Itís been said that if you want to increase your success rate, you should increase your failure rate. Success comes at least partially from your volume of attempts. If you want to sell more, make more sales calls. If you want more dates, ask more people out. Pretty simple principle ó one thatís been around a long time.
We all know you can try to increase your rate of success as well, but for this blog entry, letís just stick with the concept of increasing the number of attempts.
Most people will take this advice to mean that you should take something where you have a reasonable probability of success and then do it more often. But Iíll take this idea a step further. Go out and attempt something at which you know youíll fail.
Fail on purpose.
Keep reading and Iíll explain how this will benefit you.
I wonít suggest you do this when you have lots of investors who are counting on your success or when the consequences of failure are big. But there are many things you can do which you know youíll fail at but which donít have any serious long-term negative consequences. Try to learn to play a musical instrument when you have no talent at it. Attempt a small project thatís beyond your technical abilities. Ask for a job, promotion, or raise when you know the other person will say no. Ask for a date when youíre sure to get shot down cold. Cook a meal thatís beyond your cooking skills. Sign up to run in a 10K race when you canít even run 1K, and show up and run half a block.
There are several significant benefits to attempting something even when failure is certain:
1. Youíll gain experience failing, how to take it, and how to recover from it, which is at least as important as learning to handle success. Youíll become better prepared for handling future failures. Youíll learn how to recover quickly, extract the key lessons, and put them to good use.
2. Youíll develop greater humility, and this will allow you to subvert your ego more, so you neither become too optimistic or too pessimistic, and your productivity will become more steady and consistent.
3. Youíll run straight into your limits and become comfortable working butt-up against them, instead of lagging behind your untapped potential with a comfortable padding.
4. Youíll strengthen your resistance to fear of failure in the future.
5. Many tasks at which you ultimately fail will still yield partial success. For example, if you try to lose 10 pounds in a month, you may fail and only lose 3.
6. Youíll become better at learning the difference between when a project is headed for failure and when itís headed for success. And this will allow you to achieve more success when it really matters because youíll have far more experience to draw upon. So youíll succeed more often.
7. Youíll develop a thicker skin. Youíll get used to having other people slam and reject you for failing, and youíll be able to go out and tackle big projects without worrying what others will think.
8. Youíll become more persistent. Youíll come to realize that failure just isnít the big deal people made it out to be. About 50 million sperm failed in their effort to create you, while just one made it through. Yet what if none decided to try, the odds being overwhelmingly against success?
9. Youíll condition yourself to take action and stop ruminating. Youíll tear yourself away from the state of analysis paralysis, and youíll start making things happen instead of just pondering and planning them.
10. Every once in a while, youíll learn that you were wrong, and youíll succeed at something even when failure seemed certain. Youíll drop limiting beliefs and gain a more accurate grasp of whatís realistically possible for you. Youíll discover new talents you never knew you had. Youíll learn that your previous concept of what you thought was realism was in fact too pessimistic, and youíll slide it down a notch closer to optimism until you get it just right.
11. You can say, ďHehehe. I meant to do that,Ē and actually mean it for a change. :)
Make failure your friend, and success will tag along as well.
This advice may seem paradoxical and ironic when compared to my previous posts. But what Iím suggesting here is to use intentional failure as a training/conditioning exercise. Donít fail on purpose when it really matters. But embrace failure when it doesnít matter. By going into a situation expecting to fail, youíre more likely to fail than if you expect success. But thatís OK because success isnít the point in this case. Youíre not trying to succeed in this training exercise. Youíre trying to increase your tolerance for and understanding of failure and rejection.
Fear of failure and fear of rejection hold many people back from setting and achieving big goals. So itís critical to develop a strong immunity to both. Taking in small, controlled doses of failure and rejection is one way to innoculate yourself against them. They wonít kill you, but they will make you stronger.
Without this innoculation youíre doomed to live as a failure hypocondriac. Even a medium-sized failure can take you down (into procrastination, depression, laziness). So you start avoiding those failure germs. Unfortunately, the places where success hangs out are all infested with nasty failure germs. So by avoiding failure, you wonít encounter much success either.
Another problem with failure germaphobia is that youíll have to avoid successful people. Successful people are constantly sneezing out failure germs, so if you get too close, theyíll spray you. Youíll need to hang out mostly with other failure germaphobes then, so youíll learn a lot more about avoiding failure than you will about achieving success. In the long run, you wonít be a failure, but nor will you be a success. Youíll basically just be unnecessary.
Mild failure innoculations are easier to take than confronting the most fearsome failure germs right away. By going into a situation expecting to fail, you take your ego offline. You arenít emotionally invested in the situation. Imagine asking someone out on a date when youíre 100% certain of hearing a no, and you just do it to get the no out of the way. Itís a lot less stressful than doing it when you desperately want a yes but donít think you can get one. By building experience failing, youíll develop the backbone to still be able to do it even when you want the yes. Youíll be able to take your ego offline as needed, make the attempt, and then reboot and recoup quickly.
Take the failure/rejection innoculation, so you donít have to live out your life as a failure germaphobe. Just ask yourself, ďWhat small thing can I fail at today?Ē Then go do it. Have some fun with it. Let yourself discover that failure isnít some monstrous scary thing to be avoided at all costs. My failure task for today is to convince my 4-year old daughter Emily to stop drawing the alphabet on her clothes. Then maybe Iíll teach my 1-year old son Kyle to eat without getting food in his hair.
I just did a Google search on ďfailure germaphobeĒ, and much to my chagrin, not a single result came back. It must a more underground problem than I thought. No support groups or anything. Letís see how long it takes this blog entry to show up on this search term. StevePavlina.com already has the #1 spots for posteriorities and alexathemia. Thatís some major search traffic there I tell ya! ;)