When We Fail

May 28, 2021

I talked recently about letting ourselves feel joy when we succeed, but what about when we fail?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the whispers, “you could have done better… you could have changed this… you could have changed that… you should have worked harder…” Self-doubt gets an amphetamine injection when we fail, at least it does for me.
I used to believe this self-doubt was good. It was fuel to make me work harder and succeed the next time.

In reality, self-doubt is a corrosive acid to the creative process. The more self-doubt, the more holes; the more holes, the more I question every decision, and the more I question every decision, the more paralyzed I become.

I remember a story about Bruce Springsteen taking over six months to record the song “Born to Run.” Doubt after doubt led to correction after correction until the people around him had to stop and convince him that the song was finished.
We can doubt the greatest of products if we let ourselves.

The key for me is to trust in myself. I know I have a great work ethic. My parents taught me that there will always be someone out there smarter than me, but I can never let someone else outwork me. I work just as hard on cases in which we fail as I do in cases where we succeed.

I can and do always find ways to improve my process and increase the odds of success, but I do that equally following cases where we succeed and cases where we fail. I can’t let success or failure affect the foundational belief I have in myself. Success doesn’t make me greater, and failure doesn’t make me worse.

In the end, none of us are really in control of which of our efforts succeed or which fail. All we can do is maximize the odds of a favorable result by trying just as hard every time and then letting go of the outcome, be it success or failure.

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