Ep #4: How to Fail
Every day we speak to people about their goals and how to succeed. However, most people never achieve their goals because they are afraid to fail. On this week’s episode we are talking about the importance of failing and learning how to fail.
My favorite quote about success and failure is this: “If you want success, you need to double your rate of failure”. This means that in order to reach our goals we have to be willing to fail. We are the ones who decide what failure means to us, and we are the ones who cause those negative emotions. Once we choose to change how we look at and feel about failure, our fear of failure will dissolve.
Listen to the show
What You will discover
- Success can be acquired through failure and the willingness to fail.
- Understanding the true definition of failure.
- We have complete control over what failure means to us.
- How to change the way failure affects you.
- Why you should strive to fail five times a month.
- Through your willingness to fail in front of others, you will find your confidence.
Get the Full Episode Transcript:download the transcript
Welcome to The Life Coach School podcast, where it’s all about real clients, real problems and real coaching. And now your host, Master Coach Instructor, Brooke Castillo.
Hi everybody it's Brooke Castillo. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm so excited that so many of you are listening to the podcast and emailing me and letting me know how much you love it. I have been thinking about doing this for a long time, and I'm really stoked that the time and energy I've put into doing it is paying off for all of you guys who are interested in my teaching and what's going on at the School, so thank you so much. If you're listening to this, and you haven't already, I would really appreciate it if you would go over to iTunes and give me a review. That would be amazing.
Today, we're going to talk about failure. More specifically, we're going to talk about how to fail. I think there's a lot of information about how not to fail and how to succeed, and I think there needs to be more talk about failure and how to do that properly. I would say that most people don't achieve their dreams because they don't want to fail. There's not a lot of consideration as to why. I have a lot of people say to me, "I have a real fear of failure," and I'll say "Well, what does that mean? What are you afraid of? What is failure? Why are you afraid of it?" They'll think about it and come back and say "You know what? I've never really thought about it that way."
That's one of the things we do in coaching. We always try to get to the cause of all the issues. We don't try and solve problems. We just try and solve the cause of problems. One of the main causes of problems is not understanding why. The first thing that's important to do is to understand what is failure; how do you define it? Of course, I went to Google because Google knows everything. I asked Google, "What is failure?" and I was totally surprised by the definition that came up. It said, "The omission of expected or required action." The omission of expected or required action. I love this definition of failure.
If failure means we just didn't do our own expected action or something else didn't do our expected action, it just seems so benign. It seems so "Okay. Well that's what happened. There was an omission of action on either my part or your part." That's what we're called failure? Well, that's not a big deal, right? It's just something didn't turn out the way we had expected.
What most people do, is they just stop expecting, and therefore they never fail. They keep their expectations really low. They just keep recycling the same life. They never go outside their comfort zone, and then they never really have to deal with trying to miss their own expectation or not meet their own expectation. I think that's such a shame. So many of the clients that I talk to, that is their main issue, is they just don't feel alive anymore because they're not putting themselves out there because they're afraid, and they don't want to fail.
I ask my clients all the time, "Why are you avoiding failing? What is the reason?" It always boils down to avoiding wanting to feel something. If failure is really just not meeting your own expectation or not taking the required action to meet your own expectation, then really what's going to happen when that happens, is you are going to think some thought that's going to create some negative emotion. The real reason why we're avoiding any kind of "Missing the mark," any kind of not meeting our expectation is because we don't want to feel what we're going to feel when that happens.
Here's what's really interesting about that. When you don't meet your own expectation, the only feeling that you're going to end up having is based on what your decide to think. Stay with me. You set out to do something, and you have and expectation of the result, and you miss that expectation. Now at that point, you get to decide what you're going to make that mean. You get to decide what you're going to think about that. If you think about that in a way that hurts your feelings, if you think about that in a way that's dejecting and disappointing, then you're going to experience that negative emotion.
Ironically, the whole reason you're avoiding failing is because you're avoiding something that you have complete control over which is your reaction to failing. Are you guys following this because it's really important? You're avoiding something you are in charge of and acting like it's happening to you. Most people when I talk to them about failure will say that "Failure happens to me, and then I have to experience it" but that's not the truth. What really happens is we miss our expectation, and then we decide to make it mean something that hurts. We decide to make it mean something that causes us a negative emotion.
First of all, there can be work on that end of it. When we don't meet our own expectations, we can decide to not make that mean the end of the world. We can decide to make that mean actually something positive, and therefore, we won't be dreading experiencing that very thing what we're creating, which is our own negative emotion. Let me give you an example because I know that this sounds interesting in theory, but you might not quite be understanding what I'm saying, especially if you're new to this work.
Let's say I go as a coach to teach a class, and I start marketing a class, and I want to have 5 people in the class, let's say. I go out there, and I start marketing it, and I'm really excited about it, and I put energy into marketing it. 3 people sign up. I'm like "Oh, that's such a fail. I only had 3 people sign up. I'm not good at this. I shouldn't even teach this class. People don’t want what I have to offer." "I'm never going to do this again because this feels so terrible." Well, the reason it feels terrible is because I'm making it mean that there's something wrong with me, that I'm not any good at this. That's why that certain quote-unquote "Fail", that I'm calling failure, is so awful is because I'm making it so awful. And so I start avoiding something that I'm actually the cause of.
Now alternatively, I could go out and set to teach a class and say, "I want to have 5 people in the class" and I could have 3 people show up and I could be like "Hey! Awesome. 3 people want what I have to offer." I definitely didn't meet my expectation. I definitely didn't get 5 people when I really wanted 5, but I got 3, and I can keep moving forward from here. Next time I hope I'll get 5, and I wonder why I didn't get 5. If you go back to the definition, it's the omission of expected or required action. I love thinking about it that way. It's like, "I just didn't do something. I had an omission of my action to not get 5 people in the class, so I can do that next time, and I can do it differently next time."
When I think about it that way, it actually doesn’t make me want to avoid failure. It makes me want to learn and grow and try it again. You can see that I'm the one that's determining what failure will be like to me by how I decide to think about it when I don't meet my own expectation. Now, I really do believe that success is one of those things that is acquired by failure and by being willing to fail. There's a wonderful quote that says, "If you want success, you need to double your rate of failure," and I really do believe in that because I think the better you get at failing, the more willing you're going to be to do it, the more you're going to learn and the better you're going to get at meeting your own expectations.
If failure is not meeting your own expectations, then I would define success as meeting your own expectations. The best way to meet them is to practice meeting them and to make lot of mistakes and learn what doesn't work. That is something that when you think about failure, when you think about taking action in that way, then you're not so wrapped up in what it means to not have it all done perfectly. A lot of people will say to me that they're perfectionists, and they'll say that "I just want to do it all right, and I'm not willing to do it if I can't do it perfectly." I have this sense that I think perfectionism is for scared people I think it give them an excuse to not take the action, to not put themselves out there and to not fail, to not meet their own expectation.
The reason why they don't want to not meet their own expectation is because they know that they're going to beat their own ass when that happens. They're going to beat themselves up. If you were to make a deal with yourself and say "Hey. I'm going to go out there and try and do this. There's going to be for sure, a chance that along the way I'm not going to meet my expectation. I'm going to fail, and I'm going to fail many, many times, but here's there thing. When I fail, I'm going to have my own back. I'm going to treat myself with respect. I'm going to honor myself. I'm going to use that as an opportunity to learn and to take care of myself. I'm going to use it as an opportunity to love myself more instead of loving myself less. I will refuse when I don't meet my own expectation, to say mean things to myself, to beat myself up, or to quit.
Now, if you set yourself up for that ahead of time, before you start any kind of action, you're going to be much more willing, first of all, to take the action, and second of all, to take the risk that most success takes. To put yourself outside of your comfort zone, to try something you haven't done is pretty risky. What are you risking? Failure. You could fail, but if you know if you fail, you're going to take care of yourself, you're going to be much more willing to do it. If you're much more willing to fail, you're going to double your rate of failure, maybe triple it. You're going to have a much higher chance of ultimately getting success.
Now, let's talk about the benefits of failing. Let's talk about young kids failing. I love the example although it's a little bit overused. I still love it so much, I'm going to use it here. I love the example of a little child learning how to walk because they do some epic fails. It's like you look at that those kids trying to walk, and it is not pretty. They are eating it like every 3rd step. What's fascinating and what I love about that is when they fall, one of the reasons that they're not walking well is because they don't have the strength. When they fall, those little kids, and they have to push themselves back up, that pushing themselves back up is what gives them the strength to ultimately be able to walk.
If they stopped trying to walk because they were failing, then they would never have the opportunity to get strong enough to be able to walk, so it's through the failing, through the falling down that they get strong enough to do it. I just think that's brilliant. It was interesting because I just finished up a Master Coach training, and we were talking about this idea of confidence, and we were talking about how we defined confidence and where confidence comes from. One of the things that I said that I think confidence is, is your willingness to fail in front of other people. We talked about how most people want to get their confidence from their past. They want to say "I'll be confident at something after I'm competent at it."
We gave the example when we were talking in class about pouring a glass of water. We feel very confident when we're pouring a glass of water because we've done it so many times, we know that we're very good at it. If we spill or we miss the glass or knock it over, we don’t turn that into a reason to not do it or to quit. We don't even can really consider that a failure; "I failed at the glass pouring today." We don't make it mean anything negative, and so we're willing to do it because it's not a big deal if we fail. We know we're not going to quit and never try to do it again or make it mean that we're competent, or we don't know what we're doing.
How do you feel that same sense of confidence with something that you've never done? That was our conversation. You have to find confidence actually in your future. Well, how do you find confidence in your future when you're starting out, doing something you've never done before? Everything that you're going to be doing, you know you're going to be failing, so your confidence has to come from your ability to fail and knowing that you're not going to give up and knowing that you can fail and get better and get better every time.
Confidence ... I was thinking about this. For me, I like to try new things. I like change. I like putting myself out there on that leading edge of my comfort zone. I was trying to figure out why I like to do that personally. It's because I'm very willing to fail, and I'm willing to fail in front of other people.
That's why failure isn't one of those concepts that you just talk about after you don't do well on a math test. Failure is something you have to consider as something you want to include in your life. It's not something to avoid. It's actually something to pursue and to get very good at. If I feel confident about my ability to fail, you can see how I'm probably going to try new things, put myself out there, and probably be successful because as I fail and as I plan to fail, I will continue to do it. Does that make sense?
The other way ... Actually one of the students in the class actually brought up this idea of believing in our capacity to learn, and instead of using the word "failure," maybe using the word "learning."
There's the old quote that Edison has where he's like "No. I didn't fail a thousand times. I learned a thousand things that didn't work." That's how we can kind of look at our own quote-unquote "Failures" as just learning opportunities, seeing them as "Okay, we didn't meet our expectation. We didn't take correct action, so we just need to adjust that and change it until we do meet our own expectation." When we think about that word "Failure," think about it in a way that is positive. Think about it in a way as something we want to move towards instead of something that we want to move away from.
I actually like the idea of practicing failure. I like the idea of failure being a skill that we develop. If we are good at falling down, we actually learn how to fall down really well. Then, we're going to have confidence going into our future. I hope that that kind of tickled your mind as much as it did ours. I was so excited when I was talking to me class about this, and all of us we're kind of really getting into because the idea that failure could be something that we embraced was like ... It got us excited. It got us thinking about our future instead of avoiding it so much. You get good at it by doing it often.
One of my favorite authors and mentors and podcast interviewees that I love to listen to is Ramit Sethi. He has a website called "I will Teach You to be Rich." I am definitely not his target market. I think he targets like 25 year old men, but I love him. I think he's hilarious and he talks about his customers in a way that just kills me. It just cracks me up. He's kind of defiant, and he's a rebel, and he scolds, and I just love him. Anyway, one of the things that he talks about that really was a game changer for me, is he says that he has file on his computer, and he wants to make sure that he fills that file full of 5 failures per month. If he's not failing epicly 5 times per month, he's not working hard enough, and he's doing enough.
He also said this when he was talking about a program that he was selling, and he said "If I don't have at least a 10% return rate, I'm not selling enough." That kind of made my mind explode. I was like "What do you mean, a 10% return rate?" I mean I'm someone who ... I have a very successful business, and I don't really have a return rate. I don’t have people that want refunds from me, so to think if I'm not doing at least 10% return rate; I'm not selling enough, was a like a totally different perspective for me to look at. Anyways, since I got this idea from him that we should 5 times a month, I started doing that. I'm like "Okay. I'm going to put myself out there. I'm going to try new things that are highly likely to fail and see if I can get my 5 failures."
What it did for me that was so awesome is when I failed, when I did something that didn't work, I didn't do this big disappointment, regret, shame, dance. I was like "Oh, failure number 1! I can put that in my file now." It really changed my whole perspective. It was like 1 fail down, 4 to go." Ever since then, I've been really accumulating my fails as like badges of honor, as like workouts, as things that are making me stronger, and it really is working. It's something that I am getting so much better at. I have so much more confidence when I try new things because the worst thing that can happen, ultimately, is that I fail.
The worst thing beyond that is how I would feel about my failure by what I would decide to make it mean. I know that I'm not going to make it mean anything negative now. I'm going to make it mean "Hey! A 3 out of 5, done!" It's really up to my excitement, my anticipation, my momentum towards the future because of that willingness that I now have to fail.
Now, I want to be really clear about one thing when it comes to failure. I think it's important to separate failure outside of your comfort zone by taking risks, by putting yourself out there, versus failing by just not showing up. Here's what I mean by that. If you launch a new class for your coaching business, or you go on a date with someone, meeting someone new, or you put yourself out; you go to a bar and you want to meet somebody new, maybe you're not on a date, but you're putting yourself out there and you're introducing yourself to someone...
I mean ... They could reject you. You could consider that a failure. Those sorts of things are outside of your comfort fails. You're putting yourself there that you're trying something new; you are the toddler learning how to walk. That's the failure that I really want to encourage you to do a lot more of, and I want you to be willing to try.
Now, there's another failure that comes from just not showing up. It comes from setting yourself up by sabotaging. That's something I don't want to encourage you to do more of. Here's what I mean by that. Let's say ... We'll go back to my example of the 5 person class. You put yourself out there. You offer a class. 5 people sign up for it, and then you don't show up for it. You're late to the class. You don't prepare for it. You do a terrible job delivering it. You don't have any enthusiasm or excitement. You don't have anything valuable that you share with them. You're just kind of like, "Blah..." and you don't show up.
That kind of failure and that kind of sabotage is definitely not something you want to do because it's still is a failure because you omitted the required action that it took to produce it, and it was well within your comfort zone to do so. You just didn't show up for yourself, and you didn't show up for you clients, or you didn't show up for the date. You didn't show up. That's a very different kind of failure.
By the way, that comes from the way that you're thinking about whatever it is you're attempting to do. That's not something that I want to encourage you to do over and over again because what that is, is that's just spinning within in your own discomfort within you comfort zone. You're in your comfort zone. You know that you're capable of doing something, and you're just sabotaging, sabotaging, sabotaging.
Typically, the thoughts that drive that type of action are "There's something wrong with me. I'm not worth it. This isn't worth it. Nobody’s going to like me. Why should I even show up?" When you find yourself in that kind of failure, what needs to happen is you need to take a look at your mind and find out what's going on with you. It's another invitation to tap in to the work that you need to do ahead of time. That's not something that you want to repeat.
You'll hear people say a lot, "The first time you make a mistake, it's no big deal. You learn from it, but don't make the exact same mistake again." That's the same thing I would say about failure. I think if you do something, and you don't meet your own expectation, and then you try it again the exact same way and get the exact same result, I would consider that staying within your comfort zone failure. I would say that is self-sabotage. That's a different thing. Do not repeat it. Failure is putting yourself out there into the unknown, doing something that you don't know.
Now, a couple things I want to share with you that you may not be able to discover in yourself, okay? These are things that I find in my clients that they say, "Oh my gosh, I had no idea I was doing this." One of the things that we avoid failure by doing is by being confused. We say we're confused; we don't know how, and we say, 'I don't know." Really what we're doing is avoiding putting our self out there, into the world in a way where we don't know if we'll meet our own expectation. We're afraid of how we will treat ourselves on the other side of that.
Please be careful. If you notice yourself not taking action, not putting yourself out there in kind of failure's way, if you're telling yourself the reason you're not doing it is because you're undecided, you don't know, or you are confused, just know that is the sweetest way to avoid failure. You need to be on to yourself. You need to pay attention. You need to have a look at that because when you avoid failure, you also at the very same time, avoiding success. Spinning yourself really away from what you want, but telling yourself the reason why is because you're confused. Being confused, saying "I don't know," and being undecided, is just a way of hiding, so tell yourself the truth about it.
I never say to myself "I don't know how to do something." It doesn't serve me to say it. What I say is "I'm figuring out how to do something. I am going to figure out how to do something" or "I'm learning the steps to understand this. Saying it in that way doesn't stop me. It keeps me going. I don't say "I don't know." I say "I'm figuring it out." I don't say "I'm undecided." I say "I'm going to decide, and I know there's no right decision, and when I make a decision, I'm going to go out there, and I'm willing for it to be the quote-unquote "Wrong decision." I'm willing to fail.
Okay? Just notice that little smoke screen of confusion and "I don't know" that prevents you from taking action that would lead to failure because the reason you don't want to fail is because you don't want to feel the feelings that you would cause yourself to feel when you're thinking that way.
Okay. I hope that that makes sense. I hope that this has totally changed your mind on the way that you think about failure. I hope that I am your biggest failure cheerleader. I hope that you're like "Oh Brooke would be so proud of me! I epically failed today," and I totally would be. One of the things I would love for you to do is go to my website, thelifecoachschool.com
Go to thelifecoachschool.com/4 because this is episode 4. You will find there the show notes, but you'll also find a place where you can comment. I would love to hear about your epic fail, and it would be great if you could give me one that you do after this podcast. Go out there and just attempt something that you're pretty sure you're going to fail at, and then share it with me and tell me what you did, how you didn't meet your own expectation, and then how you felt afterwards?
Now that you’ve listened to this podcast, I would love to know how you treated yourself on the other side of failure. Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to seeing you on the website and until next time, 5 failures. See you then, bye.Thank you for listening to The Life Coach School podcast. It would be incredibly awesome if you would take a moment to write a quick review on iTunes. For any questions, comments or coaching issues you’d like to hear on the show, please visit us at http://www.TheLifeCoachSchool.com.