5 Unconventional Thoughts on Failing

image by Matt Pierce, Instagram @wake.up.matt

image by Matt Pierce, Instagram @wake.up.matt

“Unremarkable lives are marked by the fear of not looking capable when trying something new.”

— Epictetus

Think about the inordinate amount of time and effort that is required to become accomplished enough in a skill, and then to finally share it with others.

Musicians practice thousands of hours before they play their first show. Then they continue to practice much more than the amount of time they play live.

This daunting amount of work, and sweat that you as a viewer will never see.

But what do we see? We see the most beautiful and so called ‘perfect’ pieces of work and art, thought only to be made by pure geniuses.

What we don’t see is the process — the late nights, the obstacles, the mistakes, the frustration, and the unrelenting desire to improve.

Now, when it comes to creating your thing — the thing you are most passionate about — you don’t start. You don’t start because you believe it won’t be perfect, and because you are afraid of what others will think.

I know that’s what I do.

“Nobody will notice. If nobody notices, nobody can care or have an opinion. If nobody has an opinion, I’m safe.”


You’re not.

It will literally eat you up inside. This is because it is built within us to express ourselves.

The quote above says that it’s unremarkable to not take action. Living a life holding back, is not worth making a remark about. Nobody wants to talk about the person that did nothing.

Now, if you don’t start your thing you will always be wondering “What if I just took that leap?” Just like you are wondering right now, “What if I wait until tomorrow to start?”

Here’s the thing about, “What if…”

It doesn’t exist.

If you don’t believe me, just pause and think about it for a moment.

I’ll wait.

All it is, is a complete fabrication by your ego to stay small, stay put, and stay comfortable! It gets a real kick out of sitting back and making up dream scenarios that have never actually occurred. From that safe bubble, nothing can touch it.

So let’s make a promise to keep that “what if” shit out of here, okay? Cool.

Instead, let’s try to change your perception of perfection and failure by reframing them with these shifts in mindset. The sooner you can change your mindset, the sooner you can take action, and learn through trial and error. This is how we adapt and continuously grow. This is life.

1) You are not your idea, or your failure.

This may be the hardest thought to grasp, but before you even begin you must learn to separate yourself — your self — from your work. It’s the understanding that you are the entity that simply brought forth the idea. You as a person, are not that idea. There is a part of you in it, but as a whole being you are much more.

When you share your work or idea, know that it must be viewed objectively, opposed to subjectively. You can’t take anything personally. That’s the only way you can move forward, honestly, and consistently.

This is the yin and yang of life. You have to be able to think critically, and not become romantic with your ideas once they are out there. Oddly enough, you will experience greater joy this way. It’s nice not getting bogged down on yourself emotionally if something didn’t go according to plan, or someone didn’t like your idea. You just get to focus on what’s in your control — your perception, and your effort.

Do the work, and then step back.

2) Be stubborn with your procrastination.

This comes from Steven Pressfield in his book Do the Work, and I found it pretty memorable. We read all these quotes about perseverance, determination, and overcoming grand obstacles. It seems like we need to be a super hero in order to have these qualities and get the job done.

Well, what if you just become stubborn instead? Become too stubborn to quit. Become too stubborn to let others negative opinions hold you back. Become stubborn enough to just keep making things because you have to.

Yeah, being stubborn seems more manageable.

Note: Be stubborn with your procrastination. Don’t be a generally all around stubborn person. My mother told me I was a stubborn kid. I was a pain in the ass.

3) Be content so you can be proud.

We live in some seriously fast paced times. And a lot of advice these days tells us to act now, move fast, speed kills, push out content, content, and more content. So if you don’t have time to make your most perfect piece of work, how will you ever feel proud of it?

Redefine your version of proud from being perfect to being content.

Content in this scenario means that you tried your absolute best within your current means. Now, with this new definition in hand ask yourself, “What I’m about to share, am I truly proud of it?” If you honestly didn’t do your best, or you didn’t utilize all of the means at your disposal to their utmost ability, it’s probably worth the guess that you won’t be proud.

You have tools within your reach to start now. Don’t let ego get in the way.

Always do your best.

4) Launch at 80 percent.

A friend of mine who started their own business at a young age shared me this nugget of advice. It’s a nice reminder that there will never be a perfect time to launch. You will keep making excuses and pushing it off.

You can’t make changes to something that you haven’t started. It’s better to get the main idea — the minimum viable product — out there so then you can make adjustments and adapt in real time. Not in our distorted, made-up version of reality. We call that place “La La Land,” and nothing gets accomplished there.

5) View everything as feedback, not failure.

From now on, you must view every moment as feedback. That includes moments of discomfort. When we view things or ourselves as a failure, it’s hard to figure out what to do with this information. It’s a closed loop. We did something. We failed. We feel bad.

But if viewed as feedback, we add in a dose of curiosity, and compassion.

Carol Dweck calls this the growth mindset.

Whatever happens, understand that you aren’t a failure. You get to see the situation for what it really is — some external event that is not attached to your self . This can only happen from a place of self-compassion. You gotta love yourself, man! And you have to love putting in effort. Understand that there is opportunity everywhere.

Having the ability to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty when things get bad is the mindset you need to have. And not just having the ability. You have to want it. You need to find love within the process of achieving something. The good, and the bad.

You are the craftsmen, the mason, the artist, the experimenter. You get to see how your input influences an output. That’s all there is.

Just keep showing up.

Have fun.

Mindset by Carol Dweck
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
Creative, Inc. by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull

Thank you for reading my article. I hope you found it helpful or at least thought-provoking. If this post did help you, consider sharing it with someone you think it would help too.