about this is that when you say this, you are automatically implying that you are in control.  You also feel a bit of the absurdity–by OBSERVING your miserable state, you grasp that you are playing a role.  Enjoy the misery, and you are laughing at “miserable you” in a way that encourages him to laugh along with you.   Aren’t we having fun being upset?  Isn’t it funny?  
  3. I use the Ancient Child technique.   My child-self gives it everything, and can curl up in a ball, crying, when things don’t go right.   He wants to be nurtured, loved, hugged, told he’s a good boy, that I am proud of him.  Years ago, my son Jason couldn’t sleep the night before his first judo tournament.   If he lost, would I still love him?  I held him and told him that if he did his best, and fought fairly with courage and courtesy and passion, win lose or draw we’d go for ice cream.  And he came to me and said: “what I’m going to do is be still and calm, and then when the moment comes I will STRIKE like a scorpion!” and we laughed.  And the next day…he tore the mats up.  Wow.   And…we never enjoyed ice cream more.

Do you owe yourself any less?



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