Why Do We Fail?

Why Do We Fail?

Why Do We Fail? with Sal Cincotta

We all fail at some point. Even the most successful people fail. What most people don’t realize is that successful people fail more than most. It sounds counterintuitive, I am sure, but it’s reality nonetheless.

As cliché as it sounds, failing truly is about getting one step closer to success. Failing is about ruling out yet another variable in the equation. However, the word failure for most people is up there with vomit, worthlessness, and a host of other derogatory words. Now, I am not encouraging you to love failure or even relish in it, but I am encouraging you to think a little differently about how you can understand why we fail and what you can do to use it to drive your own success.

Failing because of fear. 

I have seen it time and time again. Fear paralyzes people. They are so afraid of making a mistake that they inevitably make the very mistake they were afraid of making. For example, I have someone very close to me who panic orders every time we go to a new restaurant and the waiter shows up to take our order. She knows what she likes and doesn’t like. Yet, because of her fear of making a mistake and ordering something she won’t like, she inevitably orders something she has never had before. It’s like walking into a pancake house, specifically for the pancakes, and when the waiter shows up you panic and order chicken strips.

Why? People handle fear in all sorts of quirky ways. Some people have it in their head that they need to be adventurous, but then just when the moment arises they self-destruct, crippled by fear.

Another example would be someone so crippled by fear that they never even try. How sad is that? The fear of making a mistake, the fear of the unknown, the fear of what will happen if you choose the wrong door stops you from even trying. Even worse are people who won’t admit that this is what they are doing. It becomes so second nature that they don’t even realize they are disengaging to avoid the pain of fear. There is truth in the statement, “You will never fail if you never try.”

While that is one way of looking at it, I suggest we think about it this way instead. Success is truly a journey. Now, that success can come in many ways. Ever meet that person who things just seem to come easy to? Yeah, we all hate that person. At some point, that person will find failure. They might be farther along the path than you are, but until they find failure, they will never know true success. I’ll dig into that a little later.

Whatever you do, push past the fear of failure. One step, one day at a time. Fear, like confidence, is a habit. Confident people tend to be confident about everything. Optimistic people are optimistic about everything. And of course, pessimistic people are, you guessed it, pessimistic about everything. Now as for me, personally, I consider myself a “skeptimist.” I am skeptically optimistic. I think as an entrepreneur, you have to be. Be skeptical with what you do, but see the big picture and be optimistic about it.

Fear can and will cripple you. Embrace it. Let it motivate you to be better. And realize, 99 percent of the time, it’s going to be ok if you fail. Tomorrow will bring another chance to get it right.

Failing because of pride. 

Pride. Man, this is a nasty one for sure. Pride gets in the way of people’s growth all the time. The funny thing is, the very people I am talking to in this article will read this and be convinced I am not talking about them. That’s because we all have a self-defense mechanism built inside us. If you find yourself making excuses and blaming others because of your shortfalls, then you are the person I am talking to.

This is even worse than those inflicted with fear. At least they are being honest with themselves, but the prideful person is so delusional about their results that any realistic assessment of the results is nearly impossible.

Again, we have to circle back to the process of failing and understanding that it’s part of the pain process of learning and growing. Imagine if you didn’t have pain receptors in your hand and you placed your hand over a gas burner—you would have no way of knowing your hand was on fire and your skin was literally melting off your bones. You would not have the information you’d need to course correct and remove your hand from the fire. I guess you would eventually smell it, but again, that is a receptor reporting back to the brain what is going on. When you are filled with pride and make excuses for your failings, you are in essence blocking those pain receptors and preventing yourself from correcting course. You will never learn because it is never your fault.

Make no mistake—this is a character flaw. You have to want to fix this. If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to accept fault and be committed to analyzing the results for one thing: truth. Whenever I fail, I take a step back and look at—Why? What went wrong here? What did we do right? What did we do wrong? What could we have done better? Notice, nowhere in here am I saying or implying or asking: What wasn’t my fault? That is useless in the pursuit of truth.

Now, I suppose you could read this and counter my argument with, “What if there was an earthquake and my car got swallowed up and my house keys were in the car and then the city poured concrete over the hole my car was in…” Yeah, I get it. Shit happens. But, if we are being honest with one another, we can all agree that this is a true one-off situation. Probably 99.999 percent of the time, the piece that was not your fault is going to prove irrelevant to the process. I very rarely spend my time trying to dissect that. Instead, I am trying to understand, address, and perfect the things I can control. Pride gets checked at the door. Once that happens, you are on a path to success. Why? Because now you can adjust your course as needed. Your failures will lead to your final destination: success.

Failing as part of the process. 

Which leads us right to this moment. Failing is without a doubt part of the path to success. Like I alluded to earlier, we all know that person who things come easy to. Those people will eventually fail.

Don’t measure yourself against anyone else. Compete against yourself. I am not sure how many of you play golf, but golf is a game of strokes. Every time you swing the club, it’s a stroke. A professional golfer might score a 65 on a golf course, whereas a weekend warrior might score a 145 on the same course. They each have their own path to follow. Each will fail at completely different points. Golf comes easier to one vs. the other. If the two of them were to play side-by-side, they would not be competing against one another, right? I mean, that would be one-sided for sure. So, if you are the person swinging 145 times, you would get discouraged very quickly if you were comparing yourself to the person swinging 65 times.

This is my point. Instead of discouraging yourself by comparing yourself to others, focus on you. If you scored a 145 today, your goal for tomorrow should be to shoot a 144. A 143 the day after, and so on. Each and every day, examine where you made mistakes and failed, and course correct. Adjust, adjust, adjust.

Now, of course, this is a golf analogy, and I know this is a bunch of photographers I am talking to. So, apply this to your photography, apply this to your business. Where are you failing? Remove the ego. Remove the pride. Remove the fear. Keep it simple—Where do you need to get better? Is it sales? Marketing? Or more on the technical side of our craft? Put a list of your top five areas for improvement together, and attack them with vigor. List out your weaknesses and put an action plan together.

I realize you may have many things you want to work on at the same time, but in my experience you can only focus on three to five things at a time. Don’t overdo it here.

My philosophy has always been to “fail hard and fail quick.” Get that crap out of the way. The sooner you fail and make mistakes, the quicker you can course correct. How you measure success or failure will be different by task, so make sure you have a way to measure your results. Some will be financial, some will be technical, and others will be more opinion based. All are ok. Just make sure you are operating with a simple goal: to be better than you were the day before. Be curious, look for what you did wrong vs. what you did right, make the adjustments, and try again.

I promise you, if you do this and make this a habit, you will not only improve quickly, but fear and pride will give way to confidence and unprecedented success!

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the June 2019 magazine.

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