Failure – The Key to Success

I know. The title of this post is a bit outrageous. So I should clarify: It’s not really failure that’s the key to success. It’s trying. But what happens is that we are often so afraid to fail that we end up being afraid to try.

I believe that if we learn to shift our mindset to actually viewing failure as a positive thing, it would open up so much room for growth. So how can we do that?

  1. Realize that failure is simply a subset of learning.
  2. Aim to try – sometimes we need to change our aim from succeeding, to trying.
  3. Iterate – Try, fail, analyze and repeat.

Failure is Learning

Consider the following:

  • A baby first learning to walk – This process has to have one of the highest initial failure rates known to man. Yet it has one of the highest eventual success rates known to man. Each time babies fail to walk, they get better at it, and they keep trying until they finally walk. Food for thought: babies fail the most and yet they are the best learners.
  • Science – Science and technology have made gigantic leaps and one of the forces behind this is the practice of experimenting. The very basis of an “experiment” is trial and error (and retrial). Notice the “error” part? Failure is expected. The failure is analyzed. Then parameters and assumptions and conditions are adjusted and the experiment is re-tried.
  • Grit – It is often said that the number 1 factor of success is not intelligence or education or luck. It’s grit. Grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” (Wikipedia). In essence, it’s never giving up. The most successful people are the ones that use their failures to propel them to keep trying and trying and trying and trying. And that’s what leads to their success.

These points are serve as examples showing that failure doesn’t hinder success. But it is quitting that makes success impossible. One of the most important things to internalize is that each time we fail, we grow. Now, don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t aim to fail. But we should note that failure only inhibits growth if you quit. And it can accelerate that growth if we learn from it. Consider this quote:

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.
-Stephen McCranie

The beginner hasn’t failed enough to know how to mitigate failure. Numerous times, the master has failed and then used his failures to improve his craft. Failure can actually bring us closer to our goals. Each time we fail, we grow – we gain information about what doesn’t work. That is experience. That is wisdom. It’s up to us to apply that newly achieved wisdom the next time we try.

Aim to Try

The goal is not to succeed; the goal is to try.

That may sound strange but a big reason that failure demotivates us is actually that we set the bar too high. One of the signs of wisdom is the ability of selective focus and knowing when to focus on the macro vs the micro. We definitely should set ambitious goals. But we need to know when to move our focus to trying the goal as opposed to achieving it.

We are often so focused on the large goal, we forget to celebrate a small, but crucial, milestone – trying. Trying is a huge step in the direction of success. Many people are afraid to try so if you made an attempt then you are already growing and that is to be celebrated. Also, if we focus too much on the result of success, then when we don’t see that result, or if we think that result is unlikely, we get demotivated. But if the goal is to try, then achievement is super easy! Anyone can try.

So focusing on trying instead of success makes us more likely to attempt the task and more likely to feel successful after the attempt, whether we succeed or not… because we achieved the goal of trying.

Iterate

In order to grow, we do need to sometimes change the focus back from trying to succeeding. We can do that when we analyze the trial/failure.

In order to continue on an upward trend, we should analyze the trial to determine what needs to be changed for us to perform better. Then apply that change to the next trial and keep iterating like that until we succeed. The more we try, the better we get.

So here’s the process:

  1. Aim to try – The goal is not to succeed. The goal is to try.
  2. Try
  3. If unsuccessful, remember that failure is learning. Then change the focus back to success. Determine what needs to be changed about the approach to increase the chances of success.
  4. Change the focus back to trying and repeat, applying the changes from the previous step.
    • Note: if we keep trying but we aren’t improving, it’s likely that we are missing something. So remember no woman is an island. Seek help. That is a part of analysis and growth.

I hope this helps us to form a new relationship with failure in our lives.
So next time you fail at something, be happy that you tried, use that failure to improve your next attempt, and say to yourself, “I grew today. That’s dope.”

Advertisements

Gratitude – The Key to Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. Of course we are okay with sometimes feeling sadness or joy or anger or contentment. But as an overarching state of one’s life, happiness is usually the feeling of choice. So why are so many of us unhappy?

The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

– David Steindl-Rast

The Problem with Fulfillment

Most, if not all, of us struggle with feelings of fulfillment or the lack thereof. When we have goals but haven’t achieved them, or when we are searching but not exactly sure what for… we have this void – a sense of unfulfillment. And in our society we have been somewhat trained to believe that happiness is a thing we achieve somewhere down the line of a sequence of phases. Maybe it’s going to a certain school or getting a specific job or living a certain lifestyle… whatever it may be.

Happiness always seems to be in the future… something that comes after a certain achievement. “When this happens then I’ll be happy.” But the thing is… if we practice this notion of happiness as a future achievement, that’s just what it will be – in the future. Forever. Never in the present.

However, if we shift the focus from achievement to appreciation; if we could condition ourselves to feel fulfilled by what we already have, then happiness is no longer just in the future. It’s here! And how do we shift that focus? With gratitude!

Check out what some of the world’s most successful people have to say about gratitude:

Enter Gratitude

Gratitude/Gratefulness is a feeling of recognition and deep appreciation for what we have and have experienced, as well as what allows us to have and experience those things. This gives us a sense of fulfillment for the current state of our lives.

Being grateful can impact our lives in many ways:

  • Gratitude increases happiness.
    Happiness often is developed when we have/do things that we want and appreciate. Now if we don’t realize that the things we have are the things that we want and are lucky to have, then it seems like there’s not much to be appreciative of. And this is often the case. Humans have a tendency to take things for granted or to focus on the negatives. But if we learn to develop a deep sense of appreciation for what we have… happiness follows.
  • Gratitude motivates.
    Being happy with our current state does not eliminate the desire to achieve more goals. Instead, it gives us the drive to achieve even more because it encourages us to find more things to be grateful for. Positivity makes us optimistic and energetic and therefore motivated. And what’s one way to develop a positive mindset? Gratitude. It is a good way to increase levels of motivation and productivity.
  • Gratitude reduces fear.
    This is also an effect of the positive mindset which gratefulness encourages. Since gratefulness promotes optimism, it encourages us to focus on the positive aspects of situations and possible outcomes instead of the negatives.
  • Gratitude increases luck.
    Luck is simply opportunity. And opportunity is abundant but where most of us fall short is recognizing opportunity. Gratitude can help us with this. Practicing gratitude is practicing to recognize things for which to be grateful. This makes our brain constantly search for possible reasons to be grateful in our daily lives. We therefore recognize opportunities more readily and so are better prepared to grab them. The trick is to train our brain to do this by practicing gratitude daily.
  • Gratefulness attracts.
    Gratitude encourages us to feel appreciation as well as show it. If we show appreciation to those in our lives and those with whom we cross paths, we become more pleasant and loving to others. In return, others become more pleasant and loving toward us. We will then continue to attract more pleasant and loving people.

Practice Gratitude

So gratitude can improve our levels of happiness and the quality of our lives. Additionally, and probably the most important thing to internalize, is that the gratitude of which I speak is not just a mindset. It’s a practice, as researcher Brené Brown indicated in the video above.

If we constantly feed an idea to our mind, we begin to internalize it and it eventually becomes second nature. So practicing gratitude trains our brain to put a higher importance on it. This will make us more grateful as a whole and better at recognizing things we should be grateful for.

As with any skill or habit, developing a grateful mind requires active, concrete practices. There are many gratitude practices you could try. For some examples, here’s a link: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/#exercises. For me, the most effective has been a keeping a gratitude journal.

I implore you to try out a simple gratefulness practice that you can start right now! Here it is:

Answer the question – What are 3 things I’m grateful for? Write your answers down on paper or on your phone/computer.

  • Make sure to have at least one very specific point. For example, “I’m grateful for the delicious pancakes I had this morning”, as opposed to “I’m grateful for food”. Studies show that the more specific our gratitudes are, the greater effect they have on us.

That’s it! A very simple task to get you started. Now try that every morning when you wake up or every evening before going to bed for the next week. Let me know in the comments below if this worked for you and the effect it had on your happiness 🙂

To sum things up, check out this great video by WellCast:

 

How to Overcome Fear

The Importance of Overcoming Fear

The best things in life are on the other side of fear.

-Will Smith

Fear can be a good thing. It is necessary for survival as it protects us against danger by allowing us to steer clear of potential danger. But in society we have begun to perceive embarrassment and failure as “dangerous”. And this makes sense. From an evolutionary perspective,  survival is much more likely if we form packs/herds/groups. So community is important to us. We are social creatures and do not want to be ridiculed and therefore exiled form our communities.

The problem is… Fear is also one of the most crippling emotions, especially when it comes to growth. Fear coerces us to err on the side that danger exists even when there is none. Many of us have become conditioned to believe that both failure and the negative opinions of others are to be avoided… even if the failure has little to no risk of harm or exile; and the opinions of others are fickle and affect nothing. And when we feel this, we amplify the danger in our minds. And this fear restricts us. It makes us unwilling to try to learn new things or keep trying at things we’ve failed at. It makes us avoid actions and situations that may lead to potential embarrassment. And if it is making us avoid learning, avoid trying and avoid action, then it’s making us avoid growth!

In order to learn, grow and become successful, we MUST learn to overcome fear.

The most successful people in the world believe this very thing. So there must be some truth to it. If we want to be successful. We must model success. So for an example of how important overcoming fear is to a very successful person, check out this clip from an interview with Will Smith:

 

 

 

How to Overcome Fear

  1. Practice Practice Practice!

    Well how does one get good at any skill? Practice. Overcoming fear is no different. If we want to be brave. We must practice bravery. This means doing things that you are scared to do simply in order to become good at doing things you are scared to do, even if that specific thing isn’t important. You can start with small things and build up to big things but practice is important.

  2. Assess the actual danger.

    Okay so you have an action that you want to do and are scared to do. The first thing to do is assess the outcome of the action. For this, you must remove all emotion from the assessment. Try treating it as a simple hypothetical or pretend that you are not gonna do it anyway to remove all pressure/nervousness about it. After that, determine the true danger of your action. Will this cause actual harm to you or anyone else? If it would cause actual harm, don’t do it. If not, proceed to the next step.

  3. Forget the outcome!

    This may seem strange given the previous step. But now that the outcome has no actual danger, it’s not important. We need to detach ourselves from the outcome – live in the moment, so to speak –  in order to not care if we fail or not and eliminate all pressure to perform well.  It’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is the action. There is no outcome. Period.

  4. Model success!

    You don’t need to figure everything out on your own. Whether you need to overcome fear in general or for something specific, chances are someone else has done it. So find them and see what they say. There are tonnes of resources out there – books, videos, blogs – in which the top 1% gives tips on how to overcome fear. So find virtual mentors and implement their tried and proven techniques. Model success.

  5. Remember that failure means progress!

    The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.
    -Stephen McCranie

 

These tips were inspired by Robin Sharma. He is a great mentor to me and has some inspiring content. Check it out:

 

 

Experiment Alert!

It’s easy to talk the talk. And it’s easy to read things online and say “hashtag truth”. But we gotta put things into action.

So I have a challenge for you! You get to choose:

  • Every day, for the next week, do one small thing you are scared to do.
  • Or every week, for the next month, do one big thing you are scared to do.

Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

And don’t worry. I’m doing it too! For a month, starting January 1, 2018, I will do one thing that scares me each week. And I will document this in the Experiments section of the blog in the Fear Series category. You ready? Let’s go!

 

Welcome to Growth Pree!

Welcome to Growth Pree!

I don’t know the meaning of life. But I believe the way to find it… is through growth!

 

About me.

ZaleHi, I’m Zale. For a long time I had been lost, purposeless, empty, you name it. I felt like I was placed on a conveyor belt to follow the predetermined path of school, school, work, money, and then happiness sometime down the road. But that wasn’t working for me. I was unhappily sleepwalking through life and I couldn’t even figure out why I was unhappy! So I decided to take a step back, hop off the conveyor belt and really figure out what was going on both internally and externally. I wanted to learn how to be truly happy and how to live my life by design, not by default.

So for the past year I’ve been on a journey of self discovery and self improvement. As part of and to help enhance this journey, I’ve decided to create a blog to document and share both my successes and failures and to offer advice to those on or considering a similar journey.

About growth.

So on my journey I’ve been drawing wisdom from many sources – friends, family, books, podcasts, YouTube, religion, schools of philosophy, etc (all of which I’ll talk about in the blog). And while I haven’t yet figured out the meaning of life, I’m realizing something. I’m realizing that two of the most important things in life are gratefulness and growth. Gratefulness is the mother of happiness. Being grateful prevents you from taking things for granted, makes you very appreciative and so uplifts your mood, and it opens your heart/mind to recognize and let in more things to be grateful for (people, opportunities, journeys, you name it). Growth is the mother of… well everything! It encompasses so much… changing, learning, adapting and improving in any environment – physical, emotional, professional. Growth is natural. Whether we try or not we are always growing because nature knows that growth is necessary for survival. But not only does it allow us to survive, it also enhances our lives. Learning how to grow faster and to greater heights in areas of our choosing is bound to improve the quality of our lives. If we can learn how to be grateful and learn how to grow, we’d be unstoppable!

So let’s focus on (or, in Jamaican terms, pree) growth. This is Growth Pree.

About the blog.

The content of this blog will be of two main kinds:

  1. Snippets of wisdom – I’ll offer food for thought, tips/how-to’s that I have tried or am trying, and I’ll share other content that has inspired me.
  2. Experiments – I want to show you that I not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. So I’ll also do experiments in which I will implement some of the techniques that I share. This will also give you a real example of how to apply certain techniques and how they can affect your life. Experiments will vary in nature. I will take on ambitious projects, develop habits, overcome fears, or experiment with accelerated learning (to learn how to learn).

I hope that this blog inspires both myself and everyone who reads it. I’m excited for this! Will you join me?

A year from now, you’ll wish you started today.