David Amerland
Sunday Read - Failure


In the latest edition of the Daily Boost, daily snippets distilled from studies and research from The Sniper Mind, I looked at the way failure defines either our capabilities or limitations. While these two may sound the same (the glass content question again) they most definitely are not.

The first (capabilities) shows us just how far we have got and gives us a handy measure of what we need to do next in order to go further while the second (limitations) serves to remind us of “our place”. Fear of failure is a thing precisely because so many of us experience it.

Overcoming it is neither easy nor without effort which suggests that in trying to change a cognitive approach to uncertainty we have to take stock of our identity and dig sufficiently deep to realign our motivational drive so we can do what is difficult because the goal we have set ourselves is suddenly more desirable than our aversion to uncertainty and risk.

This is exactly why, sometimes, we need to hit rock bottom before we can truly rise as J. K. Rowling points out in her commencement address to Harvard University students. It is perhaps our habituation to fear that diminishes the inhibitory effect it has upon us and liberates us from our self-imposed prison.

As Andreea Elena Vasile explains in her TEDx Talk acknowledging failure and coming to grips with it is quite a liberating experience. Yet failure, by definition has to be part of success. Just as there cannot, reasonably, be an understanding of light without darkness (which is, essentially the absence of light in varying degrees) there cannot be a pathway to success without a foundation of failures based upon exploration and innovation.

It is sometimes very public, very personal failures that become the fuel that drives us to push against the boundaries of perception that hem us in. We are all living in cultures that are still young and locked in rigid behavioral modalities and values that stem from our cultural conditioning. As a result we constrain our curiosity, shy away from failure and misunderstand success not recognizing that failure is an option when it holds the potential to help us improve so we can become more than we are and we see failure as the opposite of success instead of the integral part of it that it actually is.

Success, we are beginning to realize, cannot begin until failure occurs or to put it a little differently, we must give ourselves permission to fail so we can learn what is required of us to grow into people who are destined to succeed. Ed Wood who was lambasted in his lifetime has a cult following today his particular vision of film making having finally caught on.

In becoming better versions of ourselves there are three requirements we need to have in place:

  1. The willingness to keep on trying and not give up.
  2. The bravery to face our fears.
  3. The ability to embrace failure, analyze it and learn from it. It’s no accident that some of the most successful people have had failure as their springboard.

Very recently I trained with a friend who’s an amateur boxer as he was preparing for his fight. We were taking turns running 400m laps on a treadmill set to a 15% incline and a speed that was constantly being increased as we ran. As I was pushing his speed to the 14km/h I was conscious of the possibility that he would reach his limit and started to slow it down, “Keep going!” he gasped, “better to bottom out here than in the ring.”

It stayed with me afterwards. Courting failure is how we get past our limits and discover new ones, and for that we must be willing to develop the mental strength to take it. Without that the limits we live in become the fear-built walls that will forever contain us.

Coffee must be at hand today and you obviously have plenty of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake so the only thing left for me to say is have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved