In business (and everything else), we have our oft-repeated mantras, designed to help us with whatever we’re doing at the current time.
We have, “content is king,” “the money is in the list,” “always be closing,” and, of course, “failure is a good thing.”
Like most mantras, after countless repetitions, they lose their meaning. We say the same things over and over again, which engrains the phonetics in our minds, but not the actual meaning. The reality is, mantras are often statements with mind-blowing connotations. If they are actually true, their definitions are almost reality-breaking.
In today’s article, we’ll be talking about failure. “Failure is a good thing,” you’ve heard it before. But is it true? Could it be true? It’s one thing to say, “everyone knows failure is a good thing.” It’s quite another to actually believe it.
And as we’ll see, the value in the mantra only becomes apparent when we fully believe it.
When it’s sunny outside and the birds are singing, “failure is good” rolls off the tongue with no hesitation. Life is good! Why care about failure when eventually, you’ll reach a level of living where life is, once again, fantastic?
Because it isn’t always “good.” This is how life works – ebb and flow. Everything is always changing. Always.
And when things are bad, it’s very easy to forget how good “good” felt. It’s very easy to think that good never existed in the first place, even though “good days” happen just as consistently, if not more so, than bad days.
Of course, this isn’t to say we have no control over our “good days” or “bad days.” In fact, we do have an incredible amount of control. We have control over our reactions, just not our circumstances.
This is why “failure is good” can sound so empty. Because failure doesn’t feel good.
It hurts. Bad. It’s that knife in your gut that is continually twisting. It’s the nights you roll around, tossing and turning with anxious energy coursing through your veins, only to wake up the next day with a headache and a full schedule.
Failure is one of the worst feelings there is. And it’s funny, sometimes you psych yourself up to do something that is out of your comfort zone. You say, “what’s the worst that could happen?”
And then you do it and fail, and realize the “worst that could happen” actually hurts pretty bad.
There’s no use pretending failure doesn’t hurt. Now, let’s look at this statement again: failure is good.
What if I said, even after acknowledging that failure hurts, this statement still holds true? This forces us to look at the statement in a new light. Why is something that hurts so bad something we would call “good,” when the feeling is anything but?
When you succeed, what happens? You feel good. You feel great. You feel motivated.
Motivated to do what? To risk failure.
Why? Because failure is the only way you can succeed.
When you succeed, you learn a lot. But when you fail, you’re forced to come to terms with your worldview. You have to analyze exactly why something didn’t work. In many cases, you need to rip apart old beliefs and ideas in order to make way for the overwhelming evidence that yes, you were wrong.
When you succeed, it’s more like, “see, I told you so.”
Feels good to succeed. But life happens when you fail. When you had all your emotional eggs resting on one outcome, which fails miserably. Then all your emotional eggs break and you have to, well… lay new ones.
That’s painful. But you come out new and improved. Literally, new and fresh. You have a new mindset, a new determination, and the ability to see the world in a way you couldn’t before – the ability to avoid mistakes you didn’t even know existed last time.
I remember when I first got into making money online. I wanted a way to pay for college without having a full-time job. Actually, I wanted to go to college to learn online business, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone.
I stumbled on an awesome website that taught me SEO. But it also taught me to build “Google Sniper” sites – incredibly thin sites designed to target one keyword and make money off of AdSense clicks. In essence, the exact opposite of our “New SEO” approach.
And this was right around the time Google was getting sick and tired of SEO’s messing with their business.
I spent a year on my sniper sites. I did the keyword research, wrote pages and pages of content, then did my best to get some backlinks, although I didn’t really know what I was doing.
I did this for an entire year. And anyone who knows SEO knows it’s a grind. Spending the majority of my time on SEO was not fun. At the end of the year, what did I have to show for it, though?
$14 in my Adsense account. Yes, that’s $14 made in one year of the most tedious and time-consuming work I had ever done.
It felt bad.
But it was through that failure I stumbled onto something that could make me money quickly and enable me to continue my journey to financial freedom. The only way I could’ve found the opportunity I found was to spend a year failing.
And besides helping me pay for the semester of college I was finishing, it also gave me the incentive to drop out. After all, I was already in online business… why pay to learn how to do what I was already doing?
At the time I was doing SEO, I would’ve preferred success. That’s obvious. I would’ve loved to be one of those guys making $5k+ a month with Google Sniper sites. I even had my whole life planned out – I would move to Toronto with my sites paying the way. I would live a life of absolute financial freedom, receiving a check in the mail every month.
But what would’ve really happened had I succeeded? I would’ve had a handful of sites generating me income… for about five months. And then the Mayday Update would’ve struck, decimating my entire source of income.
Looking back, I feel that would’ve hurt even worse than failing – since I would’ve had a taste of the lifestyle I wanted, then had it ripped away.
But that’s really beside the point. The point is, without my miserable failure, I would’ve never had success. It’s because failure always precedes success. Always.
With that in mind, failure is always good.
But it still doesn’t feel that way. What can we do about it?
It’s one thing to know failure leads to success. But how do you deal with it while you’re going through it? After all, there is always a choice. With failure, you can choose to learn from your mistakes and keep going forward, or you can give up.
And that’s a real failure because instead of learning your lessons and getting that much closer to success, you’ve made success impossible by giving up.
So how do we get through failure? How do we deal with the pain and get motivated to try something new, to keep going forward?
We love success. We love good days. We love that feeling of being on top of the world. We want it all the time.
But it doesn’t happen all the time. So this puts us “out of sync.” We want something that we don’t have, causing negative feelings.
The problem is, you can have great success, but then within a week be an emotional wreck. How? You loved success so much you wanted it all the time. But now that you’re back “in the grind,” you’re not getting that kind of success every day.
And why should you be? Success is the result of a buildup. If you’re not building up to anything, why should you experience success? Why should you expect to get that feeling every day?
The key is to detach yourself from that outcome. Success feels fantastic. When you succeed, feel it fully. But the next day, wake up and get back to work. No, it’s not worse than succeeding, it’s simply different.
Realize success is not better than failure. In fact, logically, failure is always better than success, since you learn from failure, where success simply provides you motivation to get over the next hurdle.
And while I’m going on about this, don’t let the idea of failure/success get you down. There will always be both. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, unless you make it so by attaching to one or the other.
In theory, detachment is the best way to deal with failure, as you move from being the participant to the observer. Instead of “failing,” you’re observing what it feels like to fail.
There’s actually a big difference.
But that’s not always practical. When your stomach is twisting into millions of tiny knots and your sweating in a perfectly climate-controlled environment, it’s difficult to think of detachment. So that’s something to practice.
But what can you do right now? Well, one useful tool you can use to get through failure is viewing your problems through the eyes of your friends.
Have you ever gone through an emotional breakup? Have you ever had a breakup bring you down so low that you thought there was nothing more to life, that you were living but it was over?
What happened when you told your friends? They probably said something like, “you’ll find someone else,” or “there are plenty of fish in the sea!”
And you think, “they just don’t understand what I’m going through!”
You’d be right. But for a second, realize what it’s like from their perspective. You just went through a life catastrophe, but it really didn’t ruin your life. You’re still a human. You still have just as many options for success as you did before.
Your friends are treating it like it isn’t a big deal because it really isn’t. As you’re wallowing around in your own mind, your friends are seeing life how it is: continuous.
What if you could view your own problems and failures in this way? What if you could see them through the eyes of your friends (or mentor, or parent, etc)?
You get rejected via cold call, you view it as a failure. But others view it as success. How? They can look at your life objectively. While you view it as a failure, they view it as success, because they realize that you’ve pushed past your comfort zone and will learn a lot from failure. As long as you keep going, you’ll be better for it.
When failure is always a good thing, it makes no sense to beat yourself up about it. And this is, at the end of the day, all we need to worry about – our own opinions on our own actions.
Because failure doesn’t feel like a failure unless we make it. We are the ones causing our own pain. No one else is. That’s obvious by the fact that others view our pain as short-term and beneficial (which it is). Meanwhile, we view failure as the end of the world one day, only to get up and perform better than ever the next.
The key? Really understanding that “failure is good.” It’s not “just a mantra,” it’s TRUE.
So start preferring failure. Because you’re learning. Because you’re improving. Because you’re getting closer to your goals every single time, even if it doesn’t feel like it!
If you don’t want to experience failure, get out of business. If you’re in business, understand that you will feel a failure. You will feel pain as a result of failure. And this is a good thing!
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