Are You Failing Enough?

Are You Failing Enough?

Happy New Year!

With 2016 just days away, my wish for you is failure – lots of it!

Yup – you heard me right, but before you click away, let me explain…

Long ago my father gave me a warning. At the time, I let it go in one ear and out the other (as I tended to do). His warning was quite simple – “Be aware,” he said, “Fear increases with age.”

While not as long or philosophical as many of his “lessons,” he repeated this one on a regular basis. In fact, he actively engaged in self-talk to acknowledge and manage his own fear. I once caught him doing a back-flip into the pool at age 70 – it was his annual ritual to fight back fear.

For me, while his words started in a “Charlie Brown teacher voice,” they became a clear and compelling reality. He was right – fear increases with age. What’s worse – I see its’ impact on my life:

  • Take less risk and tend to avoid vulnerability.
  • Spend more time protecting and less time creating.
  • Think about holding on instead of finding the new or the next.
  • Get too comfortable with what I know and less curious about what I don’t.
  • Rationalize why “safe, steady and slow” is the best way to be.
  • Let “complacent” take over for “comfortable.”
  • Resist setting ambitious goals because I’ll probably fall short.
  • “Settle” too often for less than optimal or ideal.

What about you? Have you participated in any of these? If so, you are experiencing the quiet, but consistent creep of fear into your life as well.

Let me share what I do to battle the progression of fear. It isn’t fun and quite frankly, I hate it. However, if ‘fear’ is my new normal, it must be managed. The only way to achieve continuous improvement (in life and career) is to learn how to both recognize and manage your fear. It is uncomfortable – I won’t sugarcoat it. If you accept the challenge – I can guarantee your life remains rich, full and dynamic.

Here is my “hated” technique:

At the beginning of every year, I recommit to a single, over-riding goal. It is simple and straight forward:

Experience 1 significant failure during the next 12 months.

Don’t let the simplicity deceive you. By committing to (and striving toward) this goal – many positive activities are launched. Think about it, to accomplish this goal, you must:

  1. Critically assess your current life. You can’t accomplish this goal without understanding your personal and professional situation. You need data/perspective to identify areas for potential failure. This generates self-awareness and honest reflection. You must identify areas in your life ripe for a significant risk or change.
  2. Consider much bigger possibilities. Whenever you identify a potential ‘risk’ there is usually a greater ‘reward’ attached to it. You may of repressed these benefits or potentials. This process requires you consider these rewards. You might even get excited about the positive possibilities!
  3. Identify and embrace fear. As you move toward this goal, you experience all of the fear, self-doubt, insecurity and vulnerability associated with the failure. In doing so – you learn that the “fear” of failure far exceeds the “reality” of failing! This is an amazing and powerful lesson.
  4. Try new methods, techniques and activities. Einstein said it best – “Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” To fail, you must try something new and different. The effort pushes you to new learning and experiences. Your comfort zone gets shattered. Regardless of the outcome – you grow and evolve as a person.
  5. Learn what is important. Failing doesn’t stop loved ones from loving you. It doesn’t make you a “bad” person. It doesn’t keep the sun from rising. When considering what’s really important – failing at something doesn’t change much.

So that brings us full circle to my wish for you. Before 2016 arrives, set a stretch goal that is big, audacious and hairy. Push yourself out of “comfortable or normal.” Get ready for (and embrace) the butterflies in your belly or self-doubt in your head. They are hard to beat – don’t let that bother you. Join them. Show them they are not in charge. As we like to say in my house – “Make them your female dog!”

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