We’ve done ourselves a disservice in the way we’ve come to define success and failure.
Failure = Trying and getting some result short of the one hoped for
Thomas Edison said something really powerful in this quote. We miss it these days because we’ve heard it so much, but it’s real.
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.” - Thomas Edison
I’m one of those weirdos who’s grown up with the desire to be successful. We’re a hard group to find. We tend to wear pants or shorts, dresses or skirts. We tend to drive cars or walk, run, ride a bike or the bus, maybe the train. We usually have a job or own a business or perhaps no job. We try stuff. Each try is an opportunity to succeed or fail and we loathe the fail option. It messes with our heads. We think limiting thoughts:
“Should I have tried in the first place?”
“Why was I so foolish as to think I could have pulled that off. I knew nothing.”
“I’ve got to make up for that failure before I dare try again…assuming I should dare again at all.”
Life’s not very long. 80–100 years max. There’s a lot to do; there’s a lot to experience. Let’s not go gentle into that good night.
At 20, a friend and I dared buy a condo in Boulder, CO. Boy was that the wrong time to dare. It wasn’t a win. The two owners before us dared and won. In 6 total years they experienced a combined $100,000 in appreciation. in 10 years of owning we made diddly. I carried the weight of that non-success for some time. How could I have thought that a good idea? What did I know about home buying at 20? I didn’t know squat about what could go wrong. I’d never seen a downturn in the real estate market. That’s why 20 year olds have no business trying that. So dumb. Stay reasonable and make sure that doesn’t happen again.
That’s what we do!!! Can you believe that? I can’t believe it. I dared. I lost. I knew so much more than before I started. I advised friends when their day came to buy a home. I was actually closer to success than before I started because I gained experience. Unfortunately, I was turning that experience into a stop sign. That’s not experience. That’s not wisdom. That’s not living. That’s not success. That…is failure.
Let’s change how we identify success:
Success = Trying
Failure = Being a badass who’s trying stuff
Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx, which has done pretty well as an organization. You may have heard of it. In turn, she’s done pretty well for herself according to Forbes, as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the history of planet Earth. In telling of her childhood to Business Insider, she explained how her dad would ask at dinner what she and her brother failed at that day. When they had an answer, a high-five was in order, because trying and succeeding and trying and failing are both really really powerful. Both are success.
The Fail Project
I wanted to really redefine success and failure in my life. The year I turned 30 I decided to create a little fail project for myself (I’m 32 now):
Objective: Redefine failure. Become immune to the negative feeling associated with failure. Develop and reinforce the positive feeling of being a badass who tried something.
How: Take inventory of life time assets, financial assets, future goals, and unattempted past goals. Create a 1-year schedule of highly likely to fail tasks. Some large. Some tiny. Some that’d been on the to-do list for a long time. Some that just randomly came up.
Spoiler: The result wasn’t actually what I expected. Immunity wasn’t achieved because I actually succeeded at a lot of stuff. I found that things I put in the “unlikely to succeed at” category actually belonged in the “reasonably likely to succeed at” category. The beautiful thing is I did come to find great pride and joy in trying. I came to feel the feeling of success from trying, regardless of outcome.
This is a blog about trying. About risk. About taking on uncertainty. Learning. Skill development. About freedom; freedom to explore and do and go and to stop. It’s about starting. Showing up everyday. It’s about steps, small chunks, big chunks, bite-sized pieces. Plans. It’s about redefining metrics. It’s about intentionality. Creating life. Beauty. Joy. Doing. Going. Regrouping. It’s about failure. It’s about success. It’s about life being lived.