In this episode, we shall talk about the mindset for success.
I was close to the bus stop when my phone rang. I wasn’t in the mood for any greetings, let alone having a phone conversation. Reluctantly I took out my phone from my back pocket to know who was calling at this odd hour. I was lost in thoughts after an oral exam that didn’t go as expected, “should I accept the score or resit it? I was quite prepared for this session and will even be better prepared for the next. But I might have another exam on the same date if I decide to resit” I mused.
As I flipped the cover of my phone, I discovered that it’s one of my Pastors; he called to know at what time I’d be at the Church that evening so we could proofread and design the tracts for evangelism. Observing how different I sounded, he inquired further, “Caleb, what’s the problem? Why does your voice sound so absonant? I unenthusiastically narrated how bad the exam went; how despite several sleepless nights I couldn’t get an A in that course.
Then, he said something that I remember till this day “Caleb, it’s very OK that you failed now. You learn from it and continue. It’s also very important that you failed this early in your life and career because there will be more failures in the future and if you’re unable to handle failure now, you’ll be more devastated in the future.”
Now, that didn’t make so much sense to me at the time, I was livid that one of the two professors had given me just an average score. But little by little those words sank and settled in me. I slowly, very lentamente I must say, got comfortable with trying and failing. Not comfortable with mediocrity, but comfortable with the feeling that even after doing my utmost best, I could still not hit the mark I envisioned. In that case, I simply need not remain on the floor, but get up and try again and again and again until I hit the mark. I still fail today, but the reaction is dissimilar.
Now, let’s get into the three Ns that are vital to achieving success.
1. The NON-SUCCESS MINDSET.
I decided to call this tip non-success instead of failure because it’s a little but important mindset transposition [that] I’d like you to inculcate. Someone might say that I’m just playing with words, but that’s not exactly veritiero.
Imagine a scenario where your experiment towards developing a vaccine for the Ebola 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, and 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 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.”
This is the kind of mindset I want you to contract because non-success is an integral part of becoming successful at anything in life. The road to the peak is paved with failure, 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 until he goes from throwing a few steps 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 failure but a 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; that didn’t hit rock bottom. I mean, these people failed until failing didn’t (or don’t) deter them anymore. The successful companies they own today weren’t their first nor second attempt. Some of them are simply successful experiments or the product of mistakes.
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 only a few people remember the days his experiments didn’t yield the desired result.
So, hang in there even if it seems like going forward doesn’t make sense any longer. When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius
… but David encouraged himself in the Lord. – 1 Samuel 30:6
2. The Risk-Taking mindset: No Risks No Multiplication.
God commands us to increase, multiply and replenish the earth. But that doesn’t happen in absentia. A man during copulation with his wife releases millions of sperm cells to fertilize the ovum(ova) of the woman. In the end, only one of these sperm cells succeeds in accomplishing the task of fertilization. And the rest? They’re longer necessary and are reabsorbed by the woman’s body if they haven’t died off already.
There are mechanisms in the body of the woman that make it impossible for these millions of sperm cells from the man to perform the act of fertilization on one egg cell. What I simply want to deduce from this illustration is that because of the importance of fertilizing an egg cell (or some egg cells), God allows that millions of sperm cells go. To realise the promise of multiplication, millions of sperm cells are practically sacrificed.
In John 12:24 Jesus used a natural phenomenon to pass a message. He talked about the multiplication that occurs only after corn of wheat has fallen to the ground and died. If a farmer desires to have a good harvest, he must be willing to risk those seeds else he’ll remain with his seeds and when they’re finished, he’ll go hungry.
If you observe the weather, you will neither sow nor reap says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 11:4. Some people for fear of losing their precious seeds to the winds/rains will prefer to keep them expecting clement weather.
Newsflash: if you’re always expecting the weather to be good before planting, it’ll never happen. There will always be a reason why you shouldn’t do what you need to do. You’ll end up eating your crops and dying of hunger afterwards.
So, take risks in investing in yourself, do that thing you know you should change your environment, your business model, your friends, go to that office, knock at that door, write that business proposal, send that mail, pay for that conference, buy that book… just take a risk. It might not succeed but you’d have learnt a useful lesson for the next step.
It was Franklin Roosevelt who said that all we have to fear is fear itself. Action cures fear. Be scared and still do it anyway. When the righteous falls seven times, he will get up. – Proverbs 24:16
3. The Not-a-Failure Mindset: I failed but I’m not a failure.
It’s like saying “I made a mistake but I’m not a mistake. I’m created in God’s image and after His likeness, so, I can’t be a mistake. I make mistakes because I’m a man, I fail because I’m dust and so limited in my scope of understanding and foresight, but I’m neither a failure nor a mistake.”
Months ago, I read an article in one of the online magazines on entrepreneurship, that discussed the differences between American and European start-ups investors. One of the problems with European start-up investors is the conservative nature that makes them detest anything called failure, only after success. They avoid failure with so much attention that they fail to succeed.
Different is their American partners who would fund start-ups and encourage them to fail soon because each failure brings them closer to the discovery of new ideas/ prospects. This article so much troubled me that when I was asked to hold a seminar for some young people, I wholeheartedly accepted just to discuss this topic with them.
The fear of failure and making mistakes has so permeated our society that several people pay more attention to avoiding failure than they do to achieving success. They are more concerned about looking at the rear mirror than they are at facing the road in front of them. They look back at the stories they heard or saw of people who didn’t succeed and decide to park their vehicles. Crippled by fear, they prefer to remain average than explore their full potential. They rehearse the laughter of their peers, their contrite faces and tucked tails if they lose that investment, if they do not pass that exam, if that new operation doesn’t work out, if that adventure turns sour etc.
But I say make mistakes and make them fast and young. In fact, search for mistakes and failure. If you’ve been following this series, you know that I’m not talking about mistakes that’ll ruin your life and destiny. The truth is that if you don’t make mistakes you cannot grow. And only a person that works, makes mistakes. So, success is going from one failure to another without any loss of enthusiasm.
You see, one of the many beautiful things about God is that He has made every day to have twenty-four hours. So, if I failed yesterday, I have a new fresh mint of twenty-four hours today for another try at my goals. “There is a strange comfort in knowing that no matter what happens today, the Sun will rise again tomorrow.” ― Aaron Lauritsen.
Robert Schuller in his book Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do tell a story of a farmer who never bothered to sort his potatoes after the harvest. We know that potatoes after harvest must be spread out and sorted so you’ll sell them for different prices based on their sizes to maximise profit. Now, this farmer never bothered to do any of those but seemed to make more gain.
One day, a curious neighbour asked him what his secret was. His response was so simple yet intriguing; “I load my wagon with the potatoes and take the roughest road to town”, he said. “During this eight-mile trip, the little potatoes always fall to the bottom, the medium potatoes land in the middle while the big potatoes rise to the top.”
You see, don’t let rough times of failure and discouragement deter you. You’re meant for the top.
A winner is a dreamer who never gives up. – Nelson Mandela.
The failures of today are the stories we’ll tell when we come to celebrate your numerous successes. They’ll be the good old days. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. – Micah 7:8.
You may be at the stage where everything looks like a blighted ovum. Don’t worry, you’re pregnant. And like Isaiah 66: 7, you’ll soon be delivered of a healthy child.
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God willing, I’ll see you in part 6.
God bless you.