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Failure Is Not Okay. Stop Celebrating It.

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Failure Is Not Okay. Stop Celebrating It.

The next time someone tells you it’s “okay to fail,” you should tell them to shut the hell up.

 

If failure were so glorious they’d teach it in universities.

It’s not okay to fail. Failing sucks. It leads to poverty, depression, and stress. It makes you doubt your ideas, goals, and abilities. It makes you hateful. It makes you jealous. It makes you afraid.

Failure is to be avoided at all costs. It isn’t cool. There’s nothing to celebrate. It’s not going to teach you much.

Sure, an intense fear of failure can be paralyzing. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? Well, you also miss 99% of the sloppy ones you do take.

Some people that aren’t afraid of failing should be. It would make them think harder about their half-baked ideas or intensify their half-assed actions.

The truth is it’s far easier to “embrace failure” than it is to do the hard thinking and work it takes to succeed.

I think a fear…or at least a respect…of failure is healthy. It’s your first opportunity to show you have what it takes to win.

In fact, if you’re not afraid of failure, it probably means one of two things: you’re either really good or really likely to fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winners don’t pretend they don’t fear failure. They use it as a motivator for action.

  • If winners are afraid of failure because they lack knowledge or skill, they work obsessively to get smarter or better.
  • If they’re afraid their idea has no clothes, they research and test obsessively to validate or invalidate it.
  • If they’re afraid they lack the will to see a goal through, they face the hard question of why they’re doing it in the first place.

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Winners aren’t afraid of stepping into the arena. They’re afraid of stepping in with no idea how to fight or what they’re up against.

Losers are afraid of failure because deep down inside they know winning probably takes more than they’re willing to give.

All this isn’t to say that we’ll never fail.

There’s always a chance that, no matter how brilliant our plans and how diligent our efforts, the business might not catch the wave, the relationship might stumble, the diet might go astray.

There’s also a chance that tomorrow the sun will blow us back to the Dark Ages or that the Norse gods will come wipe us off the earth. I guess we’ll just have to live with these uncertainties and focus on what we can control: our attitudes and actions.

Sure, we’re going to make mistakes. But that isn’t failing. Mistakes teach us things. Mistakes can be corrected.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

  • I’ve wasted a lot of time creating a lot of unproductive content that didn’t really resonate with my crowd. Time that could have been used on projects of guaranteed value.
  • I’ve screwed up inventory management in my supplement company Legion and lost hundreds of thousand dollars in unrealized sales. That’s no fun for a new business.
  • I’ve naively paid tens of thousands of dollars for sub-par work that had to be completely redone for tens of thousands more. I don’t care how much money a company makes–that’s just annoying.

None of these mistakes have brought me even close to failure, though. They’ve taught me valuable lessons. Expensive lessons but valuable nonetheless.

Abandoning experiments isn’t failing either. Experiments are exploratory in nature. They precede commitment, which precedes a true definition of success and failure.

When I published my first book in 2012 (Bigger Leaner Stronger), it was an experiment. I had no grand vision or master plan beyond “let’s see if anyone cares.” I couldn’t fail yet because I wasn’t sure the project even warranted a goal.

Six months later it was very clear that people cared and that it was time to make some serious decisions about where to go from there.

How many chips was I willing to put in the middle? Well, I had no interest in “failing fast and forward.” If I was going to get serious about this, I wanted to win, and win big.

There were plenty of reasons to be afraid of failure, though. Fitness “gurus” are a dime a dozen and the vast majority struggle to make a decent living. I had no connections in the industry to give me an advantage. I wasn’t an SEO or Internet marketing expert and knew very little about blogging. I didn’t have access to enough capital to give me a big upper hand.

Those were the realities that had to be respected. The odds were heavily stacked against me and I knew it. I wasn’t afraid though. Why? What gave me the audacity to think I could make it?

It wasn’t egomania or dumb luck. It was an objective review of my skills and abilities and of how I could turn them into competitive advantages. For example…

  • I knew I was a better writer than most others in this space and that the more I wrote, the greater this advantage would become.
  • I knew I was a better marketer and salesperson as well and that those skills are very hard to cultivate.
  • I also knew I could inspire people to work for me and that I could build an effective team whereas many others are one-man/woman shows.
  • I can out-work just about anyone and I knew that many people in the fitness space are, by my standards, lazy and fickle.
  • I’m a very good learner and study voraciously and knew I could create simple, practical, insightful content that would stand out from the rest.

In short, I wasn’t afraid of failure because I knew I had a real chance at success. And that’s all I need to get fired up–a shot at the prize. Suckers and whiners want guarantees. Winners just want their turn at bat.

It turns out I was right in my assumptions. I’ve now sold over 300,000 books, this website is one one of the biggest fitness blogs on the Net, my supplement company Legion has gone from zero to seven-figure revenues in just 1.5 years, and I have a loyal, capable, hard-working team that has played an integral role in it all. And we’re just getting started.

The bottom line is this:

If someone is lazy, irresolute, ignorant, and unskilled, they should be afraid of failure. They live in an astrological strike zone and, deep down, they know it.

If they’re industrious, persistent, informed, and proficient, however, they can comfortably take calculated risks. They’re playing with loaded dice.

 

What’s your take on the fear of failure? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Pingback: Failure is Not Okay. Stop Celebrating It. | georgeherman205()

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  • Kurt MacArthur

    “” Losers are afraid of failure because deep down inside they know winning probably takes more than they’re willing to give.””

    That’s an awesome comment and when you really think about it, its pretty spot on. Good read overall. You wrote,

    “I’ve wasted a lot of time creating a lot of unproductive content that didn’t really resonate with my crowd”

    I have only recently discovered Legion and am curious about what unproductive content you are referring to, that is as long as you are willing to share. Your sharing of the mistakes you have made shows you eat the occasional humble pie, which many do not, and I think many will respect that.

    • Glad you liked the article Kurt.

      I was referring to Cool Stuff of the Week posts and quite a few health and fitness articles I’ve written that I seriously suspected wouldn’t gain much traction with my peeps but I did it anyway, haha. To prove myself right I guess. 😛

      Oh yeah those won’t be the last mistakes I make. I just try to get more right than wrong, haha.

  • Chris Hopper

    I really found it an interesting take on failure. I loved the whole part where winners only want a turn at the bat, thats true, but I think the whole failure point is that your not going to hit a home run without misses and without the whole process of fail to learn. Individuals should really embrace failure but understand to learn from it, but this generation has more than likely turned failure into a mockery where if people don’t reach their goal they will get ridiculed instead of urged to try again.

  • Mike

    Just what I needed Mike. It’s timely. Most of my life Ive embraced failure and wasted years of my life in fear of taking any kind of step forward. A few months ago I drew the line in sand and decided that this was it (now or never). Now I’m trying to reach my goals in fitness and sharing my love of fitness with others. Thanks Mike, you rock brother.

  • I’ve thought about this quite a bit recently. My wife teaches middle school. Too often, the kids will choose to fail an assignment just because they don’t want to do it. Choosing to fail now often leads to failing in the future. It will leave a person with greater obstacles to overcome in the future. Many times, it even limits future choices. Great article, very well timed for me.

  • T

    Mike,

    First off, I’m indebted to much of your work for its guidance and motivation: thanks for doing what you do, truly.

    I think that motivationally speaking, you’re correct. However, as an educator and ever-improving human being, I take great issue with encouraging an aversion to failure. People fail; they always have, and always will. If you use failure to inform or motivate your future actions, then it is not in vain.

    Having a growth mindset—namely, believing that you can become a winner or a loser depending on your choices—is crucial to success and development. The undercurrent of the language in this article is very fixed: “winners ARE x and losers ARE y,” as opposed to “winners do x and losers do y.” It’s important to acknowledge that you can be either and what you become is the direct result of your actions.

    Failure should be treated as matter-of-fact: it happens, based upon a myriad of things including ability, capacity, skill, motivation, and circumstance. All of those things you can control to varying degrees, and if you do the best you can to affect positive change, to be met with failure can be incredibly useful if you choose to make it so.

    Perhaps my argument is a semantic one, but how we speak affects how we think to a greater degree than you might think (if it weren’t my plan period and I had more time I would cite a study on the affects of growth vs. fixed mindsets and how something so little as praise can greatly impact performance. There’s definitely a youtube video covering it). I know it’s more sensational and in vogue to make sweeping, black-and-white statements, but resist! Human life does not reflect such distinctions: we are in a constant state of becoming, and it should be acknowledged that failure can be a tool, excuse, reason to quit, reason to succeed, or any combination of the above. We decide.

    Onward,

    T

    p.s. I feel that defining poverty in terms of failure is reductive and leads to misperception for an already ill-informed American public. I know it’s a little thing, but it’s the little things, you know?

    • Thanks a ton for the support. I really appreciate it.

      I totally agree on DO vs. BE. That wasn’t intentional on my part. Anyone can change their BE with DO.

      And yeah I think it’s just semantic. Small failures aren’t what really make people afraid. Nobody playing basketball is afraid of missing a shot. It’s the BIG failures that keep people from trying. That is, having everything fall apart and having to face the personal and social criticism, etc.

      Totally agree on the importance of praise and in believing that you can win. That said, as pessimistic as this might sound, I see a lot more people with far more “believe” than grind and grit. Is it worse to believe you can win and fail through lack of effort or not even try? I’m honestly not sure… I guess it depends on what you take from the experience.

      My statement about poverty isn’t meant as a judgment on the impoverished. Just that being poor sucks…heh…

  • Miguel A. De Dios

    I guess for me it’s not embracing so much as it is acknowledging it, fixing what I did wrong and moving on. Just my two cents.

    Great article, Mike.

    • Thanks Miguel.

      To me FAILURE is a bit more than just making a mistake and moving on. No matter how smart you are or how hard you work, you’re going to make mistakes. That’s inevitable and shouldn’t be discouraging. FAILURE shouldn’t be seen as “okay” though, you know? That is, losing completely.

  • Gentleman Gym

    “In defence of failure…….”

    ……. Well, OK, maybe not. I’m not going to celebrate failure, and clearly success is to be fought for and failure fought against. However, the most common way to “avoid failure at all costs” is not to try – and most people are not alert enough to realise that not trying is itself a form of failure.

    So when people say “don’t be afraid of failure”, I believe this is genuinely good advice. It means “don’t be afraid to try.” Sure, do your damndest to succeed; but don’t worry if you fail – far better to try and fail than not to try at all. As Johnny Cash (and many others) have said, “failure is a stepping stone to success”. Trite but true.

  • There’s a Chinese saying: failure is the mother of all success. It means that if we fail, we should figure out what went wrong and try again till we get it right.

    Failure can only remain failure if we give up.

  • Maria

    Wow, just what I needed, very motivating! Thanks, Mike!

  • sean_noonan

    great article, definately needed this. Even though the tiny diet mistakes i made are things most people wouldnt really give a shit about still your gonna be guaranteed success as long as you dont embrace it.

  • Steve S.

    “… this website is of the biggest fitness blogs…”

    Just thought I’d point that out to you.

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