How Having A Failist Mindset Is A Good Thing
I’m going to start this article with this sentence, “ever since I was a small child, I’ve been a failure, and it’s a good thing.” You’re probably thinking WTF is this guy thinking, describing himself as a failure and that being a good thing? Let me repeat those words again “ever since I was a small child, I’ve been a failure, and it’s a good thing.” No, I’m not saying these words to elicit some kind of response from you. I whole heartedly believe that it’s my failures and my ability to process, accept, sometimes repeat, and overcoming them, that’s made me the person I am today. Let me explain why I believe failure is critical to our lives and why it’s crucial that we experience it regularly.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve failed. I’d like to say I failed more than most of the kids I grew up with, but I can’t really confirm that. At an early age, I was deemed a “slow learner”, yeah, that’s what they called it. I was placed in many programs to help me improve my reading, writing, and speaking skills. It wasn’t because I wasn’t applying enough effort. In many ways I was applying more effort than anyone else, yet I was lucky if I passed a class with a C. My parents were especially frustrated with my grades and I often spent many late nights staying up studying for quizzes and doing homework. My sister and many of my friends were the complete opposite, they finished their homework quickly, almost effortlessly passed exams, and often had enough time to pick up other extracurricular activities. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, I was a good artist, picked up swimming, and gymnastics. To cope with my ongoing failures, I decided to focus on the things that I was good at. In fact, to make up for the things that constantly challenged me, I developed a competitive “be the best mindset.” I wasn’t interested in just doing the things I was good at, I wanted to find a way to redeem myself, by being the best at something else. If that’s not a great lesson in failure, I don’t know what is. You can never be the best, because there’s always going to be someone striving for the same thing.
Looking back, I often think about where my drive to excel came from. I mean when I did well at something, I never really saw it as a win. Yes it felt great, but it didn’t really last. Failure does have a cost. It costs you confidence, creates self-doubt, and loneliness. In many ways, you feel more alone when you fail. However, the more you fail, the more you realize that that failure isn’t the end of the world, and you realize there will always be more. Confidence is a very powerful emotion. Great personal confidence can give you thrust to take you in any direction, right or wrong. Poor personal confidence and really pull you back and either protect or hinder you. Confidence by those around you, can create an environment for you to thrive, while a lack of confidence from those around you, can magnify self-doubt. I don’t believe that confidence is a fixed item. It’s not one of these things that you either have or you don’t. Instead, I feel confidence is fluid. You may have confidence in some things and not others. Some people may have more confidence in your abilities than others. I had a general lack of confidence in myself as a child and that lack of confidence was intertwined with failure. The more I failed, the less confident I became, and the less confident I was, the more I failed. However there were a few people in my life who displayed a high level of confidence in my abilities, despite my personal feelings of failure. It was their confidence in my future that helped me overcome the failure as a negative mindset, which I believe was critical in my continued development. See with their confidence, each subsequent failure I experienced had less and less of a negative impact. I developed a mindset that I knew I was going to fail in some things and not others. That when I failed, I would have to try another alternative. I developed a confidence in failure and thus learned to accept and overcome it. I started to look at failure from a different perspective, the more I failed, the more opportunity there was to succeed. See I discovered, you can never truly fail, if you continue to make an effort.
As the years went by, I started to develop more and more personal confidence until my senior year of high school. See I continued to fail and overcome those failures with increasing confidence that I would overcome them. Mid way through my senior year in high school, I encountered my first real test in my ability to process, accept, and overcome serious failure. I had a one to one meeting with my English teacher, Mrs. Scheinvold and we had a very tumultuous relationship. I consistently failed her exams often by 1 or 2 points on a regular basis and this had led to a conversation that I would never forget. She said with complete confidence in her voice these words, “No matter how hard you try, I’m going to fail you anyway, because I don’t believe you deserve to go to college.” I was furious, I got up expressed a few expletives, and walked out. I thought to myself, who as she to determine whether I would go to college. Determined to graduate with my peers, I wasn’t going to take this failure lightly and so later that day I registered for the same English course at another school and I started to take nigh classes in conjunction with my day time classes. Sure enough, at the end of the school year, I graduated with a B in English, at least in the night class. I had achieved my first victory against failure and my own personal confidence started to grow. I went on to college and continued to fail, less and less because I was developing something I never had, real personal confidence. My world started to shift. I would no longer allow my failure to shape my future, instead I developed the confidence to swiftly overcome them. I became an A student in classes, I normally struggled to maintain a C & D average in. I learned a powerful lesson in public speaking and harnessed that power and made it my own. I would go on to graduate with my AA, BA, & MBA. I would build my career and hold positions like Salesperson, Stock manager, Broadcast Technician, Personal Trainer, Manager, Video Editor, Trainer/Consultant, Fleet Trainer, HR Director, Onboard Marketing Manager, Special Projects Manager, Leadership Development Manager, Manager of Maritime Training, Director of Training, and currently Realtor. I continued to fail in each and every one of these jobs, but I failed with confidence, the confidence that I would overcome and own them. I learned that to become the best, you must embrace every opportunity that failure presents.
Recently I encountered failure again as usual. I failed to achieve my personal goal of achieving $2,000,000 of sales or achieving $20,000 in company dollar at my office. It wasn’t for a lack of trying. As a new agent only working in the Real Estate industry 11.5 months, my goal was to achieve a number that I believe only 10% of agents in my office accomplish. It was hard to come within 8% of achieving that goal after completing 17 transactions. I did everything I could think of and if it wasn’t for a few personal and business events in my life, I know I would’ve achieved my goal. Between both my parents being in the hospital and a few smaller deals falling apart, I missed that goal. My friends, coworkers, and family all believe that I’m crazy, that I accomplished something spectacular, but in my mind I still failed. In short, I’m still processing my failure. It may take me another few days or weeks before I’m able to truly reflect on it and recognize the opportunity it presents. If I had not encountered, processed, and overcome the tens of thousands previous failures, I may not have the confidence to overcome this next one.
I believe that if you’re currently aren’t looking as failure as the opportunity that it is, you’re selling yourself short. Now isn’t that an oxymoron! I also believe that the younger a child is, the more failure they need to encounter and overcome. I also believe that confidence both external and internal are critical to overcoming that failure. I leave you with these few quotes:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
“Your attitude towards failure determines your attitude after failure.”
John C. Maxwell