You are the protagonist in your life. Don’t be the antagonist.
For most of my life, I built the mechanism of shielding myself from failure or from admitting that I had any vulnerabilities. I wanted to be the person who had everything under control. Always.
When I began working on my startup, I discovered that exactly the opposite was true — I felt like a headless chicken trying to cross the road without getting killed.
When it did not make quick progress, I focussed more on the losses than on the lessons I could take away.
It sucked. It was bloody frustrating. Why can’t I get it right, right away?
What was missing in that narrative was acknowledging my learnings. I had no method of resetting after disappointments, I had no real strategy for accepting setbacks and moving on. I was falling into the catastrophic self-fulfilling prophecy of living my life predestined to fail.
I had given so much power to the outputs that I didn’t give enough input.
When you choose to take charge, you stop having limiting beliefs. You start having a bias for action. Most importantly, you become more willing to fail.
I know this because I can see myself willing to fail. I can see myself picking up where I left off. I can envision the mistakes I might make but I can also sense the courage to learn from them slowly but surely growing within me.
Everyone hates to fail. It’s our human tendency to assume the worst, and feel embarrassed or ashamed of failing at something big or small. We go to the extreme to think, irrationally, that we might also lose status socially.
The Harvard Business Review studied a number of failure-tolerant leaders who, don’t just accept failure; they encourage it. They found that those who are trained in rising from failure are more likely to engage in courageous behaviors because they know how to get back up after taking risks.
It is a deliberate approach to creating a risk-friendly culture.
As tough as it is, I am adopting a failure-tolerant mindset in 5 steps:
There is no black and white when it comes to winning and losing. All in or nothing is just an Adidas tagline. It isn’t that black and white in real life. Detach from outcomes to get rid of self-imposed pressure — wins or losses.
The best coaches take both victory and defeat in their stride. “Success is not forever and failure is not fatal,” said the legendary NFL coach Don Shula. Embrace downfalls and more importantly, celebrate even small progress. Two steps forward and one step back is still one step in the right direction.
When you are in it for the right reasons, it is no longer about winning or losing but instead about your overall evolution. It’s you vs. yesterday you.
Invest in yourself and invest in tools to better yourself. When I started writing online, I second-guessed a lot of what I wrote and published. I was diving into the deep end without the right knowledge or skills.
I did not spend enough time learning about publications, joining online communities, or connecting with writers, so it felt easy to quit. Because I wasn’t invested in the long game. Make it harder for yourself to give up.
When you invest your valuable time you won’t want to call it quits. Instead, you’ll find a way to learn from your previous performance and improvise.
I had this pathetic habit of constantly checking stats, follower counts, claps, and reactions to my content in general. I kept waiting to go “viral” and get that initial boost of validation. It is such a vanity metric.
I had a tweet go viral a few months ago. Nothing happened. It was so anti-climatic I almost thought Elon Musk had broken Twitter for real. Waiting in anticipation of hitting those large followers is demotivating. Analyzing your data to see how your content performed is not.
Look into the visitor stats, figure out what is sticking to your readers, and where they are coming from, and iterate from there. Adapt, adapt, adapt.
I cannot emphasize this enough. You are not your work. You are not your work. You are not your work. Be kind to others, but also to yourself. Doing anything out of your comfort zone is a win in itself. So, go easy on yourself.
Anger, shame, embarrassment, and despair are all real emotions and it’s okay to accept those feelings and express them. We can’t ignore them but we can calm them. Give yourself a break or alter your goals if you need it.
There’s no point going ahead at full steam if your tank is emptying. Hustle culture is over-glamorized, you don’t have to grind to see results.
Engage more with the people who you call your cheerleaders. Those who are a fountain and pour into you rather than drains that empty you. Be open and share your vision with them without seeking praise or criticism.
Take a nonjudgmental approach and talk about your wins or losses with them. Speak about how you are working on improving from past learnings. Keep a mental note of how you are accepting the blame and standing up.
Often we know what to do, but just need some nudging from others. Keep those trusted ones close who are with you regardless of the outcomes.
Fear has a way of clouding our judgment and instead of running toward something that we failed at, we run away from it. When we fear accepting setbacks we take the easy route and quit.
Wear failure like a chip on your shoulder instead. What was holding you back will become your biggest strength. It will humanize and humble you.
The moment those shackles are broken, we realize we have nothing to lose. The moment we realize we have nothing to lose, we are not afraid to fail. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll get an F or a C on that class test.