Failure and Miserable Failure
I’m failing. It looks like I will be the biggest sponsor for Martin’s Ride, my bicycle ride across the USA to raise awareness about cancer research. My friend Seth Godin has something to say about failure, good helpful things as usual:
Successful people are successful for one simple reason they think about failure differently.Such simple sentences to write such hard truths to live (lol). Failure happens. Abject, miserable failure like what I’m experiencing now in attempts to gain sponsorship for Martin’s Ride point to tactical problems. I’ve been writing Presidents and CEO’s in an attempt to cut months out of the sales cycle. I used a similar tactic working with dairies when I worked for NutraSweet.
Successful people learn from failure, but the lesson they learn is a different one. They don’t learn that they shouldn’t have tried in the first place, and they don’t learn that they are always right and the world is wrong and they don’t learn that they are losers. They learn that the tactics they used didn’t work or that the person they used them on didn’t respond.
You become a winner because you are good at losing.
Linchpin by Seth Godin page 115
I’ve made at least two mistakes. First a past tactic is no guarantee of a current success and because I’ve shorted my ride cycle is not a good reason for large consumer products goods companies (or other companies) to shorten theirs. I know about long sales cycles at large companies, so my attempt to jump the shark is meeting its predictable end – failure.
The hardest thing any business person does is pick themselves up off the floor. Knee jerk is blame external things. The recession always works for external blame. The recession is faceless, looming and dark providing a great out. After thirty years selling soap, candy, sweetener and funky gifts I know failure is never about something as amorphous as “recession” no matter how good it sounds.
My second knee jerk is to move inside the arc. I blame myself. Seth calls this my “lizard brain" talking. Larry the Lizard Brain (my name not Seth's) says, “you aren’t any good” and “you don’t deserve it”. Seth wrote an entire chapter on getting Larry the Lizard Brain to shut up in Linchpin, his excellent current book. Linchpin explains how Larry The Lizard Brain stops our ability to create art and be a “genius”. Larry The Lizard Brain, Seth points out, is usually NOT comfortable with the genius tag. Larry is about lowering expectations limiting risks. Live Larry’s life and you look back on a life of avoidance and apparent “safety” and wonder where did you life go.
Yes I am failing and failing in spectacular fashion, but I’m doing what I love. Does loving what you are doing make failure twice as hard? Nope. Failing at something you love, in this case creating a foundation to help others, can fill you with renewed vigor and energy. Always easier to get up in the morning when you love what you’re doing. Failure goes through stages such as:
- Knee Jerk = blame outside events or others.
- Knee Jerk = Larry The Lizard blames YOU
- Analysis = define failure “zones”
- Refine = develop a revised thing (letter, email, web site, whatever)
- Publish = get it out there (Seth says artist SHIP and I agree)
- Fail Again
- Rinse and Repeat
I matched that idea with an idea from Eckhart Tolle. Tolle, another great Zen teacher, explains all external dialogues are really internal dialogues. If you say x, y and z about Sally Mae you are really saying x, y and z about yourself. Does this idea of the external really being internal ring true? It does for me. I try to be careful and LISTEN to even random daily external chatter. Inside there somewhere Larry The Lizard is talking to me through my friends, coworkers and family.
Killing The Lizard Brain
Seth is right, we can’t kill Larry the Lizard Brain. Larry is going to be around. Seth makes a genius suggestion. Seth says we should seduce Larry the Lizard Brain:
The challenge, then, is to create an environment where the lizard snoozes. You can’t beat it, so you must seduce it. One part of your brain worries about survival, anger and lust. The rest of it creates civilization.One way Seth suggests we can seduce Larry the Lizard Brain is to redefine failure. We should see failure as a necessary part of progress. Seth says he couldn't have written Linchpin without any of the 100 books he wrote. I've memorized about 5 books by SG, so there are a few books out there that went directly to DVD (or the book equivalent). Am I God’s gift to cancer fund raising right at the moment? Nope. Can I get better? You bet I can once I get past knee jerks and Larry the Lizard Brain (lol).
Linchpin, page 109
I will post one of my CEO letters here soon so readers can make suggestions and provide feedback. Any comment is appreciated and valued even from Larry the Lizard Brain ☺.