We’ve all failed. My list reads like a Tolstoy novel and is cluttered with the usual blunders: tests, relationships, diets. Nothing fancy there. I’m not proud of the things I’ve failed at, or the half-finished projects I’ve kept in dusty heaps. Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” So I guess in all my foolishness, I can count my yearning for progress as a win among losses. Even so, enthusiasm without wisdom is like that old stationary bike that sits in the corner. It might get you worked up, but it won’t take you any place.
The benefit to failing much, however, is learning much. With that in mind, here are 3 ways you could be sabotaging your success. (I only know it because I’ve done it…)
- You’re not allowing your experience to teach you. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I love that little phrase. It reminds me of what Abraham Verghese said about life in his novel Cutting for Stone, “You live it forward but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.” Hindsight can be two things: a mammoth guilt-trip monster that wraps its sinewy tentacles around you, suffocating your courage and enslaving you to the past, or a sage advisor, reminding you of bad roads and potholed paths you need not travel again. To err is human (let’s see how many quotes I can sprinkle into this post), but if we’re not allowing our experience to teach us, our lives will be littered with losses.
- You’re making fear a factor. I’ve read the Missed Connections section on Craigslist, and found it downright amusing. Some young guy at the gas pump sees a stunning young woman in a Volkswagen. She steps out of her car, tosses an empty Slurpee cup in the garbage can, and saunters into the store. He watches her go before topping off his gas and driving away. Then he can’t stop thinking of her. Compelled to see her again, to know her name, and to pursue what’s sure to be a Romeo-and-Juliet romance, he turns to the Internet to find her.
That poor loveless fool let fear keep him from calling out to his soul mate at the 7-Eleven. What ever will become of him? Okay, now you must know I’m kidding. But seriously, what has fear kept you from doing, saying, or becoming in your life? Ask yourself what you would do now if fear weren’t a factor. Know that the surest way to fail is to talk yourself out of moving forward.
- You’re second guessing yourself. You never know until you try. There’s an annoying statement, but only because our well-intentioned friends and family use it to coerce us when we’re straddling the fence. I’ve been talked into many mistakes in my life: six-inch heels on snow days, bad dates, payday loans to penniless friends, to name a few. But in all of those cases, I had this little voice in my head that screamed “No!” Had I listened to my instincts, I might have made a good decision rather than one I regretted.
In times when others aren’t persuading us, worry may be speaking to us. When worry is that voice, it sounds so damn astute. In fact, worry is a skillful impressionist. It sounds amazingly like reason. Don’t let it fool you. Sometimes it’s completely unfounded. It’s a hard thing to get in our own heads and unravel the chaos. But it’s necessary because many of us are listening to the outside world or our inner doubts. We are constantly second guessing ourselves and making decisions that ultimately leave us unhappy.
When it comes to reaching your goals, there’s no shortage of obstacles in the way. So what’s keeping you from calling out to your soulmate at the 7-Eleven (I don’t recommend that)? Or chasing your dream, whatever it may be. Or simply living an authentic life, letting your fearless self call the shots? How are you sabotaging your success?
I’m writing this to myself as much as I’m writing it to you. Because hard as I try to be flexible and fierce, I’m surely not as diligent as Thomas Edison, who said…
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Don’t give up, friend. If you’re standing in your own way, it’s time to kick your own ass…lovingly.