First, a story: Better to fail early than fail late.
When I was really young, I thought I could fly. (Didn’t we all?) I was a creative little dreamer, but dreams only come true if you test them.
I stood up on a chair and jumped. The ground was only a few feet away, so the fall didn’t hurt too much.
When I got up and brushed the dust off, I thought to myself:
Well — I’m glad I jumped off this chair. Anything taller and I’d be in big trouble.
I couldn’t fly back then, and I still can’t fly today.
Since then, I’ve tested out hundreds of different dreams — many of which resulted in hard falls. Each taught me something valuable, but the one thing I’m sure of is this:
If you’re going to fail, sooner is always better.
Second, a lesson: Losing’s aftermath is up to you.
There many flavorful words to label the beast: crashing, failing, and losing are only some of them. What I’ve discovered is that they are only as dangerous as the mind in which they live.
When I tried to fly, trying and failing was as innocent as the frame in which I placed it. Brushing myself off was as easy as I decided it would be. Walking away was as painful as the chair I chose to jump off from.
It’s not always easy, is it?
What makes losing hurt so badly sometimes? What happens when the frame of innocence and nonchalance fails?
I will confess this: there have been times when the world is falling down around me, and it brings me down with it. There have been times I don’t see a way out, and bouncing back seemed impossible.
When failing hurts, it’s always because it was my own damn fault.
This is when the frame of innocence cracks, and losing starts to sting. This is when something else kicks in, and I start suffering over a worsened life.
You might think it’s pride, but it’s not. As much as it tries to grab hold, it doesn’t win. What wins is something far more powerful, whose power lies in its silence — shame.
I recently read a quote that explained a lot of my inner turmoil. It goes like this:
“Shame started as a two-person experience, but as I got older
I learned how to do shame all by myself.” — Robert Hilliker
When I experience shame, it asks me:
Will my family say “I told you so”?
Will my friends think I’m dumb?
Will they love me less?
The answer to these questions is always no. People who matter are the first to rally behind me. They’re in my corner, no questions asked.
Shame sneaks up on me, but there is a way out. Facing it straight on, I tell myself this:
Hurting over a failure gives me a reason to be courageous. It gives me a reason to fight shame.
Hurting over a loss gets me one step closer to awesome, and two steps further away from what never mattered.
Third, a challenge: Winning hurts, so do it.
What you consider winning is unique. It might be having a better day tomorrow, quitting a bad habit, making more money, or whatever else you’re trying to cook up.
I don’t know what winning means to you, but I can tell you what it looks like.
Winning looks like this:
- putting many failures (and their lessons) to good use
- choosing what to make of your life
- doing the grueling work when you don’t feel like it
- focusing only on what’s important
- letting every irrelevant person & project fall to the wayside
- standing up for your mission in the face of clutter
- creating the impact the world desires of you against all odds
Easy does not fit in the same universe as winning.
Winning means knowing there’s a storm brewing and stopping it before it makes landfall.
I will embrace failure, tell shame to screw off, and be courageous enough to win.
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