I work with a lot of creative people and without exception the most successful creators I know are those most unafraid of failure. The terrifying spectre of failure can loom over us like the grim reaper, exhaling garlic breath all over our cool ideas. But what if, instead of running from it, we embrace failure? What if we stop trying so hard to succeed and just accept that we will fail? Leaning into that fat, stinking monster and giving it a hug could lead you to master success in ways you never expected.
Most people don’t embrace failure, they fight it with their super powers
You know the super power I mean? The one where despite the odds, you decide that you’re gonna smash this because you have a plan and ain’t nobody gonna tell you what to do! AKA ego.
If you have ever worked in a small team of people on an idea then you will know what a complete nightmare ego can be. One person just needs to bring their big fat ugly ego with them and it can quickly become the biggest thing in the room.
Maybe you know the sort of person I am describing. It’s all fist bumps, mutual appreciation and exchanging Instagram details in the morning. But as they delve into their bag to grab a water bottle you notice them unpack something else. There’s an almost imperceptible smirk as they thwack their oversized ego on the table and say to themselves, “I got this!”
Ego Is A Black Hole
The ego super hero sees every idea through the same filter…
That’s not what I had in mind
I must make this work or I won’t get asked back
This may be good for other people in the room but it won’t work for my career
How can I bring this all back round to the thing I want to do / say?
When you see it written like that it seems obviously wrong but you have to be completely honest with yourself. I’ll be honest: I have been guilty of this type of fixed thinking. It has taken me a lot of heartache and disappointment to understand what a waste of energy and time it is. If you want to master success then you must leave your ego at the door.
Any entrepreneur knows that self-doubt sits close by, questioning every decision. But if we make decisions based on the fear of failing then we’re looking in the wrong direction. We not only need to accept that we may not succeed and then go on regardless. We actually need to consider failure as a probable outcome. Once you’ve looked the fear square in the face and said – ‘Bring it on! Let’s see what you’ve got!’ – you take all the power back.
Be A Sponge, Like Bowie and Quincy
David Bowie was a master of this. No doubt, he was a creative genius but he was always looking to learn and absorb from other minds and other genres. Having had global success as Ziggy Stardust, he changed almost every member of his band and started working with American soul artists to create Young Americans. Had Bowie been so fixed on his own genius (and who would blame him), he would never have evolved. His success would be a small fraction of what he actually achieved.
The multi platinum selling producer / writer Quincy Jones has achieved so much in his life by watching the best and asking questions. Having worked with Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington, Quincy knew he had more to learn. When most people would have rested on their laurels he travelled to Paris to study under Nadia Boulanger who had trained composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein. This young, accomplished musician whose identity was so wrapped up in New York Jazz culture was in Paris asking for help.
Steve Jobs, JK Rowling, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, the list of super famous success stories who massively failed is endless. In fact, you could say that the more you fail the more chance you have to succeed because that’s where the learning is.
Embrace Your Shitness
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do itPablo Picasso
Embracing your shitness is not about beating yourself up or getting depressed over your lack of achievement in life. Nor is it accepting defeat or swallowing the limiting beliefs you’ve fallen prey to.
Embracing failure is in fact expelling all fear because you have accepted that failure is inevitable. It’s guaranteed! You cannot be good at everything all the time. You cannot possibly know everything and there will always be somebody better, faster or cleverer than you. And if you accept that others have succeeded where so far you have failed, then you have found valuable opportunities for learning.
“Failure Is Just Success In Progress” – Albert Einstein
Einstein knew a thing or two!
Fear is a cancer. It bores into your soul and sets up house in your creativity, stunting ideas and limiting progress. Freedom from fear is the only way to move forward. Instead of considering success as the only option, give failure some thought. Ask yourself,
What’s the worst that can happen?
Well actually the worst thing that can happen is that you succeed first time. Really! Because then you missed all those golden learning opportunities. Put your ideas out there with no fear of rejection and when rejection does come let it roll round your tongue, swallow it down and taste the bitter, acrid bile of it. Feel every moment of self pity. Somewhere in there will be a lesson, which is exclusive to failure. It simply cannot be learnt anywhere else.
So, if you want to be a huge success then let yourself be a huge failure. All the best people have!