You know you want it.
It is your ultimate satisfaction, your elusive dream come true.
It will give you everything you’ve ever wanted. All you have to do is pursue it with passion and desire. It will want you to work your fingers to the bone, sacrifice and take chances. When it rejects you, you only want it more.
Ah, sweet success; it is the most predictable mistress.
As a writer and coach, I’ve heard a million recipes for success. Most are generalities that just make common sense; work hard, keep your eye on the goal and never give up. Good advice.
But the real secret to success is (drum roll) failure. I’ve never met a successful person who hasn’t failed at least once.
I’ve owned 5 successful businesses in my life time. But it’s the 2 failed business ideas that taught me the most. I can still feel the sting, like a sharp slap in the face. You never quite get over your first failure. And I’m not at all sure that’s a bad thing.
I remember having a conversation with my daughter in which she remarked how courageous she thought I had been in my many careers. She marveled at my ability to try new things and succeed at them. I told her that the only difference between the two of us was that I had a lifetime of learning how to fail, and a solid resolve to get up and eventually try again. She, at the tender age of 24, had not yet been educated in the field of hard knocks.
I have no doubt that her turn is coming. At least I hope so. There will be no greater teacher and no more sure way to know that she is on the right track. If you never throw the ball, you’ll never make the hoop.
I think we try way too hard to protect our kids from failing. We give out trophies and ribbons for achievements in sports and spelling bees, badges for accomplishments and prizes for everyone. There should be a badge for people who tried like hell and failed. To come back from failure is success in itself.
The truth is, we don’t have to wait long for life to teach us the difference between success and failure. It has a way of knocking us around until we figure out what it is we want to be when we grow up. Then it mockingly challenges us to be it.
Of course success is different for all of us and it takes on different faces as we get older. Years ago, success for me meant owning a company with 20 employees and having a big market presence. Today, success means being able to work on my own terms (which is code for working in my fuzzy bathrobe with curlers in my hair), being able to write for prestigious publications, speak at notable conferences, coach wonderfully talented people and ghostwrite amazing stories. It means doing what I love and doing it wherever I want. I push the boundaries of failure every time I walk out onto a stage, take on a new client, promote my web site, write a new book or have a new article published.
I’m not going to lie, fear of failure still plays a part in my day to day. I listen to it a lot less these days but respect it all the same. We are old friends.
Failure didn’t just plague me in my career quests. It presented itself to me when my 27 year marriage ended. That failure eventually led me to the man I know I was meant to be with. It taught me the things I needed to know to make a success of things this time around. I respect that and find myself grateful for the lesson.
I’d be curious to know what failure has done for you and to you. If your fear of it has ever stopped you from doing what you wanted to do, or if it has impacted your life, your dreams and your aspirations. Do you think it has worked for you or against you? Does it drive you on or pull you down?
I have a feeling I have a few more failures left in me. That’s okay. I will just pick myself up, dust myself off and offer to buy failure an Apple-tini at the local pub.
I figure it’s the least I can do for something that has given me so much.