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What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? We hear that question a lot. And, it’s a good one. But I what I want to know is, what would happen if you failed? Really. What’s the worst thing that would happen? For me, it’s looking stupid and losing money. But, when I really think about it, is that really all that bad? In the end, even if I fail, I will have learned a lot, grown a lot, made a lot of valuable contacts, developed new perspectives, and I’d actually come out the other side a bigger, stronger person.
We often confuse failing at something with being a failure, just as we equate having a success with being successful. Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Twenty seven publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book. Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the age of 62. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and started a failed first business before creating the global empire that is Microsoft.
These people are by no means failures. They failed, sometimes multiple times, but they are not failures. Imagine a world without them. What would have happened if they had not even tried for fear of failure? Or, if they had given up after the first knock.
On the flip side, Bernie Madoff appeared to be a huge success: successful business, incredible wealth, happy marriage, loving family. In the end, would you call him successful?
Inaction leads to definite failure but if we keep it quiet enough, who will know? If no one knows, they can’t judge us. But, inside, we know we gave up, chickened out, played small.
What you’re up to isn’t on the scale of the famous greats? Maybe not… yet. But, whatever you are doing will make a difference for someone. Remember the starfish story, which I have blogged about in the past? Go back and read it again.
Let me share my personal experience. When I first conceived my New Leaf Touchstone Bracelets, I thought people would think it was a stupid idea and that I was stupid to have thought of it and to be investing time and money into it. I listened to that voice in my head and thought, ‘if I fail at it, then they will have been right and I’ll really look bad.’ Moving forward was going to require a financial investment. I had to buy the materials, pay for labor, launch a new website. If I invested in a bad idea…well, what would that say about me? I stalled for 2 years. And then, I forged ahead. If I had never moved forward, over 1,000 people around the world would not be wearing my bracelets to help them act on their intentions. I would not have connected with the amazing girls and staff at the Germaine Lawrence School or the amazing people at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I would not have met the hundreds of other people I have met and learned from and contributed to along the way. I would not have grown in areas I had no idea were available to me. The bracelets didn’t become the ‘next Pet Rock’ as I had hoped. They didn’t make me a millionaire. But after fearing failure for 2 years, making and marketing them has created some success and made a big impact on a lot of people, not the least of whom is me. Failure to launch is failure to learn.
Whether you don’t take the plunge, or whether you do and it doesn’t work out, it’s a failure. Consider which you’d prefer to experience. And remember, failing doesn’t make you a failure. Despite the things you do that don’t work out well, you do many things successfully. You are a success, despite the fact that you may fail from time to time.
Go for it!