Thursday, October 24, 2013

Success is Overrated - How to Fail Beautifully

Guest post from Lisa Demayo:

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible
to achieve: the fear of failure.”
—Paulo Coelhon

Successful people fail. And they fail with frequency. They fail not because they’re not good enough, but because they were brave enough to show up.
Failure is one of the most misunderstood concepts in American culture. So often we see it as an end result. A negative. A blemish on our records. But failure is never an ending point. It’s a result—a mere event on the way to the final destination. You either fail before you succeed, or you fail before you quit. But you never have to stop at failure.
What you really have to sink your teeth into is the understanding that failure is the only way you learn. It’s the path to leadership. And whether you realize it or not, how you choose to confront failure will greatly determine your ability to succeed.
So, when you fail, here’s how to fail beautifully.

In her beloved book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes,                                    
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life . . . I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”                                                 

Perfectionists want the world to believe that they’re so self-aware that they can do everything flawlessly if given the proper amount of time. But perfectionists aren’t self-aware; they’re self-absorbed. They think everyone is looking at them all the time, and they can’t afford to mess up.                                               

But here’s a reality check: people are too busy with the junk in their own heads to dwell on you or me. The people around us aren’t keeping a running tab of when we fail and when we succeed.                                                  

I don’t care what lies you’ve been telling yourself, let’s say this loud and clear for the record: It’s impossible to do things perfectly. Perfection does not exist! No matter who you are, there will always be someone smarter, prettier, more talented. There will always be a better time and a better place. That’s not a bad roll of the dice; that’s reality. So stop trying to meet everyone else’s expectations by putting on a show. Instead, take a look at the man in the glass. Are your actions ones you can be proud of? 

2. DON’T STOP SHORT.                                                

The sad truth is most people give up right before they’re about to achieve success, right on the one-yard line. They choose to quit rather than power through.
Have you heard the iconic story of the gold rush? A man in California was determined to strike it rich. He spent months upon months prospecting for gold in the hills. He found pockets of gold here and there, but never anything substantial. Eventually he grew tired of the process and decided that his fortune wouldn’t be found there. It was fruitless. So he sold his land and his tools to a new prospector and moved on.
The new gold prospector was a smart guy. He hired people who understood the land: an engineer, a geologist, and a land surveyor. Together they determined the best places to dig and went to work. With just a little effort, the new prospector struck the goldmine—only three feet from where the previous owner had stopped.
If you want to succeed, you have to have a long-term, big-picture focus. Our culture is saturated with overnight success stories that teach us if it doesn’t happen quickly, it won’t happen at all. We hear about these overnight sensations and, like the pictures of the skinny, airbrushed models in the magazines, we’re taught that’s the norm.
A very few people in this world will get lucky. They’ll get it right the first time. They’ll become famous at lightning speed. And good for them. But it does you no good to rely on being the overnight sensation. Instead, expect to be here for the long haul. Expect to work for it. Expect to fall flat on your face, and expect to be in for a big education. Because failing big is learning big. And that’s what makes you better.
As Thomas Edison so graciously put it, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
And find it he did.
3. DON’T BE PHASED BY FAILURE.                        
Have you ever heard Sara Blakely? At age twenty-nine, she didn’t look like someone to invest in. She’d failed the LSAT, was hawking, of all things, fax machines, and had roughly $5,000 in her bank account.
From a young age, her dad taught her to fail big. Each day he’d ask her, “So, what did you fail at today?” And according to Sara, if there were no failures he’d be disappointed. Why? Because failure is not a final outcome. It’s a pit stop on the road to success.
When Sara was twenty-nine. She was headed out to a party for the night and wanted to feel a little slimmer, so she cut the feet off of her control top pantyhose in order to wear them under her white pants. It was a much more flattering and comfortable look, and it dawned on her then that this was something women could actually use.
With the patent intact, she began shopping the idea around to a number of manufacturers in North Carolina to help her construct a sample product. According to Sara, every mill owner she approached asked the same three questions: “And you are? And you are representing? And you are financially backed by?” The answer to all three questions, of course, was Sara Blakely. She was doing it all on her own.
Most owners returned her earnest query with a quick no. She was a “nobody,” she didn’t have any connections, and she had no investors. To them, it seemed like an obvious pass. But Sara had something no outside investor could guess the value of: she had courage.
So unlike most people, the “no’s” didn’t stop Sara. They kept her going. She didn’t give up and, inevitably, luck with a manufacturer struck when he took the product idea home and told his daughters about it. And the girls, Sara’s ideal consumers, saw something in the product the slew of businessmen didn’t see. They called it what it was—brilliant— and then and there Spanx was born.
Today Sara owns 100 percent of the company. She never took one outside investor. And Spanx is now estimated to have annual sales of $250 million and very big profit margins. Not too shabby.        

About the author:
Lisa DeMayo is a self-made multi-millionaire. She is also a certified life, executive & leadership coach with more than twenty years of coaching experience, and a top-level network marketer - recognized as one of the top income earners with Isagenix.                   
Lisa lives in New Jersey with her three lovely children.                                        
To pre-order her book, ‘The Art of Getting What You Want,’ or to learn more about Lisa’s workshops, seminars and speaking engagements, visit her website:


Shawn said...

Thanks! Great article. Definitely got me thinking. I hope you don't mind I shared your article and my thoughts as well. I especially appreciated Sara's story- I had not heard that before.

C. Alexander said...

Thank you so much for writing this article -- short and sweet, it was just what I needed to snap out of a funk in dealing with "failure".

Having decided to switch directions in my career, the new hurdles have been proving quite difficult. Your words have helped me see it all in a new and inspiring way, so again, thank you!