Embracing FailureApr 06, 2022
“Perfection is the enemy of good.”
Regarding the invention of the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Can you imagine a world where Thomas Edison looked at his pile of failures and decided to give up? His tenacity, perseverance, self-confidence, and refusal to give up allows us to walk into a dark room, flip a switch, and see.
I recently had an opportunity to coach a group of budding physician entrepreneurs. They had just participated in an incredible five-day conference filled with inspirational physicians taking risks and creating a new future for themselves. One theme was evident as I spoke to them: “There are so many things I want to try, but I am afraid of failure.” This begs the question: What is so bad about failure?
We should begin by defining failure. Failure is a lack of success. So what is success? According to Google, success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. If Thomas Edison had defined success solely by the invention of the light bulb, he probably would have given up long before he achieved his goal. Instead, he looked at each experiment as a learning opportunity. While an experiment may not have succeeded, it allowed him to take incremental steps towards his ultimate goal of creating the electric light bulb. Rather than beating himself up for the lack of success, he decided that each unsuccessful attempt was just a part of figuring it out.
Doctors, by and large, are perfectionists. Sticklers. People who insist on a high level of performance at all times. Perfectionism weighs heavy for most of us, myself included. Coaching forced me to swallow a tough pill. According to Brooke Castillo, “Perfectionism is for scared people.” Wait, what? I thought perfectionism was the driving force behind the majority of my success.
When you take a moment to consider that statement, it is pretty striking. Perfectionism is an easy excuse. It allows us to avoid risk by convincing ourselves that we are not ready. It lies to us when it tells us that we will take action once we know the right path. It guarantees that we fail before we ever have an opportunity to try. We fail ahead of time.
What is the real problem with failure? It is the way we treat ourselves when we do not succeed. The problem is how we speak to ourselves and beat ourselves up for a less-than-ideal result. We make the lack of achievement mean something about us. And when we do that, we sit in stagnation and prevent ourselves from progressing and moving forward. We lose our momentum, and we lose our way.
Most of us decide not to take risks because of how we might feel or treat ourselves if we don’t succeed. We fear the feeling of not achieving our goal, so we don’t risk it. However, the unfortunate truth is that you still feel the failure if you don’t take the risk. The failure comes when you see that you never achieved what you truly wanted. You failed ahead of time. You feel the failure without ever having allowed yourself to see success.
So how should we think about failure? One of the analogies most often used when thinking about failure is watching a child learn to walk. Most children start by holding their head up, then roll, then crawl, then learn to pull themselves up, then take a step or two, then finally walk. If you have ever watched this process unfold, you have watched failure in action. Kids stagger, stumble and fall every step of the way. Each time they pick themselves up and try again, they build the strength needed to walk. Can you imagine if a child decided that walking was too hard and, rather than try, they should wait until the perfect way to walk was clearer and more defined?
Instead of focusing on perfection, I want to encourage you to be a Thomas Edison. Focus on the progress. Find the confidence that will allow you to fail while others are watching. When you inevitably fail, embrace it. Have your own back, show yourself some grace and pick yourself back up. Next, figure out what opportunities and gifts were revealed in the failure so that you can try something different next time. Taking action will be the thing that distinguishes you from others.
Let today be the day you commit to trying something new. Don’t allow self-doubt to kill your dreams. Know that failure is inevitable and decide ahead of time to make the most of those opportunities. Do not make a failed attempt mean that you are a failure. Instead, believe that failure is something you need and want on your path to success. Failure is required for success. The two go hand-in-hand.
What do you think about failure? What do you make a failed attempt mean about yourself? What do you teach your children about failure when they do not succeed? Are you as kind to yourself as you are to your children? If not, why not?
Are you interested in creating more balance in your life? I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING. Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.
This training will teach you the five most essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine. You will also learn how to discover what you truly want in life and how to get it!
PS. I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics. Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do too), but music really speaks to me. I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.
Adele - Chasing Pavements
If you can’t watch the video or want to read the lyrics, click here.
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