Let’s play fortune-teller, shall we? Imagine a businessman barely scraping by every month. Instead of paying rent, he sleeps in the office to save money. Then one day, the board fires him from his own company electing a new CEO to run it. Now, tell me what you think his future is.
Those familiar with this story will know that man is Elon Musk. After his downfall with Paypal, he has reinvested his time and money on other ventures like SpaceX, Tesla, Solar City and more. His path has been littered with failures – several quite spectacular! Yet none of this has barred him from achieving his goals.
Pick any super successful entrepreneur and I promise you you won’t have to dig very deep to find stories of ulcer-inducing failure. These people – the Oprahs, the Richard Bransons, the Sara Blakelys of the world – often overcame profound personal hardship, a lack of support by close family and friends, and mistakes. Many, many mistakes and failures that must have stung like fire in the moment.
Just so we’re clear, this isn’t me recommending you throw caution to the wind. I’m not telling you to jump without a parachute. But anyone who has spent any amount of time actually trying to launch and run a business knows that there is an awful lot of leaping involved, and for the most part, we’re stuck weaving that parachute on the way down.
Want to weave faster? You’ll have to reframe your idea of failure.
Do what you can’t
In one of the most inpsiring and creative videos I’ve ever watched, Casey Neistat implores creators everywhere to ignore their haters, “You don’t have to listen to anyone,” he says. “Because in this new world, no one knows anything.” All you need is something you want to create. A burning desire to share a piece of your story. A problem you’re itching to solve.
Here’s one thing of which you can be certain.
You. Will. Fail.
The real determinant of success is what you do about it.
One of the factors that ties most super achievers together is how utterly spectacular some of their failure stories are. And that isn’t a lack of foresight – it’s an indicator of a vision most people can’t fathom, coupled with the willingness to take the first step (or six).
Take baby steps
It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Most entrepreneurs get discouraged because we have a tendency to do what business coach Dan Sullivan calls, “living in the gap”. We measure the distance between our current position and where we want to be and feel exhausted.
But people don’t come out of the womb running marathons. At first, progress can seem painfully slow. But “success” is an accumulation of a group of small wins that build on each other; wins that taken individually might seem insignificant, but then tend to add up over time.
Fall in love with the process
Most gurus tend to focus on the vision, the big hairy audacious goals. And yes, having them is a crucial part of the process because they provide the fuel that keeps your engine running when you’ve landed in the muck (again).
I’ve noticed there’s something that separates the consistently successful from the one-hit wonders. It’s consistency. And don’t let anyone tell you that’s a matter of willpower. It isn’t. It’s about finding a way to fall in love with the process. It’s the difference between thinking you’re going to feel happy and fulfilled after you lose 10lbs (goal-oriented thinking) versus finding pleasure and accomplishment from showing up for your workout every day(process-oriented thinking). Spend time creating a process you can learn to love. And then follow it consistently.
Failing and being a failure are two different things
Making a mistake isn’t part of your identity. How you handle that mistake is.
The world’s youngest female self-made billionaire, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, directly credits her resilience to the way her father trained her to think about failure. Once a week, he’d grill his kids about their failures and if they didn’t have a good story of falling on their faces, he’d express disappointment. “What I learned from that is that the only real failure is not trying,” recalls Blakely.
One of the hardest things about living your truth is the anxiety it creates when you know those nearest and dearest to you won’t get it. This is an inescapable artifact from the way our brains are wired to favour “group think” over our own personal instincts. Not only is our fight or flight response triggered at the thought of rejection of our circle, but nobody likes to hear the dreaded, “I told you so.”
Blakely deliberately trains herself to overcome this mechanism by publicly embarrassing herself. Her daily Instagram stories are both heart-warming and hilarious as she shares personal embarrassments like the time she had a huge hole in her jeans and unwittingly went to a parent-teacher conference with her undies on display.
Ultimately, success boils down to you cycling through vision, action and surrender. And failure doesn’t have to be a morale-destroying f-bomb.