How, when and why to do the very thing everyone tells you to avoid.
I’m going to be talking a lot about failure in this post. To many of us, it’s a scary thing. We believe that it means more than it does on surface value. That it defines our abilities now and forever.
I’m here to tell you that this is pitifully untrue, and it’s not so hard to change your attitude about failure. Because, the truth is, sometimes it’s necessary. It helps to know just when this is the case.
Failure is Bad-Ass
One of the quickest adjustments you can make to your attitude of failure is recognizing that, when someone fails and deals with it well, it’s kinda cool.
Read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; it advocates for people’s ability to choose how they act and respond to the events that occur to them. There is nothing more contenting than feeling like your response to the events around you is consistent. The thing that makes giving up worthwhile is not giving up and staying down: it’s focusing on your end goal and pivoting when you find it necessary.
For example, if you are performing a set of habits, and you find that it’s too many, and keeping track of them is making you less happy than you would be otherwise, it’s important to be able to recognize when to let go of some of them and pivot to something more productive.
And think of all the people who failed countless times before becoming successful. They’re not hard to find. I sometimes enjoy reading biographies for this purpose.
Seriously, though: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah, and Michael Jordan, to name a few. The only thing you can do to ensure success for yourself, whether professional or personal, is to keep trying.
So How do I Know When to Quit Something?
Sometimes, the simple truth is that continuing something you’ve been doing will hurt you more than if you stopped doing it, even if it’s something that seemed good or productive at first.
We feel two things pulling us—the desire to doggedly keep going and stand out and, inversely, the rationalization of our minds that tells us what we’re doing is not helpful. It can be difficult to focus when we’re trying so hard to determine whether we should quit, and so it’s impossible to reach a rational conclusion. But, the most important thing…
We are all imperfect. And so, we sometimes cycle between logic and intense emotion. For example, if you’re starting a blog, and your logical self tells you it’s a good idea, but your current and emotional state tells you it isn’t, set yourself some time aside. Whatever you do, don’t decide to quit in the moment, because it’s very difficult to come back from that final decision.
Instead, tell yourself, “I’m doubting myself right now, so I’m going to wait until I feel better, so I can make a more logical decision.”
And if you wait, you will find that most of the time, your logical decision was the correct one. But sometimes you won’t. Sometimes you’ll make a pros and cons list and be surprised at how fruitless something is.
It can take bravery to quit something, because you may feel you’re setting a bad precedent. But if you made a logical and reasoned choice, you’ve done all you can do and should be proud.
Why We Try to Avoid Risk
It’s entirely evolutionary in nature, but it’s difficult for us to be “out on a limb” doing something, even if it’s not physically harmful.
If the benefit from doing something is not physical or effective immediately, such as hunger and pain responses, why do it at all? If you can recognize that the fear you feel while you’re out on a limb is entirely normal, it makes it easier to deal with.
Some things are scary for everyone, and as strugglers of anxiety, it’s difficult to remember that sometimes. It’s easier to blame things on our condition. But, when taking a risk, fear is entirely normal.
The other day, my brain was looking for some worries regarding my blog. It’s small right now: should I continue? Is my voice going to help anyone? Why should I talk when there are industry professionals? Am I experienced enough to know what I’m doing? So I stopped working on this post. I waited until the next day—I drank coffee and listened to Mozart. In that moment, those fears passed: and so I continued.
Decisions we make while our minds are clear are much more often the correct ones.
If I decided to quit then and there, while I was having those fears, I would have one more failure under my belt. It just took time to remember how determined I am.
For more information regarding knowing when giving up is the best option, check out the book “The Dip” by Seth Godin.
Leave a comment telling me which failure you believe shaped you the most. I’m lucky that mine wasn’t anything too traumatic. It was when I did very poorly in the first class that gave me a real challenge: Algebra 1 in 8th grade. I would pull my hair out, cry and yell over my homework. That class showed me who I was, and thankfully, made crystal clear the ways in which I would strive to improve.
If you have any suggestions for this blog or questions, comment or message me directly.