The Wright Brothers failed and failed and failed to get their early aircrafts sustainably airborne. Edison successfully discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb, Einstein failed half his entrance exams to the prestigious Federal Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, Oprah Winfrey got fired from her first TV job because “she was unfit for TV,” and Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team. There are millions of people you’ve never heard of who have experienced failure then ultimately succeeded.
As a species we are wired to try, then to fail, then to learn from our failures and modify, and try again. Just watch a baby learning to walk, and watch them “failing”, over and over again.
So… if we are wired to try even in the face of failure, why do we sometimes fail to try?
Here’s my theory:
As adults we develop a way of thinking and talking about ourselves. I’m the kind of person who….
This is our identity. It gives us a “place” in our families, our organizations, and our communities. In our deep history as social beings, we needed a place or we would, literally, die. We had to find our “place” in sharing the tiger meat, our “place” in the warm cave we shared at night. Being part of the tribe was our way to survive.
Now, when we do something to isolate ourselves from the tribe, the primitive part of our brains objects. When we expose ourselves to failure, when we take a risk, there is some part of our primitive brain that says, “If I’m a failure my tribe will reject me, and I’ll die.” For our cave dwelling fore bearers this may have been true. But that was then and this is now.
Break away from the tribe. Risk. If you fail, don’t stop trying, reflect, learn and then try again, just like the Wright Brothers, Oprah, Einstein Edison, Michael Jordan and all those other superstars who were willing to fail, only to show us what it looks like to be a huge success.
When was the last time you “failed”?
What did you learn?
What did you do differently the next time you tried?
I would love to hear about it! Until next Tuesday.