When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.Confucius
Imagine a scenario where your experiment towards developing a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus wasn’t successful, and when quizzed by a colleague on how it went, you respond, “I failed”. Your brain will likely interpret that answer to mean “I invested all my time, strength and money into this, but it didn’t work out as desired. It’s over. I quit. I can’t continue wasting my life on this.”
Now, imagine the same experimental outcome and question, but with this response – “I didn’t succeed.” Your brain, most likely, will interpret this response differently too – “I didn’t make it this time, but I’ll try again. I’ll look at the errors I made this time and apply the lessons to the next research, and hopefully, I’ll succeed.”
I decided to call this tip the non-success mindset instead of the failure mindset because it’s a little but important mindset transposition [that] I’d like you to inculcate.
The road to the peak is paved with failure (non-successes), and until you’re willing to walk on them, your journey to the summit will remain a hallucination.
It’s like a baby that’s learning how to walk. Each time he stands, his legs wobble, and as he tries to throw a step he falls. But as parents we never give up; we pick the child up, encourages him to make another attempt, and another one, and yet another one until he goes from throwing a few steps with our aid to walking autonomously.
So, understand that falling is a normal physiological process we all go through, and any attempt that didn’t succeed isn’t a full stop but a temporary non-success.
As M. Dunham wrote, “Sir Edmund Hilary was the first person to conquer Mt. Everest. The first time he tried, he failed. He was knighted by the Queen of England, and at the gala occasion, on the wall behind the head table, was a huge picture of Mt. Everest.
The people gave him a standing ovation for even daring to attempt the climb. When they ceased applauding, Hilary turned his back to the audience, faced that picture and said, “Mt. Everest, you have defeated me once and you might defeat me again. But I’m coming back again and again, and I’m going to win because you can’t get any bigger, Mt. Everest, and I can.”
I can’t really tell of any successful person who didn’t fall at some point, who didn’t hit rock bottom. I mean, these people failed until failing didn’t deter them anymore. The successful companies they own today weren’t their first nor second attempts. But they kept innovating and experimenting until an attempt succeeded.
When Thomas Edison was asked by a reporter how he felt about the numerous failures he’s experienced, he simply replied that he has just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Note that this was before he invented the electric light bulb. He further said that many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.
What happened? He eventually invented the light bulb, and today only a few people remember the days his 10,000 experiments didn’t yield the desired result. So, hang in there even if it seems like going forward doesn’t make sense any longer.
… but David encouraged himself in the Lord. –1 Samuel 30:6
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