A friend of mine wrote a screaming email to me the other day. Lots of caps. You know the type.
WHERE IS THAT THING YOU WROTE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH FAILURE AND SETBACK? I’m having a terrible day, everything I touch goes wrong and I CAN’T FIND THAT ADVICE!
I had to laugh. We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes right and it spoils our mood and puts us in a temper that guarantees even more things go wrong.
She wanted the ‘thing’ I’m about to share with you now. Keep it bookmarked—it might come in handy one day.
I don’t like failing
It makes me feel bad. So I will do everything I can to avoid it. If you think about it, we grow up with the message to get it right, make good grades no matter what, and that failure is definitely NOT a good thing. If you fail too much then watch out, YOU are a failure, a loser. Hang up your spurs kid, you got an F. Don’t do that again.
Maybe instead we should be encouraged to make mistakes, to take risks, fail and learn from it? Wouldn’t this help us all to be more creative? After all, every successful person will tell tales of failure on his or her way to the top, to success, creativity and fulfillment.
I recently came across an interesting take on this subject in a book by Tim Ferriss, called Tools of Titans. Tim is a kind of alternative success guru and he likes to unpack how successful people operate.
In the book Jocko Willink, Retired Navy Seal Commander, was asked how he dealt with failure. His reply—“How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with all those situations, and that is: “good.”
One word. Easy to remember, unless like my friend, you’re in meltdown.
So, in other words
—Didn’t get that job? Good. Opportunity to look for a better one.
—Got injured? Good. You needed a break.
—Unexpected problems? Good. You have the opportunity to figure out a solution and learn something awesome.
His staff ruefully relay that indeed he does give this response to every situation. And they learned that they may as well say it to themselves first before they go to him with any complaints.
And it worked brilliantly. What Willink was doing was training himself and his staff to approach every situation as a learning experience: to reframe mistakes or failures into a step on the ladder to getting it right. They were a championship team.
Now I know you may be thinking you’d like to deck him one for being so annoying, but he was a Navy Seal, so um, no.
It’s as if Willink is saying—‘It may not be great, or what we would choose, but it’s OK, good. It’s what we’ve got. We’ll make this work.’
Use this in day-to-day living
This works for everyday setbacks, irritants, or failures. Not for big disasters or tragedies. Things like:
You’ve tried something new: it didn’t work. Good. You got feedback. Try something different.
Your electricity just went out. Good. Take a break and do something different.
Your computer broke right when you were in an online business transaction? Good. Maybe it was a bad transaction. Good. Next time you’ll have some backup handy.
You got food poisoning from eating street food? Well, if you’re not dead, good. Go to bed, enjoy your rest and you might lose some weight.
Caught in a traffic jam? Good. A chance to listen to your music.
NB: Obviously it’s not recommended to use it in tragic situations, serious accidents, or death of someone or a pet. Those situations can take longer, sometimes years to see the good side, the silver lining.
A simple change in perspective can work wonders
I’ve started using this and am amazed how well it works to clear the decks and keep my balance when something goes haywire.
It shuts off my negative thinking, the story I’m building about what a bad day it is, and how I’m jinxed on technology, etc.
It’s more just observing what’s going down in a stoical way without judgment and then moving on to see how you can make the best of it.
This simple reframe takes you out of the victim mode. It implies taking action, putting things right, learning from mistakes. This didn’t work? Good. Do something different next time. Suck it up Lollipop and get on with it.
If whatever happens is ‘good’ then what have you got to lose? You’re learning all the time. You’re improving all the time.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, take some chances, make lots of mistakes and reframe whatever happens as OK. You’ll be amazed how much progress you make in life and work.
It’s these little changes that can make the big differences in how we run our lives.
All my life I’ve heard the axiom, you can’t take it with you. And who can argue? You can’t take your money, your fabulous good looks, your home or your career—all those things you are clinging to so valiantly—with you when you die. So buck up Toots and keep your perspective.
It’s good advice. Don’t get too caught up in the things of this world which are ephemeral and will mean nothing when the end comes. Instead, focus on what matters in life—doing good deeds, love, friendship, and service. All that good stuff.
I always thought I had a handle on that. I certainly am not attached to jewelry or clothes (I buy clothes once a year from Dillard’s in one fell swoop), I’ve been busy de-cluttering my home for several years now, and I have a realistic approach to my career. I’m pretty darn detached from most stuff. I’ve got this, so I thought.
Until my computer died on me while on holiday in India. I woke up one morning and it was gone, not responding to anything, stubborn black screen staring back at me.
Up until then I had been gaily posting on Facebook about my journey, writing blogs, and generally keeping in touch with the world. Suddenly, nothing. (Before you ask, my phone was not set up for internet because I don’t like typing on it.)
So there I was, in an exciting area of India, Rishikesh, where the Beatles famously landed 51 years ago and kicked off an all things Indian/yoga/meditation craze that spread to the West, and wait, and I couldn’t share it with anyone?
The River Ganges was roaring a few feet away from my hotel balcony. Who can I tell?
Does it mean anything to me if I can’t share it? Sounds preposterous, and I’m a tad embarrassed about it, but these emotions of loss and abandonment flowed through me like the river beneath my window.
In a panicky frenzy I did manage to get my email on my husband’s computer, but little else of my entire life. Facebook and Gmail and Dropbox wouldn’t play ball. I forgot all my passwords and they were, guess where, on my computer. Doh!
Facebook was like, Northern India did you say? You want to change your password from there? Oh righty-o, we’re going to fall for that one. Go away. Ditto Gmail and Dropbox, Amazon, Kindle.
Yahoo, promiscuous as ever, let me in immediately—Sure, love, come on in, who needs a password? We believe you.
I went into withdrawal. Like coming off a drug. (So I’ve heard. Does coffee count?) The TV was not in English, my kindle needed replenishing and wouldn’t go online….and boy was this an eye opener about what I cling to!
A few heart wrenching days later, after surviving withdrawal, I began just sitting out on the balcony, doing nothing, watching the river flow. I liked it.
I became more relaxed about stuff that had been bothering me. I didn’t fret if plans had to be changed because of a monsoon spoiling that walk or making us late to some Wonder-of-the-World temple or monument.
I started to let go of a lot of ‘stuff’ that was clogging my life. Did I really need to have YouTube playing in the bathroom as I got ready to go out? No I did not.
I realized my computer had been keeping me from living in the moment.
And guess what? It belatedly dawned on me that I couldn’t take my computer with me when, well you know, that happens. Death, passing over, heading for the light.
I had a humorous moment of fantasizing about what it would be like to take it with me when I die, blogging and posting messages to everyone while it was happening.
“And … Guys, I’m in the tunnel now, yes that tunnel. Bigger than I thought it would be. Hey, you won’t believe who I saw first thing in front of the tunnel! Yes HIM. He’s very nice. It’s all a teensy bit scary but I see the light at the end and everyone has been very helpful and encouraging so far. I’m feeling OK, really, I’m fine, dealing with it. It’s happening! I’ll keep you posted. Later, folks.”
It was actually empowering to lose my computer and discover that my best friend and constant companion was a thing. A thing that breaks. And a false friend. A friend who would not be with me at the end.
I feel oddly liberated to know this.
What about you? Are you attached to something more than is recommendable? Anything you’re addicted to? Will you be OK letting go? And do you realize you can’t take it with you?
Later, folks. That’s all I’m confessing to for now.
Now, if you are looking for a life-coach who is so highly evolved she doesn’t blink when her laptop crashes, then I’m probably not your gal.
However, on the one hand, I’ve been there, done that, and survived!
On the other, who wants to work with someone that evolved?
Contact me for all issues non-computer related and for help getting your life to work. Finding purpose, finding your niche, your voice, creating a new career, surviving transitions. I can help.
Sessions available online or in person in San Miguel. Great Mexican prices too. Check it out here.