Why failure seems to be necessary

Perfectionism, afraid to make mistakes, fear of failure.

What a huge topic. It creates huge amounts of anxiety, overwhelm, depression, procrastination… and that’s everywhere at the moment, it’s chronic.

It means you can paralysed: stuck in a place where you are afraid to make any decision. It feels so much better to stay comfortable and do nothing than being uncomfortable and risking things going wrong.

Yet, that’s not a life is it?

Lately I’ve seen so clearly that you have to risk something in order to grow. In order to take a step forward you are required to make a leap of faith. Without that leap of faith, without that decision, there is nothing.

The mind will always tell you the horror stories of failure.

But the more you do it, the more you realise that head of yours is a little monkey. It doesn’t know the truth of the matter. The fear of something rarely actually occurs – and if it does? The fear is always far, far worse than the reality.

All this is being confirmed everywhere I look at the moment. Do you ever get that? Quotes, posters, conversations, lines from movies, everywhere… seems like it’s time to learn a lesson!

A random podcast came on when I was in my car recently, and it was all about failure too.

Ben Bergeron is a coach to some of the world’s best Crossfit athletes, and he was saying that all champions (he’s talking sport but I’m thinking what he’s saying is applicable to every and any part of life) have failed, and failed big time.

(Check him out on iTunes or Stitcher - Chasing Excellence, “Redefining Adversity” episode #15, or YouTube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3fgJjjDoA4)

Whether that’s through injury or not being thought “good enough” by others, every single one of the greatest champions have messed up or faced huge adversity.

Every single one of them.

Ben was saying that all these champions are now champions BECAUSE they failed, and failed big; and it made a lot of sense, and gave me a lot of comfort.

I keep thinking of all those motivational messages you see sometimes.

How Edison made a thousand lightbulbs before coming up with one that worked, how Einstein was thought to be an idiot by his school teacher, how JK Rowling was rejected by a hundred publishers.

These messages can seem so pervasive they can be easily dismissed as a cliche, yet perhaps there is truth in them?

I’m starting to believe that there can be something real in cliche. If, and of course examine this first because it’s not always the case, but when a message is so well used perhaps it is for good reason?

The message of this cliche is that failure seems to be necessary, or at least instant success is so rare … if that is the case, then the thing is to not be afraid of it. Don’t listen to your head about too much about it. Don’t get paralysed with indecision.

I know this is hard to do, but here’s a practice for life: don’t be afraid of anything. 

As the wise man once said, it’s fear itself you need to fear.

You’re on a big adventure. Be curious. Act despite being nervous - or downright terrified even. Needing courage to do something, actually, is a great signifier that it’s important to you.

Without action nothing happens.

Success is a very poor teacher. When you mess up, look for the lesson. “What will I do differently next time?” Get up, apologise if necessary (perhaps to yourself for any self-violence inflicted), and get going again.

And if you like quotes as much as I do, here’s a doozy:

“Absolute perfection is here and now, not in some future, near or far. The secret is in action – here and now. It is your behaviour that blinds you to yourself. Disregard whatever you think yourself to be and act if you were absolutely perfect – whatever your idea of perfection may be. All you need is courage.”

– Nisargadatta Maharaj