The first time I read the words, “fail more,” in a business book, I almost threw it across the room. I knew nothing about business when I started my own, and I was desperate. At the time, I was in the vulnerable position of deciding whether or not to quit my predictably dreadful job or start my own company. Reading those words in that book was both confusing and disappointing.
How the hell could failure be the key to success? It took some time to figure that out.
Think back to when you learned how to ride a bike. You probably fell off a lot. You crashed. You failed. But you got back on the bike and figured it out, right? Lots of failure took place before your first successful ride. When you’re young, failure is unavoidable because your brain is still developing and you’re constantly learning new things. Life is stimulating! You can’t hide from growth, it envelopes you completely in all of it’s excitement and uncertainty.
Failure = Improvement.
The problem is that when we get older, we hide from failure. Once we’ve mastered bike riding, graduated from whatever, gotten married, and started our careers- we avoid making mistakes as much as possible because now we have to armor our fragile egos.
Fucking up makes us look bad, which inevitably makes us feel bad. So, we learn to avoid doing anything new because we don’t want to feel a negative emotion. Nothing annoys me more than hearing an adult say that they “gave up” on something because they didn’t immediately get the results they thought they deserved after trying something ONE TIME.
You had to EARN your first stable bike ride.
Remember those skinned knees, bloody palms filled with gravel, and tears streaming down your face? Over and over again you felt pain and then got back up on that bike to experience it again. You were actually excited about this process, and you eventually learned how to NOT fall anymore because you fell so fucking much. Your little brain was consistently fed all kinds of useful information every time you swerved, caught yourself, crashed, and carried on.
I’m 32 years old and my plan for the rest of my life is to be a child AND a scientist. A childish scientist. To be filled with curiosity and explore new things that interest me, probing everything objectively. The world will be my science lab and I will experiment, everyday.
Right now, I’m learning how to play the drums. I’ve longed for a drum kit since I first saw a photo of one in a JC Penney Christmas catalog when was 4 years old. I finally got one this week, and you know what? I suck. When I finished setting everything up, I was dumbfounded. I sat down on the throne to “play,” and I started having second thoughts about this gigantic musical instrument taking up a third of my living room. But, after I gently pushed the self-doubt from my mind, I realized that I would figure it out along the way.
This process requires patience and a positive mindset. It also requires a nearly impossible reversion to the clean slate of a kid’s brain. I’m willing to work hard without harshly judging myself along the way, remaining only critical when necessary for improvement and growth.
I will cultivate the ability to detach from preconceived notions. I know that I need to earn my skills by toiling away with the fundamentals, and humbly turning my mistakes into valuable lessons. This means no negative self-talk and no throwing the drumsticks across the room when I can’t figure something out. I won’t be that child.
Will I fail? Everyday, I hope. If I’m not making mistakes then I’m not challenging myself enough to become the best drummer I know I can ultimately become.
It’s difficult to seek out original experiences as an adult. You have to actively hunt them down and remain courageous throughout the entire process of countless failures and a few successes. You have to be open to feeling negative emotions that you can look forward to detaching from as you continue evolving. You can transcend those feelings with practice, and through meditation and visualization. You will completely change your mindset as you begin to think differently about the challenges you encounter on a daily basis and the ones you actively seek out for personal growth. Instead of being jealous of other’s talents and comparing yourself to them, you will see them as role models and mentors. Those who are more experienced than us are proof that what we want CAN be attained. Learn to emulate their skills.
Much like you did when you were young, you must jump into the abyss without knowing what the outcome will be. Embrace the mystery of a new endeavor. Gratefully accept that you will suck for awhile, and find solace in the fact that with consistency, self-trust, and an overall love for the journey, you will one day become a master. It’s time to fail more.