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The Two F-Words You Should Love

The Two F-Words You Should Love
Lincoln

Make Failure and Frustration Your Friends: A History Lesson

We all experience failure and the subsequent frustration. But how you handle those tormentors makes all the difference in your final outcomes. Oftentimes the peak of frustration comes right before a major breakthrough. That’s if you don’t quit. So don’t quit! Instead use the energy behind that frustration to break through to a new level of strategy. Make failure the friend that brought you to breakthrough’s doorstep! Let frustration be the energy that propels your leap across the chasm!

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What follows are several success stories from history where failure was a frequent companion throughout these great people’s lives. Let’s all take some inspiration from their stories.


Abraham Lincoln
Failed in business in 1831. He was defeated for the legislature in 1832. He failed in business again in 1834. Hi beloved, Ann Rutledge, died in 1835. Had a nervous breakdown in ‘1836. Was defeated in election in 1838. Defeated for Congress in 1843, 1846, and for a third time in 1848. Lincoln was defeated for Senate in 1855, and defeated for Vice President in 1856. In 1858 he was defeated for Senate. And finally in 1860 he was elected President!

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Thomas Edison
Built 1800 prototypes until he created the first light bulb. He was one of America’s most prolific inventors, and he was granted 1,093 patents by the U.S. Patent office, including motion picture cameras, the phonograph, and the storage battery. But his inventions included such failures as a perpetual cigar, furniture made of cement, and a flying machine.

Alexander Graham Bell
Bell invented the telephone, and yet he found it difficult to secure a major backer. In the same year he patented the telephone, 1876, Bell tried to sell exclusive rights to the telephone to Western Union, the leading communications company at the time, for $100,000. William Orton, Western Union’s president, declined the offer, saying: “What use could this company make of an electrical toy?” The rest, as they say, is history.

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Frank Herbert
Herbert is the author of Dune, the epic science-fiction tale. The book was rejected by 13 publishers with comments like “too slow,” “confusing and irritating,” “too long,” and “issues too clear-cut and old fashioned.” But Herbert was persistent. Dune went on to win the two highest awards in the science-fiction writing and has sold over 10 million copies.

Albert Einstein
Einstein was a poor elementary school student. He failed his first college entrance exam at Zurich Polytechnic. However he went on to develop one of the greatest theories of Physics, The Theory of Relativity. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics and today his name is synonymous with the word “Genius.” He will go down in history as one of the greatest scientists in the history of the world.

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Henry Ford
Ford failed in business and went broke five times before he finally succeeded. In his first car, he forgot to put in a reverse gear. Then in 1957, he created bragged about the “car of the decade,” the Edsel. This car was infamous for its doors that wouldn’t close, a hood that wouldn’t open, paint that peeled, a horn that stuck, and a notoriety that made resale impossible. Despite this, Ford went on to much success.

Col. Harland Sanders
Yes, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Guy. Before his original recipe made it to the big time the Colonel traveled across the country trying to franchise his business. On the 1009th try he got his first sale. Today, KFC is a worldwide success story.

What’s your favorite success story that began with many failures? Where have you succeeded after many failures?

K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less, 5 Big Secrets “They” Don’t Want You to Know About Investing, Give Yourself a Raise Today!, and Cool GTD Applications – The Ultimate Resource List.

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K. Stone

The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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