We didn’t even declare to each other that we were racing home from my parents’ house, but when I took a strategic “shortcut” my wife must have known it was on. She caught up to me on the highway and passed me when I picked the wrong lane of cars at the traffic light.
Three blocks from the house, we were stopped again for a traffic light, “Daddy! Don’t let Mom beat us!” Even worse than peer pressure… prodding from your own child! I jerked the wheel left onto a side street and then right, then left again just in time to see my wife pull on to our street in my rear view mirror. The detour worked. “We did it buddy,” I said with a triumphant fist pump, “we beat Mom home.”
Okay, so I’m competitive! But who likes losing anyway? We spend our entire childhood competing and striving to win. But when we become adults we are presented with opportunity for a paradigm shift when it comes to winning.
While researching the ways that wildly successful people broke free from their workaday drudgery to become rock stars of industry, I was inundated with quippy, ironic quotes and a story of the many shots Michael Jordan missed in his storied career. As if to sum up the secret to success so it fits on a bumper sticker:
“Fail faster; succeed sooner.” ~Attributed to David Kelley of IDEO
But there’s more to it than that, isn’t there? You can’t just live your life failing in every endeavor waiting for your WD-40®, Slinky®, Post-It® or your Penicillin Cinderella story to drop in your lap. No, it’s not that simple; there is a method to the madness. Being deliberate can lessen the pain of defeat and learning from the failure can actually make it a success.
Begin with a goal in mind. I want to get better at insert goal here . As an adult we can choose the “game” in which we want to succeed, if you follow my metaphor. Write your goal down somewhere you won’t lose it and hold yourself accountable to that goal!
Find someone who is closer to your goal than you are; learn from them in as many ways as possible. Follow them, ask them why and what-ifs scenarios. Try to copy the things they do well and attempt these things for yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help if/when you screw up!
Big goals may need incremental “coaches” along the way. For example I wouldn’t try to take up fencing by practicing with an Olympic level fencer on my first day.
I would probably be subject to more embarrassment than I am prepare to face and may not even learn that much because my “opponent” is out of my league. In the same way, you should look for a coach that is far enough along to help, yet not so far advanced that they have forgotten what it’s like to be in your shoes.
Seek out opportunities that will provide feedback and do your best to graciously accept constructive criticism. When you seek out these situations, you have the distinct advantage of expecting or even inviting criticism. Which means you will be receiving on your terms and you should prepare yourself to accept the criticism.
Now that you’ve identified a weakness, the actual work starts. Immerse yourself in every relevant resource you can get your hands on.
Whether you rely on another person, books, magazines, internet articles and videos or any combination of these; you’re going to have to gather these seemingly unrelated bits of information in an amorphous brain blob and work for your light bulb moment or your click. Bounce your new knowledge and ideas off of some trusted peers and coaches, they can help you digest and relate your new info bits.
Finally, learn to recognize when you’ve actually achieved your goal. Take some time to celebrate your accomplishment. Honestly, it’s hard work intentionally exposing your own weaknesses and your psyche could probably use some time to level out while you plan your next endeavor.
Just think, if you had never challenged yourself to improve on your weakness you would still be stuck where you were!
Stay tuned for the next post on the bravest thing anyone could ever attempt!