When I was 15 years old, a street performer on Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado changed my life forever.
My jaw dropped as I watched him smilingly juggle five, then six, then seven, then eight, then nine and finally 10 balls in the air at once.
I was so amazed that someone of my own species could seemingly effortlessly do something so challenging. After the show, I waited for the crowd to die down so I could speak with him.
“How on Earth did you learn how to do that? It seems impossible!” He said, “There is only one reason why I can juggle 10 balls at once and you can’t.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, excitedly.
“I was willing to drop 10,000 more balls than you were.”
And in that moment, my perspective on success and failure changed forever. I realized that failure is not the antithesis to success—it is the key to it.
I realized that no one is born with a natural, innate ability to get really good at something. No one is born with the “make your dreams come true” gene.
The people who succeed aren’t necessarily the most talented, but rather the ones who are willing to patiently witness themselves through failure after failure after failure.
They are the ones who are committed to failing as many times as necessary.
Although they started pursuing their passion because of their love for it, somewhere along the way they allowed it to become about proving themselves. About winning. About looking good.
Their passion is then driven by a fear of failure. It is no longer fun for them. It feels like their survival depends upon their passion’s success.
They adopt an “I’ll show them!” mentality. They are hell bent on proving their doubters wrong.
They put undue pressure on themselves to succeed at their dreams. And when we’re in a hurry to succeed, we stop ourselves from failing.
We become (metaphorically) satisfied with juggling three balls rather than 10—just so that we don’t have to drop them anymore. Just so that we don’t have to look bad.
When we feel like we need to succeed in order to prove ourselves, we stop letting ourselves fail. We shirk risks. We only play small games we know we can win.
But if we change our perspective on failure, and see it as something to pursue rather than something to avoid, the fear dissipates. When we welcome failure, we are unattached to the outcome which leaves us free to play all out, be bold and take big risks.
When we are unafraid of failing, a whole new world of actions opens up for us to take.
Think about it this way: If your ratio of failure to success is 5:1, that’s great! That means that it’s your job to fail! You should be doing more failing than anything else!
Rather than trying to fix the ratio to factor out failure (which will never happen), why not just try to fail 10 times more than you’re currently failing! Make failing a game.
The ability to tolerate failure (and therefore welcome success) is a muscle that can only be strengthened through practice.
So if you’re really ready to start producing better results than ever, I invite to you my failure challenge:
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Image: Flickr/Gabriel Rojas Hruska
Editor: Travis May