I recently noticed myself stalling on writing a presentation for a large group of elite professionals. The topic was new and the group larger than normal.
Every day I marked it as my #1 priority of the day, put it on a fluorescent post-it note on top of my mega “to-do” list, and put aside the time to do it. But after a few weeks, I noticed I hadn’t made any progress.
I asked myself, “What’s the deal? What’s going on?” (Yes, I have these conversations with myself all of the time.) What I got back was “I’m afraid of not hitting it out of the park, and I only have one try.”
Bottom line: I was blocked because I was afraid to fail.
Oh yes, I know intellectually that the masters of any game have risked failing in order to achieve their success. We’ve all heard the stories about Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Sara Blakely (think Spanx) and the many times they failed before they nailed it.
Failing forward and failing often is one of the main things the successful do that others do not.
But failing forward and failing often is not our natural default. In fact, our brains are actually predisposed to be on the look-out for the negatives in our world and to fight or flee them at every turn.
As a result, despite how passionate we are about taking the next step (and using all of our productivity tools and strategies), our brains literally shut us down from taking action. The images I get are of red flashing emergency lights and alarms blaring to the robotic computer generated voice, “Abort mission, danger ahead! Abort mission, danger ahead!”
How on earth can you work against powerful brain science like that?
The answer: fail forward and fail often. Here are the five steps to break it down.
1. Find something that you’d like to try but haven’t because you’re afraid of tripping and being mortified. (Example: “I want to sell my business expertise by speaking and training groups.”)
2. Find a way to fail at it as quickly as possible. (For example, “I’m going to ask two people to join me for a training on X this week.”)
3. Do it and tell people you’re new to this. (For example, before you begin, tell everybody you’re a beginner and ask people for their feedback once you’ve provided your expertise).
4. Go home and analyze. (What came naturally, and what do I need to work on? What was fun–and what wasn’t?)
5. Set another challenge and fail again. (“Next time, I’ll host an open training for 10 people at my workplace during lunch with this information.”)
By shifting your focus to learning something as a beginner (instead of, say, producing something amazing), you will perform better, enjoy yourself more, find ways to learn and to succeed much more quickly.
You can use this same foolproof five-step process to get going on writing your book, trading for yourself, starting a business rehabbing houses, selling your health expertise or on-line photography.
Here’s the deal, it doesn’t matter what it is; it matters only that you take the next smallest step that doesn’t freak you out TODAY.
Your brain will get the new messages: “I’m still alive.” “I’m not going to die.” “This was actually fun.” “I’m ready for more!”
Through this simple process you can re-train your brain to accelerate your progress and success.
Cheers to your next failure! I’ll race ya!