Coffee Talks: Redefining Failure Starts with Me

August 10, 2016

Redefining Failure Pinterest

In the last couple of days, the same message has been popping up across my screen. It has come in different words and different medias and from different people but the message is the same. Choose failure. What? Choose to fail? What kind of bull… But wait. Hear me out. What if we gave failure a big hug – welcomed it right in – and used it to help us rise instead of letting it weigh us down? What if we looked at failure as something to celebrate and learn from, not something to fear? By redefining failure as “not trying” versus a negative outcome we take away its power because if not putting it out there is the real failure than our only option is to go for it.

Redefining Failure

I tell my kids this and I believe it: Just try it. You have to at least try. And when they get frustrated for swinging the bat and missing I tell them It’s ok to miss. You’re learning – and I believe that too. The other day at a gymnastics studio, Husband kept putting obstacle courses together for the kids. Climb this, balance on that, hop over here without touching the floor. On each obstacle course, Daughter would reach one section that was difficult – the climb from a high podium mat to a lower one was higher than she was tall or the distance between two mats was further than she could reach. First, we’d tell her to try. We’d tell her that she could do it. So she’d sit perched on the higher mat, looking down but not being able to get there from her seated position.

“I can’t do it,” she’d say frustrated but not defeated.

“Take your time. There’s no rush,” we would rally.” Keep working it out and think about other ways to get down.”

You could hear the wheels turning, her gaze fixed on the mat she wanted to get to –  how will I do this? – until the light bulb went off. From her seated position she turned onto her belly and slithered down until her tiny toes felt the tip of the mat, then grasped the mat, and finally touched the mat. Success! Then Husband would change up the course and she’d start again.

Through each obstacle, there was a moment of doubt, a moment of “what if I can’t.” And our job is to teach both of the kids, right now, at this young age this new definition of failure. Now is the best time to learn that success is in the trying so that they are never held prisoner to “what if.” You’ve got to put it all out there if there is to even be a chance of success. You’ve got to leap to fly. Not trying is the real failure. Slinking away is the real enemy.

No Fear

I know this when it comes to my kids, so why do I not give myself that same grace. I want my kids to look at failure as a tool – not a hinderance – yet I tend to steer clear of things I might fail at. How can I teach them to use failure to their advantage when I struggle with it?

Well, like everything we want to get better at, I practice, and recently I was given the chance to do just that.

Two weeks ago, I took a scary new step in a complete different direction from my writing career. After a year of trying Rodan + Field products as a preferred customer, I began giving some thought to becoming an independent consultant. I’d never done anything like this so I thought about it for a bit. I talked it over with Husband and then talked it over with him some more. I gave every issue of doubt, every possibility of failure, its time in the spotlight and let it tap dance around my brain for a while.

Rodan and Fields Consultant Redefining Failure

D O U B T   # 1:

I don’t have the money to start this business. Yep. True. We live on one salary and a few hundred dollars is a lot of money – right now. But was it a lot of money in the spectrum of our life? Nope. And in the scheme of things, the money I was investing in this business wouldn’t make or break us… but it could help us. And let’s be honest – I spend money on all sorts of bulls**t that will, in no way,  give me a return on a better life? Clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, gadgets – none of these things are adding value to my life and I spend money on them without a second thought. No pair of jeans is going to make me money no matter how good they make my ass look… but this investment could. This failure was now in ✔️.

D O U B T   # 2: 

How would I do this living abroad? Great question. And one I’ll find the answer to soon enough but in this day and age when business can be done from anywhere in the world, why wouldn’t I be able to work an online business from the Dominican Republic? It might take a little creativity but so does a writing career, website development, planning a wedding, raising two kids, and hosting Thanksgiving Olympics for 80+ people – and I’ve done all of those, so I’ll just have to get creative with this too.

D O U B T   # 3: 

I’m terrible at being a sales person. This was a great excuse because it is fact, yet the more I looked at this, the more I realized I wasn’t selling, I was sharing. I was sharing a love for products that I, myself, was using. How is that any different than what I already do on social media? If I love a new restaurant, I share it. When I’ve stayed at a great hotel, I’ve posted about that too. Now I’d be sharing these products so that the next time you walk into a beauty store or pharmacy you may not spend money on countless things that don’t work – like I used to – and, instead, spend it on products that do. I wouldn’t be a salesperson, I’d be a share-person.

Share person

And the most dangerous doubts, the ones I coddled quietly in my mind had their 15 seconds of fame too.

D O U B T   # 4,5, and infinity: 

What if I’m not good at this? Or I annoy people? What if I put myself out there and fall flat on my face? Here’s a quote from another clip that crossed my path this week

“You will fall many times but who’s counting?”

Indeed. Who is counting? It reminds me of my dad attempting to get up on a paddle board at the beach earlier this year. His balance was terrible. With the grace of a walrus, he’d flop onto the board. He couldn’t get past the bent position before darting face first into the water. Trying something new was brave and his subsequent attempt after falling? Even braver. I can’t remember how many times he attempted or how many times he fell because I wasn’t counting. People who stand in your corner, don’t keep track of your failures and for the occasional hater who does, I’ve got a specific finger in mind for them.

Paddle Boarding

And there they stand, written down and published for the world to see, all of the doubts that lingered and choked me and reminded me that I could fail. But here’s the thing – trying won’t kill me… but regret will, and the fear of failure will hold the knife. So, no thanks.

I allowed the dance of doubt to tap all over my brain before I silenced her loud ass down and asked myself again What would I say to my kids if this were them?

I’d say Try. I’d say, You could do this. And I’d say Take your time. There’s no rush. Keep working it out.

You can only give advice when you’re leading by example. If I tell my daughter to take chances, I have to take chances. Encouraging my son to climb trees and mountains only works if I’m not afraid to climb my own. If I want my kids to be unabashed in the attempts they make, I have to be willing to put myself out there too. I cannot redefine failure for them without redefining failure for myself first.

What have your failed at lately? What are you ready to try?

P.S. Having the courage to say no.


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3 Comments
    1. Paul! What a great quote, “It’s hard to know which has occured while the game is still afoot.” You’re sooooo rights! I have had many moments that few like “failures” that have brough more success than I could have imagined. You’ve got to play through. Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts.

    1. well said. Failure and success are moving targets anyway. It’s hard, imho, to know which has occured while the game is still afoot. My experience has been wild, nausea inducing swings between the two, mostly depending on which end of the telesope I’m looking through. great post.

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