You Can Only Be Truly Successful in Things You’re Willing to Fail At
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case you fail by default.”
The truth is, most people are making choices based on avoiding what they fear, not striving toward their goals.
This fear-driven behavior is exactly why most people are not on track to succeed. When you let fear call the shots, you are living reactively, not proactively. Something else is running your life, and not in the right direction. You spend the lion’s share of your energy focusing on problems, risks, and worst-case scenarios rather than how to win.
The truth is, if you can fail at something for long enough — and learn from your failures — you’ll eventually achieve true, lasting success on a large scale.
Nobel prize-winning physicist Niels Bohrs once said “An expert is someone who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.” A lot of people mistakenly think the world’s most successful people are the ones that have failed the least. The opposite is actually true — the experts have made more mistakes than anyone!
If you’re reading this, you’re someone who’s concerned with achieving daring goals and adventuring where others dare not tread. As prolific writer Seth Godin once quipped: “Only talented people fret about mediocrity.”
You already know where the “traditional” path most everyone is on will take you: a good, but not great, outcome.
For lots of people, that’s fine. Not everyone has an intense desire to evolve into an upgraded version of themselves and achieve victories they’ve never thought possible.
But if that’s not you, then what I’m about to say will change everything.
To Succeed Where Others Failed, You Must Push Through “The Dip”
“The difference between a mediocre sports player and a regional champion isn’t inborn talent — it’s the ability to push through the moments where it’s just easier to quit.” -Seth Godin, The Dip
Marketing guru Seth Godin’s book The Dip is founded on a simple premise: for every worthy endeavor, there is a “Dip” where most people quit. If you can push through the Dip, you’ll achieve the results most people will never see.
This is true for every worthwhile challenge — weightlifting, book-selling, a happy marriage, entrepreneurship, culinary college, etc. To achieve extraordinary results in your desired field, all you need do is push through the Dip where most people quit.
I’ve been writing for over 6 years. I’ve met hundreds of other writers on the way. 9/10 of them aren’t writing anymore. Most people saw how difficult it was to build a blog, or consistently produce quality content, or drearily see their low view count again, and quit.
That’s fine. You shouldn’t be pushing through every “dip” you reach in life; many failures are actually gifts that reveal that particular path isn’t worth it. You don’t need to be Superman at everything.
But when you finally find your Mount Everest — the challenge(s) you know you need to conquer — understand this: the Dip is coming. It’s inevitable, and it won’t be fun. It’s the part of the climb where almost everyone gives up, where it got too expensive, too risky, too challenging. But if you can push through it, the long-awaited treasure is waiting.
As Seth Godin also wrote:
If you can get through the Dip, if you can keep going when the system is expecting you to stop, you will achieve extraordinary results.
Frankly, most people reach their Dip and quit. That’s how the world is set up; there are systems in place that are designed to present any adventurer like you with extreme challenges, to see if you’re worthy of reaching the summit. Turning on the TV with your smartphone in hand is just too easy.
Since most people have not prepared themselves, they quit before they should’ve, and have gone back to their mediocre job, relationships, income, and reality.
If you want what no one else has, you must do what no one else does.
Push through. Be consistent. Invest in yourself. The short-term pain you’ll experience is nothing compared to the long-term benefits success will bring you.
Ultramarathon (50–100 miles) runner Dick Collins was once asked how he keeps going for so long, despite fatigue, hunger, cramps, dehydration, and sheer exhaustion:
Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to stop and drop out. You don’t want be out there saying, ‘Well gee, my leg hurts, I’m a little dehydrated, I’m sleepy, I’m tired, and it’s cold and windy.’ And talk yourself into quitting. If you are making a decision based on how you feel in that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.
If you can get through the Dip, you’ll achieve extraordinary results no one else around you has.
Easy Choices, Hard Life; Hard Choices, Easy Life.
“Nothing truly meaningful or lasting has ever been created in a short period of time. If you learn the story behind any great success, you realize how many years went by and how many hard choices were made to achieve it.” -Jerzy Gregorek, 4x World Weightlifting champion
If you want an easy life, you need to make hard choices. These choices will define the rest of your life, and whether you succeed or not.
Nothing truly meaningful was ever created through easy choices. In difficult moments, ask yourself: “What’s the hard choice, and what’s the easy choice?” Hard choices make you wiser, stronger, and more disciplined. The easy choice usually keeps you in the same average state as everyone else, or worse.
I’ve had to make several hard choices to get where I am today. I’ve had to cut negative people out of my life, people I was close with, who were only bringing me down. I’ve had to confront loved ones about problems in our relationship. I’ve had to take a hard look at my life and be humble instead of prideful and get defensive about my shortcomings.
When I saw haters or mean-spirited trolls criticize my work and call me names, the easy choice was to lash out at them, get into online arguments about how stupid they were. Frankly…I did that a few times. It never ended well.
The hard choice was to ignore them — the harder choice was to take their criticism and see if they had a point. Surprisingly, some of my most important lessons have come from objectively taking criticism and using it to improve my craft. It’s not easy — but that’s the point.
If you keep making easy choices — to run away, ignore the problem, let someone else take care of it — you’re going to have a hard life. Making the easy choice when you should’ve made the hard one always comes back with a higher price to pay. There are no shortcuts.
Make the hard choice though, and your life will become easier. The person who consistently makes the hard choices becomes harder themselves, more disciplined and able to endure more adversity. As Bruce Lee once said:
‘“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
Fall Down 7 Times, Rise 8
Most people hate failure. They run from it.
In their eyes, if they suck at something, it means they suck. Since their self-worth is tied directly to their performance, any failure is proof they aren’t good enough.
But this is exactly why they’ll stay in mediocrity. If they aren’t willing to fail, they aren’t able to learn from their mistakes. If they never learn, they’ll never grow and develop into something more.
Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.
-Thomas J. Watson
If you’re not willing to fail, you guarantee you’ll stay average-at-best.
If you want to grow into an extraordinary version of yourself, you must be willing to fail — a lot.
Failure brings humility. It develops your character. It helps you laugh at your mistakes and not take things so seriously. Like a plant placed from the shade into sunlight, your growth rate will accelerate 10x.
When I first started blogging, I was terrified of one thing in particular — negative feedback. I still remember to this day a comment from an early article that read, “This is the worst article I’ve ever read.” I was broken up about it for months.
After that, I made all my articles as vanilla and non-controversial as possible. Before I hit “publish,” I would ask myself: “No one could criticize this, right??”
I was terrified of failure and rejection. As a result, my writing stayed mediocre and average for years until I finally started to embrace the possibility of failure.
If you embrace the possibility of failure, you open yourself up to enormous success you’ve never seen before.
“If I fail more than you, I win.” -Seth Godin
Constantly failing at something you’re really trying to achieve is one of the most difficult feelings to endure. It’s something most people won’t do.
But successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do. Fall 7 times, rise 8.
“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” -Darren Hardy, former editor of SUCCESS Magazine
You can only be truly successful at things you’re willing to fail at.
Don’t avoid failure — seek it out. Seek out criticism, feedback, and opportunities for you to learn through trying and failing. You’ll learn more failing across 3 months than most people learn in 3 years. Failing doesn’t make you worse — it’s actually one of the fastest ways to get better.
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