Do I have to fail first?

Dan Miller —  June 1, 2009 — 10 Comments

48 Days Podcast listener Josh Bulloc asks:  I have studied many entrepreneurs and successful people and most of them have gone through some sort of life trial which I correlate to becoming successful. I am concerned that I am not going to do well because I have not gone through that learning experience (yet). Your thoughts please.

We hear a lot about the failures of people who are ultimately very successful.  I’ve certainly talked openly about my personal business flops on my way to where I am today.  Many of you are familiar with Dave Ramsey and his big crash in real estate that set the stage for him to help others avoid those same mistakes and in the process recapture and surpass his former wealth. 

So should we be helping people avoid mistakes?  Are we preventing those people from experiencing their ultimate success?   Are we prolonging the inevitable?  Will their safe path now confine them to mediocrity rather than astounding success?

How do you view failure in your own life?  Do you avoid it at all costs? 

One of the most important lessons I ever learned regarding failure was in an illustration from Robert Schuller that I heard many years ago.  He said to think about an athlete jumping a high bar.  As long as that athlete clears the bar we really don’t how good he/she is.  It is only when the bar is tripped (failure) that we have an accurate measurement of how good that athlete really is. 

I want to know how high I can go.  So that opens the door wide open for potential risks and failure.  But if I fail I simply have a measurement of what I am capable of.  As long as I am always successful I fear I may have set the bar far too low. 

And that seems to be the major difference between high achieving people and average people – their response to failure. 

Josh, I would never suggest that you create your own failure – just to get it over with.  Trust me; if you are doing anything extraordinary, failure will find you.  But then don’t bury your head in the sand.  How we fail is at least as important as how we succeed. 

I say push yourself; fail often.  Push yourself to the limits of your talents, abilities, dreams, endurance and common sense.  And then go one step further.  Your failures will release your creativity and innovation more than education and careful planning can ever do. 

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“The one person to distrust is the one who never makes a mistake. Either he is a phony, or he stays with the safe, the tried, and the trivial.” — Peter Drucker

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  • Michelle

    As someone who has a tendency to play it safe and fear ridicule, embarrassment and criticism, This post does me some good. I really believe your mind dictates your actions, which dictate your results. I trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but I’m still wrestling with a fear of failure and even a fear of success. I appreciate Dan Miller (and Dave Ramsey, who turned me on to him) for helping me win the struggle!

  • http://mayheincrease.com Joe Chavez

    The key word in Josh’s question was “(yet).” Give it time. More than likely if you are pushing yourself and stretching yourself it’s a foregone conclusion that you will “fail.” Perhaps “fail” is the wrong word to use. I personally think you only “fail” if you didn’t learn from the experience make the same mistakes over again, or you give up entirely out of fear, etc.

    Josh is correct that most highly successful people “failed” at–rather, learned–something before going on to being highly successful. I’ve seen it many times in the people I’ve met or worked for.

    Personally speaking, I’m “exploring” things right now to get to where God wants me. I’m sure I’ll experience temporary set-backs but that’s where I’ll adjust course and continue on. It’s only failure if I give up and going back to being safe or mundane.

  • http://www.NowYouExist.com Andy Traub

    Dan, great post brother. I’m going to look to fail by doing BIGGER things. That way if I fail then I’ve failed going for a high bar. Great analogy by the way. Blessings – Andy

  • http://www.joshbulloc.com Josh Bulloc

    Dan,

    Thanks for the reply here and in your podcast. I view you as one of my mentors.

    I am just concerned that things have been going to well for me in my life. I made it through college, have a good job, a great wife and my first try at a part time business I am earning more than I do at my job. I have had to work very hard for all of this and I now believe that I have more to give that they are paying me for at my “job” and I want to do the best I can for my family and my customers. Thank you again.

    Josh Bulloc

  • KEVIN BROOKS

    Hello ladies and gentlemen. My name is Kevin Brooks and I am responding to the so called,dreaded word we call F.A.I.L.U.R.E.

    Well you see how I formatted the word failure ( above ) right ?
    In my 25+ years of sales and marketing I have conditioned myself
    to learn that failure is necessary to reach success.

    So I trained myself and my sales team to look at these so called dreaded two words F.E.A.R. & F.A.I.L.U.R.E. and look at it from a different prospective.

    In sales you will take many direct blows to your ego,that it is sometimes easy to quit.But when I learned that failure was not always as bad as the negative gurus trained us in the past,I rolled my sleeves up and said let’s do this again.

    Why? Well the word F.E.A.R (False Evidence Appearing Real )
    And then the word F.A.I.L.U.R.E. ( Finding Another Interesting Lesson Using Real Enthusiasm ) Seem a bit less negative when you look at them from this prospective.

    Most of the time 80% of what we fear never occurs,so it is mostly false
    Then if you look at the word failure from the way I have it you can see for yourselves why it is not as bad as we thought.Why?

    Because we can find another interesting lesson in our so called downfall,and use real enthusiasm from it towards success. Is it always easy? No! But if we keep on feeling sorry for ourselves then success will go the other way.

    Last of all if you fear failure,then just think of all the great inventors of all the great products we might take for granted everyday.ie: ( Thomas Edison ) These great inventors failed more times than you can imagine.But look what happened when they kept on going.SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!Like the Eveready bunny…keep going and going and going……………. HA!HA!HA! So much for my humor right ?

    Have a POWERFUL & SUCCESSFUL Day,
    Kevin Brooks

  • ben

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’m feelin’ really, really empty today struggling with my business. Even though this feelin’ sucks I can’t stop and turn around. I guess you gotta go through Hell to get to Heaven huh?

  • http://www.2ndstorycoaching.com Mike Bau

    I have spent most of my life trying to avoid failure. In the process, I worked for 13 years without any real enthusiasm or purpose in my life. So while I was doing everything I could to not experience failure, it found me anyway.

    Fear of failure made this 1st part of my life a prison. But it’s difficult when your “precision” type personality dictates careful planning and decision making. I am going to try to accept that it will take me longer to make some decisions, but I am not going to let myself question a decision once it is made.

    My 2nd story is going to be one of excellence, not perfection.

  • http://www.48days.net/profile/BonnieFreeh Bonnie Freeh

    The “Famous Failures” YouTube fits well here. If you’ve never failed, you’ve never lived…Life = Risk! I’ve posted it on my 48day.net blog.

  • http://48days.com Dan Miller

    Josh — thanks so much for your additional comments. What a wonderful position to be in – recognizing that things are going “too well.” Enjoy this season in your journey, and certainly, don’t expect or initiate failure. But I suspect that those same personal characteristics that have put you in such a great position will also help you cruise right through anything that others may see as “failure.” A lot of this is a matter of perspective and it appears you’ve got the perspective to keep expecting great things in your life. Don’t change that.

  • KEVIN BROOKS

    Hey Ben it’s Kevin Brooks in Atlanta Ga. I was the one who posted the F.E.A.R. of F.A.I.L.U.R.E. JUST PLEASE KNOW ALSO THAT I TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST…..YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO THROUGH HELL TO GET TO HEAVEN……THERE IS A HEAVEN AND HELL BEN…BUT THESE ARE TWO SEPERATE PLACES WHEN WE DIE….IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY PLEASE
    READ THE BIBLE THE BOOK OF JOHN: 3:16..AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

    KEEP ON TRUSTING IN THE GOOD LORD FIRST,BEFORE YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING OF WHY LIFE CAN SEEM LIKE IT IS HELL……
    BUT THIS IS HOW WE GROW IN LIFE…JUST KEEP ON PRAYING THAT THE GOOD LORD WILL HELP YOU SEE THAT LIFE IS GREAT…BUT PRAY TO THE GOOD LORD ALSO TO HELP YOU SEE WHY F.A.I.L.U.R.E.
    IS A PART OF SUCCESS. IT HELPS US GROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DRAMS…GO TO A NEARBY CHRIST BELIEVING CHURCH AND HAVE SOME PEOPLE TO PRAY WITH YOU BEN.
    SO I HOPE THIS HELPS YOU TO SEE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT…

    ALSO READ FROM PROVERBS IN THE BIBLE EVERYDAY TOO AND READ IT SLOWLY…PRAY ON WHAT YOU READ…AND THE WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL SHOW YOU THINGS ON LIFE YOU MIGHT OF NEVER THOUGHT BEFORE…OK? WELL SMILE AND KEEP ON KEEPING ON…..LAUGHTER IS GOOD MEDICINE TOO WHEN WE ARE DOWN…

    KEVIN BROOKS