In order to respond to failure, sometimes you have to be willing to feel failure. Several years ago, when I was hitting practice shots on the golf range, my instructor said to me, “Neal, I want you to hit a poor shot. I want you to top the ball so that it skims along on the ground.” I looked at him incredulously and asked him why in the world he wanted me to hit a bad shot. He replied, “Because you need to know what it feels like.” He suggested that it is good to know what a bad shot feels like – so when it actually happens on the course you understand the cause and know how to correct the problem. In other words, you are prepared to respond to the failure. What does it feel like to slice a ball to the right? What does it feel like to pull a duck hook to the left? And more importantly, what caused the shot to move in that manner – and how are you going to respond to it?
In my prior essay, Dare To Fail … Terrifically, I used the swaying rope bridge in Indiana Jones as a metaphor for overcoming the feeling of unease that inevitably comes when you try something new. When I look back at my life, I wonder how it would have turned out if I had avoided all of my wobbly bridges. For example, when I was twenty one, I was a junior in college. Even though I had never seen a computer in my life, I decided to take a computer programming course as an elective. Unfortunately, I entered a course with Computer Science majors, using a scientific language (FORTRAN), programming scientific applications. I happened to be an Accounting major at the time, in the business division of the school.
Believe me when I tell you that during this class, I was swinging and swaying on that metaphoric rope bridge. I vividly recall my feelings when I labored away in the computer lab as my peers came and went; completing their projects in a fraction of the time it took me. As I sat there late in the evening, sometimes alone, I felt utterly stupid, thinking “What am I doing here?” Long story short, I failed the course terrifically.
Definition of Failure: The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends; e.g. the failure of an experiment. The condition or fact of being insufficient or falling short.
Did you ever hear this one, “Failure is not an option?” To this I say, not only is it an option, in measured quantities it might be the best possible medicine you can ingest.
A failure proves that you are willing to take risks – to learn, feel, change, grow, love, live – and ultimately to be free. And, although things might not work out this time, you put yourself in a position to succeed … eventually. That is how a failure should be viewed – as putting yourself in a position to have success down the road. I don’t understand why some people lose sight of this critical key to learning … and growing. Our own personal history demonstrates it vividly.
“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
– Ray Bradbury
A few years ago I attended a Public Speaking Workshop titled “How to Pick Speech Topics.” The presenter inspired me with one of his suggestions. He told me to imagine I had only a few days left to live – time to prepare for ONE more speech. Then he asked, “What subject do you feel so strongly about that you would invest the final moments of your life to deliver?”
That suggestion became the genesis for the material in Daring Ways. If I found out tomorrow that I had a terminal illness, what would I want to share with people before I passed? What messages could inspire and empower others to make their mark upon the world? My answers to these questions will be the content of this website.