Failure is Inevitable: How to Prevent Burn-out
There is strength in endurance. But only if it is worth enduring, otherwise you’re uselessly making life painful.
I was starting to feel overwhelmed because I have been taking on a lot of responsibilities. I started to believe that if I do not feel completely exhausted, I am not actually being productive. I think everyone believes this to some extent.
This is a common misconception we get into. Being exhausted, if anything, is a sign of unproductivity and imbalance in life.
I have recently listened to an interview with Timothy Ferris, the Stoic New York Times best seller, titled How to Overcome Fear, Practice Self Love, & Build a Writing Routine (included link below). I will be borrowing from that interview throughout this blog post. It included some incredible insights that I wanted to share. In it he says:
“It’s very important to talk about the darkness and the failures and the hard times.
When I interview people, I always try to bring that out because it’s so easy, like you said, to listen to an interview, or see someone on the cover of a magazine and to think to yourself wow, I really wish I could do something like that, but I’m me, and they’re them.
And they’ve got it figured out. And they always wake up at 6 AM in the morning with like a mental karate chop to to conquer the day with no insecurities — and that’s just bullshit.”
Over the course of these past two weeks, I’ve been realizing how important it is to be able to say that we need rest, that we need to be ourselves, no matter what culture says, or wants from us.
This is very important: we need rest. Don’t believe Gary V. He’s a phenomenon, not everyone is like him. You become a V through long process of mistakes.
“If the voice in your head is a voice and tone that you would never use with the people you most care about, don’t use it with yourself.”
How Do You Define Risk?
Ferris says that a lot of anxiety that we tend to feel is due to using words that are not defined very well.
This includes words like success, for example. You need to have a very clear definition of what that is if you want to be successful. Or think about the word: happiness. What is happiness exactly? What is the state of being happy? No one really knows. Risk is another word of this nature.
“Risk is the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome.”
Ferris says that people view him as a risk-taker. On the contrary, he would say that he doesn’t view himself that way at all. Rather, he thinks of himself as making calculated risks. Ones that in the end don’t seem that way at all.
A goals has to be specific, measurable, or you don’t have a target to aim for. Unless your goals are specific, you won’t achieve them.
Similarly, unless your fears aren’t clearly defined you can’t overcome them.
“Unless your goals are specific you won’t achieve them. Unless your fears are very specifically defined you cannot overcome them.”
Things to do to Prevent Fear of Risking
In the interview, Ferris then gives practical advice of things to do to prevent the fear of failure. The fear of failure is what disables us to make important decisions and calculated risks.
He adopted a practice from early Greek, stoic philosophers that would eat on the floor, eat the cheapest food they could get, and wear the same clothing for an extended amount of time.
In the case of wearing the same clothing, we assume that people will think, people will notice, which cripples us from wanting to do it. That observation of our inane focus on what other people think about us, is essential.
Ferris recommends to wear the same clothing, so that your mind becomes used to being ashamed of the things that actually matter. Your clothing doesn’t matter, nor does the car you drive, or the food you eat, the phone you have.
So that when you fail — and you will fail — you will be able to humble yourself, so to speak, to a simpler lifestyle.
When you train yourself in the little thing, you stand a chance of being courageous when you need to be for the big things. You can’t merely wait for the big things, you must practice on these small things.
When you’re about to make the deal that will change your life, make it or break it, is that the moment you want to practice negotiation?
“Are you crazy?”
You start by negotiating on a smaller level. For example, going to Starbucks and trying to get people to give you 10% off. So that you get used to rejection and practice the art of negotiation.
This is where Ferris’ advice gets intensely practical and even more interesting.
Take an action that you’ve been putting off.
That could be asking someone out, your first big purchase, your first big gig, your book, your blog, your first trip overseas, it could be anything.
You take a piece of paper. At the top you write your fear. Then you write three columns.
The first column is DEFINE, you get really specific on the worst things that can happen: “company fails is not specific enough.” Ask: “so what? So what? So what?” For example: “I can’t afford my rent.” Whatever it might be. Write it down, but it has to be specific. It could be 40 things, 20 but at least 10 outcomes.
The second column is PREVENT. This includes people you could call, email, contact, in order to prevent failure. You could look at scholarships, in the case of academics. For each of the worst case scenarios, write one in response.
For the third column write REPAIR, what would you do to repair the damage. Even by 1%. Any small repair possible is helpful here. Could you move into your friend’s bedroom? Could you take a temporary bar job. Bullet by bullet.
Don’t rush this.
This will take at least a half hour.
“I have used this for at least almost every important points in my life.”
He mentioned his book, which was on the bestseller list 5 years in a row, translated into 35 languages. Which got rejected 27 times by publishers, and not even nicely at times. He said: “Keep those rejection letters.”
Chicken Soup for the Soul got almost 100 hundred rejections, yet they sold 100 million copies. “You can use it for fuel,” Ferris said.
The International Bestseller, Ego is the Enemy, received 4 rejections from publishing. J. K. Rowling had similar problems with her Harry Potter books.
Failure is inevitable. But if you have set out to define, look for ways to prevent collapse, and done everything to repair the damage, your failures will look more tangible.
You will have the option to keep going. It will not cripple you, as it has for so many others. Rejection is inevitable. Failure will happen. Get yourself ready with this help.
I have gained a lot from Timothy Ferris over the last month. I plan on writing a review on his most recent book. I especially like that he is a fan of Stoic Philosophers, as am I (a sincere philosophy student).
If you want to be around for that, make sure you follow me. I write on Religion, Philosophy, and Happiness.
I hope that you participate in my search for life.
Until next time, keep reflecting.