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Why Experiencing Failure Is Necessary Before Becoming Successful

Why Experiencing Failure Is Necessary Before Becoming Successful

It’s an all too common experience in life—one that has a profound influence on so many aspects in which we carry ourselves. Beyond shaping our personality, it is something that inevitably directs us through life, plots out our courses of action and contributes to everything that we are.

Failure.

It’s a word that has a negative connotation affixed to it, but the more that it’s understood, the more it can be regarded as something positive. Below are seven reasons why failure is a necessary element in our lives, how it benefits us and why it is especially necessary before achieving ultimate success.

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1. It helps to deliver some necessary perspective.

How can you enjoy the view from the top without having crawled your way up from the bottom? Perspective is everything. It allows you to connect with those who are travelling down (or up) the same path that you’ve traveled and warrants your efforts at guidance—it illustrates your wisdom. More so, perspective from both ends will help you avoid taking future success for granted. If you’ve succeeded in everything that you’ve tried on your first attempt, would you fully appreciate your achievements? They would have no meaning and no substance.

2. The struggle justifies the victory.

The feeling you get when you achieve something that you’ve worked so hard to attain—this is what builds a full appreciation for it and what makes your success feel like an actual success. If you’ve never really failed, you’ve never really tried. Making that crucial effort allows everything to feel worthwhile at the end, and it lets you know that you’ve really earned the success that you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Sometimes it may be more about the journey than the destination—the journey is what may be more influential on our lives and more memorable at the end of the day.

3. It builds a legitimate sense of entitlement—not a false one.

What do you think of people who are handed everything? Those who are born into fame, given wealth and power on a silver platter without asking for it? Do they deserve it, or have they earned it? It’s debatable, and many of these individuals do go on to prove themselves in one way or another, but it has to be acknowledged that they are given a head start. Something much more profound becomes apparent when achievement is backed by struggle, sacrifice, and success. Respect and, more crucially, genuine self-respect is attained.

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4. You learn about yourself from failure.

Life is full of failures. From hearing “incorrect” when you take a chance on a question asked by a teacher to a denial for a promotion at work, we face learning the hard way in many aspects of life. Mistakes are failures; mistakes are also one of the best ways to learn. Rejections are failures; rejections are also motivators to try harder. A major part of life is learning how to respond to failure effectively. Rather than letting a rejection trap you in a downward spiral, you let it motivate you, fuel your future efforts. In a way, it’s sort of like building a tolerance—failure makes you stronger, wiser. In nature, predators have adapted themselves generation after generation to hunt quietly, fiercely, effectively—not because they simply knew how to do it but because they know what doesn’t work based on their own experience or that of their ancestors.

5. Failure makes you want it that much more.

First off, it’ll validate your endeavors. For instance, if you want to become a doctor, fail along the way and still work towards becoming a doctor, then you know for a fact that becoming a doctor is exactly what you’re meant to do—that it is your purpose. Secondly, if you fail along the way towards getting what you want, and still want it, your desire for that ambition will grow beyond measure. Failing to do something will re-animate and possibly reinvigorate your ambitions. In other words, if it’s something you really want, your thirst for it will grow.

6. Failure can be a window of opportunity.

Failure allows you to try new things. Not only to explore different avenues but it can act as an opportunity and help you discover things that you did not initially fathom. For instance, a failed relationship can help you identify what it is that you really want in a significant other. Failure in pursuing your occupational ambitions can help you redirect your focus towards a more appropriate path. It many cases, it can also help you realize that you’re not meant to exert your efforts into something and that your time and energy are better spent elsewhere.

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7. It prompts re-evaluation.

Above all else, failing at something provokes a re-assessment of your circumstances. Big or small, this re-assessment helps to hone analytical ability and potentially identify any shortcomings in your day-to-day effectiveness. Why did my pitch at the latest business meeting fall flat? Why do I always say the wrong thing when confronted with a troublesome inquiry?

Take interviewing for instance. Only the luckiest of the bunch are able to nail an interview on their first attempt, but for the rest of us normies, we may have to trudge through dozens of interviews before we hammer down our answers and manage to effectively impress a potential employer on a whim. Next time, I have to be more prepared. Next time, I have to avoid saying so and so. Next time, I have to allude to something that is worth alluding to. If you find yourself looking forward to “next time,” then you’re doing everything right—trial and error is an inevitable basis of achieving a desired result.

How can you benefit from failure?

Ask yourself if you’ve approached everything the right way, if you had been prepared enough or if you could have done anything differently and what was outside and inside your sphere of control that may have contributed to any given failure. Most importantly, monitor your responses to things that don’t go the way that you want them to. Do you become too easily discouraged when faced with an undesired result? Or do you build from it, treat it as wisdom and use that experience as an advantage?

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There’s a clear theme that is common to each and every point mentioned above—the idea that we have to work to get what we want, that we have to earn it. Failure is as big of a part of life as anything else and the more we embrace the failure, the brighter a light we can shine on our success. Failure gives us bragging rights and allows us to subsequently savor the success that we’ve earned, providing a legitimate sense of entitlement and self-respect, shielding us from criticism and steeping us in wisdom.

Life is a story, and what kind of story doesn’t involve some measure of conflict, of struggle and the need to persist. The old peg-legged fisherman, sitting in a dimly-lit bar on the tiresome shoreline of any cliche fishing town would not have a story to tell if he hadn’t first failed to catch the prized fish a hundred times before. In the words of Charles Bukowski, “What matters most is how well we walk through the fire.”

Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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