Continuing to live or exist in the environment where you are certain to fail takes a special kind of courage. Going into battle is brave, fighting for rights and beliefs is brave but improving on what you do and accepting that you may fail again seems more an act of crazy than heroic, masochistic even, unless your failure is forward. What exactly does this mean?
If you don’t understand what failing forward means I can say, you are not alone. It has taken me forever to get it. Failing forward means you willingly, enter the reaching the limits, zone. This is the place where constant exhaustion of the heart and head is certain. Both Will Smith and Denzel Washington, describe it as the place you live, where you are almost certain, to fail. Think of being at a gym and adding the extra kilos to the weight you have successfully lifted. You know it will be impossible to go the next step, you have already reached you limit but you try anyway. Guess what happens? Your body adapts, perhaps not that day but soon after. We are practising controlled failure and that is evolution.
Denzel Washington sheds positivity on what has long been a negative concept. Failure is a way of achieving true success. I know it sounds strange but think of it in this fashion – to succeed you need talent but talent isn’t enough; you need more. Success needs the guts to fail. Denzel says if you don’t fail, you are not really bothering to try. You are staying safe. You are doing the known, following a tried formula, and the penalty is never knowing the true success that is failing – that incredible moment you take one more step into the unknown. You see, that step leads to evolution, the evolution of the person you want to be, the one you become despite the fierce heart and soul wrenching pain.
Evolution is not comfortable and you will feel like the salmon swimming upstream, against that battering current, and you have to accept you may never find that special place but you are truly alive, truly challenged. You’re not just any ordinary fish. You are one that has found exaltation, affirmation and true satisfaction, a gift from yourself to yourself.
Talking of fish, food is another area where we minimise risks by playing it safe and following recipes to the last grain of salt, after all lasagne is lasagna (Italian spelling). If that were true a vegetarian lasagne would not exist, and neither would the lasagne I made using slices of bread (don’t judge, it was cold, and I didn’t want to go out to the shops, and I was out of lasagne sheets). It was better than delicious, but in all honesty, I was surprised it turned out so well. And, I don’t want to analyse what that may mean.
I have been trying to find a way to better explain, not just to any reader out there, but to myself, what it means to understand this falling forward concept. I recently read an interesting article in Writers helping Writers about mindsets. In it, Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor of psychology and author of the book, Mindset, says “winning is not a place you arrive; it’s a way you behave. And the most successful writers behave with a growth mindset.” This made sense to me – it is a position you place yourself where you are open and flexible, and more importantly, willing to learn so of course you are constantly risking failure. It’s hardly an easy place to be.
Achieving a growth mindset that has us failing forward is surprisingly easy.
- acknowledge the areas where we can do better
- keep learning, read books and blogs, go to lectures, partner with like-minded people or find a coach
- consider the fact that bringing visions to life has impact and this means thinking about impacts along the way and not just the end-goal
- focus on constantly mastering your craft
- be grateful for the people beside you because they ease your travels
It’s about going the extra mile, and remember when you are failing forward that it took failing early and failing often to get you to this place.
What is your take on all this? Let me know as I would love to understand more.