by Ken Williams
Regardless of what field or what area of life you’re looking to excel in, I guarantee you one thing, you will meet failure at every turn, and when you do, you must know one thing above all else. The true enemy of success is not failure. It is despair!
Most people think failure is the great enemy of success, but they have it so wrong. Failure is an ally (A mean-spirited ally who tells it like it is, but an ally just the same). Despair is an altogether different beast.
The true enemy of success is not failure. It is despair!
When we’re unable to laugh at failure or the absurdity of situations we might find ourselves in, or we fail to see failure for the stepping-stone that it is, we fall into despair.
When we are in despair, our imagination diminishes, we lose self-belief and the mindset to explain the present and describe our future. Overtime, this feeling eats away at resilience and leaves us feeling that our initial goals and dreams are worthless or unattainable. And what do we do? We give up. Or at best, go in under-committed. This is by far the biggest threat to ever being successful at anything! So, how do we safeguard against despair?
There are ways, of course, and each require a mindset that best comes through a sense of purpose and a sense of humour.
A sense of purpose and a sense of humour
A sense of purpose. To be completely committed to a worthwhile goal. Why?Because the process of achieving great success is tough. You’ll need every bit of inner belief and resilience to get through. If you don’t truly believe in your purpose, you simply won’t make it.
It’s this purpose to achieve the best for yourself that fuels you. Yet, if left unguarded, despair can claw at your objectives. Which is why a sense of humour is vital.
A sense of humour. You must possess the ability to laugh at yourself or the absurdity of situations you might find yourself in. It’s not about telling jokes or being the life of the party. It’s about seeing the lighter side of life.
See life for what it should be
Monty Python got it right with the final song in the movie The Life of Brian. Always look on the bright side of life (insert whistle). And, while I’m guessing that most of us know this song (it always puts a smile on my face), it’s not easy to laugh at yourself, or to see the positives when you’ve failed. Particularly when embarrassed or humiliated. But, failing is essential if you want to experience true success. I don’t think it’s possible without it.
Firstly, you must not hold success so tight that you strangle it. Enjoy the here and now. Enjoy the process. Celebrate the little victories along the way and understand that success requires countless experiences. Sometimes a lifetime full. If you only have the end goal in mind, getting there will be a painful, painful slog.
Find happiness in your process
You must learn to enjoy the process on the way to the purpose. It’s called life.
There is a world full of incredibly talented people and yet, so many differing opinions on what talent is, what humour is, what greatness is, what success is, and indeed what happiness means. You need to find your path, find what motivates you, what makes life worth living, and not only be up for the challenge, but you must be up for enjoying the challenge. The process must be as enjoyable as the proposed outcome. If your passion is the creative arts, for example, it might help to get together with other like-minded creatives and enjoy creating together. Whether it’s writer’s groups, courses, art classes or idea sessions, getting together and discussing life’s challenges and ways to tackle them makes success seem attainable and exciting. And make it fun. live the adventure and bounce off each other.
If you’re an entrepreneur in any field, or you want success in any area of life, you should have an undying love for what fuels you. You should want to share that enthusiasm. The great chefs of the world have an enduring passion for food and want to share it with others.
You should want to learn all you can about the field you’re in. This increased knowledge will help drive your passion. If you enjoy what you do, you won’t care so much about the outcome. You’ll want to improve for the sake of loving what you do. And, perhaps even for the enjoyment of producing a better product. But, most importantly, don’t rush. There is much to learn. Look forward to making those mistakes and facing those challenges. You’ll meet some amazing people, face some amazing challenges and maybe, just maybe, end up amazing yourself.
Laugh at failure
Understand that everyone fails. Everyone. Some people just push failure too far.
Failure and I go way back. Failure has got me through life. I’ve failed at just about everything I’ve ever done (at least in some way), but I’m still here, even smiling. Sometimes I laugh. However, the problem with failure is that it’s a fickle beast. If you’re one of those people who enjoy wallowing in failure, you must not persist at anything, including failure itself. Most people think failing is easy. It’s not. Not if you keep persisting. If you’re out there doing things the right way, or even the wrong way, for long enough, failure by its very nature can’t cope and varying levels of success will come. Fact!
All successful people have one thing in common. I believe it to be the number one cause of unfailure. They have all pushed failure too far.
If you can find a way to see the lighter side of failure, or even to know that failure is an ally, to develop a mindset that understands “having a go” is in itself an achievement, then failure can’t defeat you. If failure fails to defeat you then you haven’t failed. If you haven’t failed then you must have succeeded, right?
I wrote a book a while ago titled, How to Fail Fantastically, it didn’t sell a single copy. It was a total success! No, it sold a few copies. Thanks mum. But through the book I discussed what failure really is and how embracing failure can lead to success. It’s based around the premise that if failure is such an important stepping-stone to success, then let’s hurry up and get failing. It offers up some great tips on how to fail (A self-help guide that’s actually achievable!). I found writing about the lighter side of failure kind of freeing. And, it helped me see the lighter side of my own many failings.
Don’t take yourself so seriously
Not everybody will be writing about failure in such a way and it certainly isn’t always easy to avoid despair when you’ve hit failure after failure. The trick is to not take yourself so seriously. This is difficult because of the way so many of us humans are wired, but so important in defeating despair and far cheaper than complicit psycho-therapist sessions.
Too many business leaders, and indeed people starting out in business, take themselves far too seriously and when failure occurs, take it personally. You are not the greatest human being on the planet, and you’re not the worst. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
There are two even greater benefits of learning to laugh at yourself and not take yourself so seriously, and the first is that you’ll be in a healthier state of mind to keep learning. There are lessons with every failure, but you won’t always see them if your head is up your backside. When your mind is clear to see errors in your work, you’ll be in a better place to rectify things. With this mindset, despair has no power over you. You are free to push on bigger and better than before. And, the greatest benefit of not taking yourself too seriously is that it should all come with an experience of humility.
Never underestimate a sense of humility
It will take you a long way. Humility is one of the greatest strengths we can acquire in life and in business, yet is seems to be the very thing disappearing in this win at all costs world we live in. Yes, it’s good to win. It’s what we all strive for. However, as I’ve stated, along the way you will make mistakes, come under pressure, come up against incredible competition. You could even face differing and conflicting opinions on what your work is all about. And, sometimes it hurts for a while. If you don’t have a sense of humility, you cannot truly understand who you really are and what your work or life is all about. Don’t let ego or pride get the better of you. You can either get to know your true self, or you can feed your ego, but you can’t do both. I recommend getting to know your true self. This way, you’ll learn where you need to improve. You’ll see life, failure and success more distinctly. You’ll win more friends and have far less enemies. And, you will find a fully-rounded person inside capable of wonderful things.
With a sense of your true self comes a sense of perspective
When you have things in perspective, you’ll understand who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what real power is, how to be successful and how incredible life and success can be. Allow me to bore you with a story. I’ll keep it brief. I’m 52-years-old as I write this, and I can honestly say, that I feel the happiest I’ve ever felt within myself. I let go of wanting everything right here and now. I took my own advice. I only wish I had this mindset earlier.
We all want to be a success. We all seek some sort of acknowledgement in our lives. Maybe it will come and maybe it won’t. But, I have learnt to get out of my own head and out of my own way. I’ve learned to find happiness in my processes. I’ve learned to find joy in who I am and what I have, and not worry about what I think other people want me to be, or who other people think I am. I even look back at my failures now like badges of honour. And, when I think about it, I honestly wouldn’t change my life in any way. How could I, I mean, I wouldn’t have met the people I’ve met, and I wouldn’t have had the experiences that have made me the resilient person I am today.
If you want to be successful, find your purpose, understand it’s going to be tough, be up for the challenge, enjoy the process, show humility, embrace failure and fail fantastically. It will be through your failings that great success will come. Please, be a nice person, be nice to yourself and others, keep your sense of humour, and I wish you all the worst of luck. I really do. Now get out there and fail!