Failure–Who Needs It? | You Do

We just don’t like it. We often fear it, dread it, struggle to avoid it, and sometimes succumb to it. Failure tests us. It makes us face up to what we’re made of.

Failure and fear are ominous bedfellows. They feed each other and us too in ways that can be crushing.

Embracing failure

If we want to succeed, we need to welcome failure. It’s our greatest teacher.

If it weren’t, we wouldn’t remember our failures more keenly than our successes.

Our failures have a habit of sticking, and because they do, they become the essential reference point that we need to grasp.

Failures in our careers come in all shapes and sizes:

  • the blown interview
  • unmet performance goals
  • a failed project, product, or software application
  • an ineffective presentation or rejected proposal
  • job loss or business failure

Faced with any of these, you might choose to:

  • give up, become inconsolably disgruntled or retaliatory
  • blame others, the company, or some policy
  • berate yourself, lose all confidence, or backslide

But, if you’re smart, you’ll stop and say, “I need to figure out what I need to do to get better, so I can avoid failures like this in the future.”

Tune in

No matter how great they are, professional athletes continuously experience failure. Every contest does not end up in a win and they know it.

Pro baseball players fail at bat more than they succeed. Pro golfers can compete for years and never win a tournament. (They may get a paycheck, but their ultimate measure of success is wins.)

As a result, athletes use every failure to learn something about themselves, ways to improve their skills, and insights to sharpen their game sense.

Lolo Jones is an American track and field athlete. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she was favored to win the 100 meter hurdles, but she tripped on the second to last hurdle, finishing seventh. It was a crushing failure for a competitor who had overcome a life of poverty through hard work and determination to reach such a pinnacle moment.

Lolo is competing in the 2012 Olympics in London where she will pursue gold in the same race. After four years learning from  her 2008 failure, she sees that by fighting her way back to the Olympics, she has already won. She said on NBC’s Today Show (8/7/12), “For me, it will be like facing my fears.” Facing them means she has already overcome that old failure.

Kerri Strug, retired American gymnast and member of the Magnificent Seven gold medal team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is famous for her performance on the vault to win the all-around, despite having severely injured her ankle. Early on, as a gymnast, she was considered mentally and emotionally frail in her performances during times of competitive stress. So with everything on the line in 1996, Kerri demonstrated what she has now come to realize: “It’s your failures that catapult you forward” (from a 2012 interview on NBC).

Exploit your failures

It’s time to take hold of your failures and exploit them for your own success. Face them. Embrace them. That’s how you will free yourself from the hold they may have on you and turn them into an asset.

Make those failures clear by writing them down. State what you see as the failure and make sure you’ve got it right. Then start listing what the failure has taught you about:

  • your skills and knowledge
  • your attitude, point of view, understanding of the situation
  • your commitment, standards, work ethic, courage
  • confidence, relationships, honesty

Then write an action plan for yourself. What are you going to do to be better prepared to minimize the chances of failure next time. Find someone you trust to help you. Then get on with it. The only one who can overcome failure is you. So please make failure your friend!

Photo from nataliebehring.com via Flicker

Don’t Believe In Yourself? That’s “Lin-Sanity”! | 10 Confidence Builders

Sometimes we say we do when we don’t. Or say we don’t when we might. Other times we wonder if we do or should or can. Getting a grip on sustainable self-belief can make us crazy.

It seems that every success story we hear boils down to how the person always believed s/he could:

  • Overcome the odds
  • Seize their big moment
  • Get recognized
  • Reach the top

Their self-belief is what sustained them when they were down and nearly out. It was the one internal force that fueled their momentum and prevented any idea of quitting.

I don’t know about you, but there are days when believing in myself is no problem. Then (ugh) there are those seemingly endless other days when nothing is clear, self-doubt takes over, and my optimism goes underground.

Unfortunately, the success that we’re after often feels elusive. The more our vision of it waivers, the more difficult it is for us to dig deep when the going gets tough.

Keep reaching.

Jeremy Lin has become  an inspiration to legions of fans.

Lin is an American pro basketball player for the New York Knicks with an economics degree from Harvard (and a 3.1 GPA) and parents originally from Taiwan. At 6’3″ Lin had enough height to play serious basketball; he performed exceptionally in high school, allowing for the belief that he could play professionally.

Here’s what happened: Lin

  • Did not receive a college athletic scholarship
  • Was not drafted into the pros after college
  • Eventually got a partially guaranteed contract the Gold State Warriors
  • Was then waived both by the Warriors and then the Houston Rockets in preseason
  • Was picked up by the Knicks as a back-up player for 2011-12

Through all the ups and down, the being shuffled around, and the disappointments, Lin kept playing and getting better. He got to demonstrate both his talent and his belief in himself when the Knicks finally put him in a game.

At the time Knicks’ coach Mike D’Antoni said, “He got lucky because we were playing so bad.” That was Lin’s moment and he seized it. The Knicks won that game and the next six under Lin’s on-floor leadership.

D’Antoni said that Lin has a point-guard mentality and “a rhyme and a reason for what he is doing out there.” (How’ s that for helping to boost self-belief!)

The adoration of Knicks fans for Lin gave birth to the term “lin-sanity.” What Lin has done seems “insane,” given his bumpy ride which included sleeping on his brother’s sofa in NYC waiting for his moment.

Consider these lin-sights

Jeremy Lin didn’t just believe in himself, he kept working at becoming a better player.

Believing in ourselves also means believing in things that matter to achieving our goals the right way, as Jeremy Lin did:

  1. Work hard, keep getting better, increase confidence
  2. Stay committed to your goals, no matter the obstacles
  3. Make your success about something more than yourself like the team
  4. Cultivate humility during the ups, courage during the downs
  5. Seize every moment to participate–always be prepared and ready
  6. Focus on the job at hand, block out distracting noise
  7. Accept success and failure as having equal value to improving
  8. Take one day at a time, don’t over analyze or project into a future you can’t control
  9. Ignore the labels you can’t do anything about
  10. Lead when you’re needed and facilitate the success of others

Why not you?

Jeremy Lin is just like you. He’d come close to finding a place in his hoped for career and then watched it slip away. So he tried again until a set of unexpected circumstances gave him a chance to shine.

Lin’s story isn’t about “celebrity” careers. It’s about yours too. It doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in. There’s a level of achievement that you want too. Attaining it starts with your belief that you can and will.

If it can happen for others, I can happen for you. And it will, when the time is right and you’re prepared and ready. Please don’t give up.

Photo from STEVESD via Flickr