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Thoughts on Failure

How do you get up each morning and perform? That is a question I had asked myself for quite a while. I’ve read about high performing athletes or even business folks and I likely thought to myself “I could do that, I just don’t want to”, but in my mid-30’s having not achieved the financial goals I had dreamed about it was time to start asking myself what I needed to be doing differently, Could I actually perform at that level if I focused on? Let me share a little about my journey discovering this.

Over the years I’ve read countless self-help books and biographies and surprisingly much of what they convey is the same. Have a clear goal or vision. Have a good plan for accomplishing it. Then just get up every day and work towards it; getting a little better everyday is all it takes. However, in reality this is easier said than done. The “guidebook” makes it sound almost like walking up stairs. Just one more each day and you’ll eventually reach the top. The truth is it’s more like climbing a mountain. There will be obstacles along the way. How do you get around that cliff? What about the mountain lion? Etc. etc.

So how do you continue to get up and work towards your goal after getting attacked and almost eaten by the proverbial mountain lion? The answer is discipline and habit. You get up each day and focus on that day's tasks. Don’t think about what you have to do tomorrow or next week, think about what needs to be accomplished now. You see, focusing on the now makes it much easier to tackle large tasks. Imagine you’re about to go on a run. 10 miles (or more if that’s too easy). Do you think it’s helpful to think about the distance the entire time? No way! Just focus one step in front of the other and you will get to your goal. What I did when I was first starting out was I focused on one day at a time. “If I can accomplish all my goals for 1 day I surely can do 2”. And if you can do 2 you can do 3. How about a week now? A month? You get the idea. If you incrementally build you will be shocked how fast you grow.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your outlook) There will be days when you fall short. These are inevitable. Maybe something came up that prevented you from getting done with what you wanted to. Perhaps you simply underperformed. Falling short can happen for a multitude of reasons. When this happens don't be too hard on yourself. It’s easy for us to get down on ourselves when we fall short but realize this happens to everyone. Instead focus on what you can do better next time. Try to never fall short twice in the same way. By doing this you will gain super powers and over time be prepared to handle anything that is thrown your way.

While our society teaches that failure is the end of the road. It isn’t. Remember is school when you did poorly on an exam, “well I guess I’m not going to college”. How ridiculous does that sound now, although I know of many people who thought this way. Instead find ways to do better the next time. Failure is really a stepping stone to success. As the famous quote by Niels Bohr says “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made…” So go out there and fail. That’s the only way to achieve the success you desire. You can do it.

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