Normally a long memory is an advantage but not if you keep programming your mind with 'tapes' of past failures.
Abraham Lincoln must have had a short memory for his past failures. Many self-help books list the many failures he experienced throughout his life before he became one of the greatest presidents America has ever known.
He failed in business and in politics several times, yet he was still confident enough to stand for President. If he had focused his mind and memory on his past failures, he would never have stood for election.
More recently one of England's greatest rugby captains realized the importance of a short memory. England had a record which included many abject defeats by other rugby nations but they managed to forget about their failures and went on to win the rugby world championship in November 2003.
Martin Johnson, considered by many to be the greatest captain that English rugby has ever had, helped his team win that championship in 2003. He knew how important it was to forget past defeats.
He has now retired from international rugby but recently advised the English team to forget their first two defeats in the six nations' championship in February 2005. England (despite being world champions) have made their worst start for years.
He advised: "You've got to get over it. I remember losing against Wales. After the game I thought I'm never going to think about that game again. You've got to have a short memory or you will get beat again."
Too many of us reflect endlessly upon our failures. It is not surprising that our dismal thoughts lead to more dismal experiences. You get whatever you focus on whether it is good or bad. Some people replay their failures for years and years and even end up killing themselves. They cannot stand the endless regret.
Instead, we need to empty our minds and memories of past failures and fill them constantly and consistently with visions of future success. We need to make these visions as real and as vivid as we can. Our subconscious will then start to help us achieve these visions.
If you keep counting the number of times you failed to achieve what you planned to do, your future will simply replay past failures.
The two goal kickers on the team had let England down by missing some fairly easy goal kicks. Johnson did not advise their replacement.
Instead, he advised the England coach to put the two men on the next team list in order to boost their confidence. He knew the huge difference that confidence can make to anyone's performance. Confidence can transform the way some one plays. Johnson believed these players could forget their failures and do better. He was right.
Any player can have a bad game. Dropping them from the next game is not always a good idea for them or their team. They will inevitably lose confidence and have more time to reflect on the past mistakes that lost them their place on the team.
However, England are still planning to draft in a great Rugby League forward as a possible replacement kicker. It is always worth having back up!
When an interviewer described Martin as a great player, he answered: "I wouldn't class myself as a great player. I would class myself as quite a hard working player."
Hard work was one key to his greatness. He never let up even when the team looked like losing. Victory came in the last minute in the world championship in November 2003.
Johnson also had a great bias towards action. In discussions with his coach he would often end the conversation with the words 'Let's get on with it then'.
Martin Johnson teaches a great recipe for success:
Forget your past failures; have confidence in your future; work hard up to the last possible minute and don't waste too much time talking - just get on with it.