Want to succeed? Learn to fail!

by Don Smith

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I watched as a huge dude, weighing probably at least 250lbs, sauntered into the weight room. Radiating confidence, he picked up a pair of 2 kg weights which were barely visible in his huge meaty hands, walked over to the weight bench, and quickly did 2 perfect bicep curls. Looking rather pleased with himself, he carefully put the weights back and walked out with his head held high, knowing he'd done his routine for the day absolutely perfectly.

Seems a little silly for a big guy like that to be lifting something so tiny doesn't it?

Why even bother showing up at the gym if you aren't going to challenge yourself?

I'll confess, the example of the guy in the gym isn't a true story, but isn't this what many of us do day after day? We go through life doing what is easy, being careful not to push ourselves to the point of failure out of fear. Then we wonder why we are stuck and are not gaining.  We watch others succeed where we have been afraid to even try out of fear of failure.

I started out my adult life more than $30,000 in debt at the age of 18 due to medical issues and somehow clawed my way through a couple years of college.  I drifted from job to job for a while, before finding a place at my current company as a technician.


Buckling down on my studies and getting several certifications while striving to go the extra mile each day, I quickly rose through the ranks, moving to a training role, then project manager, service manager, to finally leading my company.  Today, I run this website, run a multi-million dollar company, sit on the board of directors at the American Red Cross, lead numerous community groups, and have a wonderful family with 5 kids.  While I know I still have room to grow, I believe most people would describe that as being successful.

Success, reaching the top of the mountain

The reason I say all of that is I want you to know that I have an idea of what success really takes.  It's not an easy road, but one that can be traveled.  In my experience, weight lifting and succeeding in life are essentially the same thing. If you want to grow, you need to be willing to take some chances and push yourself to the limit. Only by consistently pushing yourself to the limit will you be able to raise the bar and go to the next level.  Merely showing up and doing the minimum required will not challenge you, and you will not grow.

Your body and mind adapt to what you do on a daily basis. If you never push the limit, why should it grow? We are exquisitely built machines, designed to conserve energy whenever possible, so if there is no need to grow, we will not.  In fact, if you are consistently performing below your capacity, your body will adapt to that and your capacity will be diminished over time.

Want to succeed? Learn to fail.

Michael Jordan Dunking
Michael Jordan dunking – picture via www.diggita.it/v.php?id=1374475

Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players of all time, put it this way.

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Years ago, I joined Toastmasters to get over my fear of public speaking.  My first speech, I stood up in front of the group and read the entire speech from my carefully typed notes while trying to keep my hands from trembling.  Later that same year, I was invited to speak at a national dealer conference for work, and I accepted, an opportunity I would have turned down less than a year before.  I felt like I delivered, and was asked to speak again at the next one so the people running the meeting must have agreed.

Picture of Don receiving area director of the year for Toastmasters
That's me in the middle accepting Area Director of the Year for Toastmasters

I could not have done that if I had not pushed myself earlier and prepared by practicing and getting feedback as a speaker each week.  I had no idea at the time that an opportunity like that would come up, but I knew I wanted to be able to speak if called upon so I decided to prepare.  I've now been asked to speak at a lot of events, and I feel like an accomplished speaker.  I have no problems getting up in front of a group to speak and have had my speaking skills complimented hundreds of times.  Certainly, there is always room for me to improve, but I can confidently say that I've come a long way from the nervous wreck I once was.

If I can do it, so can you.  Will you intentionally practice pushing yourself to the limits when the risks are relatively low so that you are ready when it really counts?  Will you take the shot when you get it even when you know you might fail regardless of how much you have prepared?  Or will you remain where you are, setting yourself up to fail when opportunities arise? 

Sign up for our email newsletter, and I'll send you a challenge from time to time along with a weekly digest of articles.  My current challenge to you is to read a book which I will recommend each month.  These are books hand selected out of the thousands I've read which I've found to be impactful in my own life.  They will grow you if you follow the advice contained in them.

I'm opening the door for you to grow in your relationships, finances, career, and health, but it's up to you to walk through it.

Are you in?  Will you sign up and take my reading challenge?  Or will you go back to surfing the web and change nothing, forgetting this article a few days from now?

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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