I heard a great quote the other day by Seth Godin in which he says, “the person who fails the most wins.”
It’s no coincidence that the most successful people in the world (athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.) are also the people who have failed the most.
Take a look at Kobe Bryant, for example. He’s one of the best basketball players in history with the third most scored points of all-time. He’s extremely talented, no doubt, but (and this is a very big but), it puts things into perspective when you learn that he also holds the record for the most missed shots.
What we learn from Kobe is that if you haven’t failed, it’s because you’ve never taken any chances. That in order to succeed, you have to be willing to fail, a lot. That the first step to success is becoming okay with failure.
We all know that this is the truth. There’s a reason why “fail fast, fail often” has basically become the mantra of Silicon Valley.
And yet, most of us are still too scared to take a shot when there’s a chance of failure, even though we know that the only way to succeed is through failure.
The problem isn’t that we don’t know what we need to do, it’s just that we can’t get ourselves to do it. We don’t know where to start, we have too many ideas, we’re too indecisive.
We want to do everything, so we end up doing nothing.
So, how do you get past this mental block–this fear of failure, this debilitating indecisiveness–and force yourself to take action?
I think it comes down to two things.
1. Give yourself deadlines.
Without deadlines, I would never get anything done.
The only reason why I’m ever able to publish an article on this blog, for example, is because I give myself a deadline. Currently, I’m publishing an article every other week on Sunday nights (Monday mornings, at the latest).
But, when I first started my blog, I didn’t have a regular publishing schedule, and it took me forever to finally publish my first article. I was stuck in “the researcher phase” for the longest time, where I spent countless hours reading endless blogs and books, but never took any action.
Eventually, I realized that I just had to give myself a deadline and commit to it. So that’s what I did, and after two years of thinking about starting a blog, I finally wrote and published my first article.
I didn’t start publishing on a regular schedule until about 7 months ago, but even before then I was still giving myself deadlines for every article I wrote. If I didn’t give myself deadlines, I would never finish a single article.
I’m extremely critical of my own writing, and honestly, I think most of my writing sucks. Almost every single article I write goes through multiple drafts before I end up publishing it here, but if I wasn’t on a deadline, I’d never finish because I’m a perfectionist. I’d just keep going through many more drafts, compulsively re-writing and tweaking sentences, never fully satisfied until it was perfect.
But, what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t need to be perfect. It can’t be perfect. If I tried to make it perfect, it’d never get done.
Instead, I just give myself a deadline, I do the best that I can do within that time constraint, I hit publish, and then I move on.
2. Redefine success.
In my mind, as long as I’m hitting that publish button every other Sunday night (or Monday morning, at the latest), I have succeeded.
I’m more proud of some articles than others, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re first starting out at something, the key is to define success as your commitment to the process (the deadlines you set for yourself), and nothing else.
Don’t worry about scoring every shot you take (remember, Kobe has the most missed shots in history). Just keep shooting, and eventually you will get the points.
Know that it will be extremely hard and anxiety-producing at first, but realize that the more shots you take, the easier it gets. Because the more shots you take, the less pressure you put on yourself to make each shot. You know that if you miss this one (and you most likely will), it’s not a big deal because you’ll just try again. On the other hand, the less shots you take, the more pressure you put on yourself to make each shot.
In other words, as you increase the frequency, you decrease the pressure. So, it’s better to take more shots. Plus, each time you take a shot (regardless of whether you make it or miss it), you increase your chances of making the next one because with each attempt your aim gets better.
So, the more you do, the less pressure you put on yourself, which makes it easier to do more. And, the more you do, the better you get, which creates a positive feedback loop encouraging you to continue to do more.
It’s a snowball effect.
This is what has happened to me with this blog. For a long time I only wrote when I felt inspired to write (a classic rookie mistake, I’ve learned). Since I was publishing so infrequently, every time I did publish an article I’d put way too much pressure on myself because I thought that every article had to be a super in-depth, life-changing master piece.
But, that’s a completely unrealistic expectation. I’m not capable of consistently producing my absolute best work, every single time. No one is.
However, once I finally started publishing on a consistent schedule, I felt way less pressure to make every article my absolute best work, and when I found that people were still finding value in my articles, it encouraged me to keep doing it. So, even when I’m not completely satisfied with an article, I hit publish anyway, and I move on. Some articles end up doing really well, others end up doing really poorly. Either way, I keep writing.
Slowly but surely, with each and every article I write, my writing is improving, my subscriber list is growing, and it keeps getting easier and easier to do more. Not just with my blog, but in all other aspects of my life, too. It’s exciting, and it feels really fucking good.
But, it all starts with giving yourself deadliness, committing to those deadlines, and not judging yourself based on the individual results of each shot you take.
Just focus on taking the shots in the first place.
What Are You Going To Commit To Today?
Don’t be the type of person who gets stuck in “the researcher phase” and never takes any action. If you’re serious about taking action and making progress in your life, do this:
- Set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes, and then leave a comment below letting me know one thing that you are going to commit to doing, with a deadline.
- Do whatever it takes to get it done. No more excuses. If you want, send an email to [email protected] and I will personally follow up with to make sure you did it. No pressure, just a little accountability.