Falling Not Failing
Something we all face off with all the time is the idea of failure. But let's introduce the perspective of Simon Sinek, who asks us to make our definition of “failing” more robust. Similar to how eskimos have different words for different types of snow, we should have multiple ways of communicating about failure. That’s because failure comes in many different forms, at all different levels, and with different implications. The problem is, anytime failure is mentioned we take it to the far extreme and treat it accordingly.
That catastrophic rock bottom failure is far from the norm. It’s actually only a small fraction of the failures we have, and to counter that Sinek encourages us to consider one additional definition. Instead of “failing”, call it “falling”. Kind of like a kid who is learning to walk, when you’re doing something new you’re likely to fall. But that’s not a major failure, it’s something that simply didn’t go completely according to plan. “Falling” is experiencing a setback that gives you feedback about how to do better next time, and in order to make things right all you have to do is get back up and try again.
When you fall it happens because you’re taking risks and pushing the boundary. Embracing discomfort and acting boldly is a trait I imagine many of us want to embody, but we’re afraid to do it because we’re afraid of failing. That’s not the real consequence. Falling is the consequence. What might happen is you take a small misstep, which is completely normal, you fall down, but you confidently stand yourself back up to try again.
With this new understanding, let’s consider falling more often because it demonstrates our commitment to making progress.
Do A Happy Dance
When you reflect on positivity you probably think about the emotions and mindsets of it. However, it's equally important to focus on the physical expression of positivity. Your thoughts and your feelings are extremely connected and operate as a feedback loop. What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel informs what you think.
Your happy dance is that thing you do when you’re experiencing pure joy. You feel so good, aligned, and fulfilled that your body can’t contain it and you start to physically express the way you feel. I know it’s called a happy dance but it may not have anything to do with dancing. Your happy dance is just a proxy for that way you authentically individualize your state of joy.
For me, it’s a combination of little dance moves and celebratory posing, pumping my fists in the air and hopping around. Whatever it might be for you, allow it to come out when you’re feeling it. That inner child buried inside you is desperate to be acknowledged and heard, and when you do your happy dance it gives that part of you a voice.
Why is it called a happy dance? Well, studies show that when you’re dancing you release more endorphins than you do when you exercise and your body knows no other way to experience that kind of bliss. So by nature we often dance when we feel that way because it’s the most normal thing for us to do in that emotional state. Every morning when I brush my teeth, I put music on and dance because it generates a feeling that informs my thoughts, which primes me to find more joy the rest of the day. You deserve to experience joy, so let yourself, and do your happy dance.
Society has labeled addictions a certain way, only representing a fraction of the ways it actually affects society. Even in doing research on the subject, addiction is formally defined as a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance. That’s a pretty narrow definition that only relates to substance-abuse, which of course is a huge problem, but only speaks to one very specific amount.
I think the mutually accepted understanding of addiction is that it’s generally a bad thing. It means that your behaviors and habits are considered to be in excess of what’s required, and it leads to some negative consequences. But even so, those consequences are a spectrum and often don’t have negative effects. In fact, I think we all have everyday addictions that we don’t acknowledge as such because the term is used in such a derogatory and extreme sense.
For example, checking social media more often than you want to is an addiction because it is a compulsion for your unmet need to belong. Compulsive lying can be an addiction to help you receive validation about your self worth. Even biting your nails can be considered an addiction because it soothes and placates during stress.
Once we open up this definition for addiction, we can see what needs aren’t being met in our lives and start brainstorming alternatives to live a more constructive life. As with everything, the first step is awareness - Knowing your negative habits that have a strong hold on you, knowing your defense mechanisms - So that you can grow through them into a more actualized you.
We all know the value of communication. It’s our way of sharing our internal world, whether that be our thoughts, feelings, or desires, so that others can understand what we’re experiencing. Communication is at the heart of every form of collaboration because it helps people get on the same page, no matter if the collaboration is personal, professional, romantic, or creative.
There’s one fatal flaw inherent to communication though. It is extremely inefficient. There are no amount of words you can say that completely represents an internal experience, and for that reason I don’t think you can communicate enough. In fact, I recommend that you overcommunicate when possible.
You’d think that overcommunicating would be too much and beyond what’s required, I mean that’s what “over” means. But that’s also the point because you don’t want to limit your communication. You don’t know how much of your communication is being received, or how well it’s being received, and you need to be sure you’re sharing your message in its entirety. Overcommunicating helps you voice the things that you believe to be assumed and verify that there is a mutual understanding.
And what’s the tradeoff? Maybe you’re a little long-winded and you ramble a little too long. Worst case scenario is someone tells you to stop talking. That’s not so bad to ensure you’re getting your message across.
If communication is at the root of collaboration, and communication is already naturally inefficient, it makes a lot of sense to share more and make sure that you vision and experience is being fully understood.
You know when things work out even better than you hoped, and seemed to magically materialize from nothing? How things came together by no doing of your own and just fall into your lap in the best of ways? That’s "dumb luck", but I think the term itself discredits what is actually happening.
First to call something 'dumb' is simply incorrect. With the infinite intelligence that exists around us it’s naive to call anything related to your environment 'dumb'. Just because you can’t see or measure what’s happening does not mean that it doesn’t exist. There is more design and intention behind every element of your life than you realize and it’s important to respect that.
Then the word luck. I think a better word to use is "coincidence". I don't mean the traditional definition of coincidence that involves randomness, but instead the root etymological meaning. To co-incide means for things to happen together. There doesn’t need to be an element of luck or chance in what things coincide. What often happens is that we can’t perceive the synchronicity in the event, and therefore we rationalize it as a random occurrence. Again, this isn’t respecting the nature of what is actually happening in a more divine way.
In either case, if you choose to see dumb luck as a random fluke or pre-destined serendipity, it’s important to maximize the opportunity in front of you. Those who get the farthest in life do the most with the advantages they have access to. So if you want to find ways to advance your career, network, or skills, you’re going to need to take advantage of your strokes of good fortune so that they produce real outcomes.
Inaction Is Also An Action
It's important to take action and be the doer that creates your world. While I still do strongly advocate for that, there’s more to the equation than you might first think. Obviously everything you do is an action-step in your life, but also everything you don’t do is an action-step as well. More briefly put, inaction is also an action.
When we think about taking action we think about the new and novel activities or behaviors we introduce to our lives. They leave an impression because they are being done consciously within our awareness, and therefore are very top of mind. But the far majority of our actions and behaviors are done at an unconscious level. They’re still actions, we just aren’t aware of them and therefore we don’t label them as such. Your inaction on one thing does not lead to nothing... It leads to you doing something else that you’ve been habituated to doing. That is still action. Instead of beginning a new workout routine, you resort to the inaction of scrolling through social media. Instead of speaking up about a new idea at work, you recoil into a sequence of self-defeating thoughts about your creativity.
Your behavior is the language of your identity, and what we call “inaction” is actually just a proxy for taking action on the things that are already comfortable, habitual, and sub-conscious. By not taking the desired action, we revert to doing the same things we’ve always done and strengthen the sub-conscious belief we have about that thing. It makes overwriting that your identity (which is done by taking a new action) that much more difficult the next time.
Every choice you make is a tradeoff. You can do new things that generate new results in your life. If you don’t you’ll be relegated to taking the same old actions that lead to the same old outcomes. The choice is yours but recognize that even inaction is actually an action.
There Is No Small Act Of Kindness
There are random moments that may come up in your day where you do something “small” to help someone out. At a grocery store they drop their basket, and you help them pick up their groceries. Or you give a subtle compliment to a stranger and then walk away. While these things don’t take much effort on your end, the impact is truly infinite. Which means they’re not actually that small of acts of kindness, even though they feel that way.
Something I believe to be true about the world is that it has a disproportionate nature to it. The amount of effort, difficulty, or intention you put into something creates an outcome that is disproportionately large in return. A perfect example is introducing two people. You take the 5 minutes to draft up an email and it could lead to mentorship, collaboration, or a new business. The possibilities are endless and far greater than the amount of effort you put in.
Your kindness is the same. Your smallest contribution creates a permanent shift in the universe that grows and continues to interact with people, creating change on a larger magnitude than you can conceive. The world is not linear, it is exponential, and if you want the world to be a kinder place then you just figured out your solution. Add more kindness and let it compound!
There is no small act of kindness, truly, even though it might feel small to you in the moment. I hope this encourages you to invest your energy and attention into more acts of kindness, knowing that the universe’s natural process will amplify it and allow it to touch those who need it.
A Poke, A Slap, A Ton Of Bricks
There are an infinite amount of ways our lives can go. Sometimes we’re pulled into things we have no business doing and we grow comfortable in that thing. It could be a job, a relationship, or a tension that you just grow accustomed to. Other times you’re called into a greater purpose, a destiny or role that only you can fulfill and your entire body is screaming to pursue it. But it’s scary, uncertain, and unknown. There is something larger in store for all of us that calls us to take action, but you don’t have to do it alone. The Universe or God or source, or whatever you choose to believe is guiding you the entire time.
But it can only do so much, and it’s a two way street. As much as it might be telling you what to do, you need to be willing to listen. And if you don’t listen then it’s going to need to try harder to get your attention. That brings me to today’s thought - A poke, a slap, a ton of bricks. The universe escalates how it communicates to you, making it more forceful and obvious until you get the hint.
It starts off with a poke. It lets you know that the possibility is there, and lines up other little coincidences or synchronicities for you to start putting the pieces together. It’s subtle but if you’re really listening, you’ll hear it. Then if that doesn’t work, it’ll slap you. It will do something that jolts you and really brings your attention to the path. It’ll shake you around but in a non-harmful way, demanding that you acknowledge it in some capacity. Then if that doesn’t work, it resorts to a ton of bricks. It will do something so undeniable and clear that you need to change. It uses trauma, emergency, or deep emotions to give you no alternative and forces you do what’s best for you.
Well just over a week ago, I got slapped around a bit. The universe gave me a much stronger sign than I had been receiving before that told me clearly how I’m playing in fear. I’m staying comfortable and although I’m projecting big I’m playing small. And I took the sign. I’m leaving my full-time job, doubling down on myself, and stepping into that uncertainty, doubt, and fear. I’m trusting what feels right for me and my path. And it might be coming at you too. It might be a poke, it could be a slap, and eventually it could turn into a ton of bricks. Look out for those signs, and take action as you think is necessary.
Cruise control is a setting in a car where it maintains the same speed, it’s often used on a freeway or highway and ultimately makes driving easier because it gives you one less thing to think about. Similarly we have certain decisions, behaviors, and patterns in our lives that put us in our own personal cruise control, opening up attention to focus on other things. That could be great in certain situations, and bad in others. How do you know which is which?
Cruise control is also known as "autopilot", and psychologically what that means is you’re engaging in behaviors with little effort. More technically, it means that your behavior is being driven by your subconscious. When you put in the work to train your subconscious and your habits to perform a certain task, and you know it’s beneficial for you, then cruise control is a great thing because you can do more of what you want to do without having to put in the effort. This is where creating a plan to build systems around a positive habit can be scalable and effective for you in the long term.
On the other hand, cruise control can be a bad thing. In areas where you want things to be dynamic, where you’re actively pushing for improvement, cruise control can be limiting. The first step to behavior change in any capacity is awareness, and by the nature of it cruise control operates without your awareness. Once you gain an awareness of the habit you can determine how it is currently serving you, and create a plan to help it best serve you.
The summary here: There’s a lot of opportunity to improve your life by recognizing the subconscious “cruise control” habits you have. Design more of the good and become aware of more of the bad so you can do something different, if needed.
Learn From Legends
I was listening to a rare podcast interview with Darren Hardy and he said something that was really humbling. As the author of "The Compound Effect" and one of the most influential minds in the self development space, Hardy said that he doesn’t think he has ever had an original idea. Hardy went on to explain that he is constantly learning, processing, and integrating the perspectives of other people to formulate his own.
The way I see it, if Darren Hardy still draws inspiration from those who come before him and serve alongside him, then we certainly have a lot to learn. The beautiful part is that this information is available at our fingertips. There was a day where you had to go to a library to checkout a book and learn, or travel to a speaking event to hear your role model talk. We can access everything we need instantaneously which accelerates our ability to learn and grow exponentially.
Your next great idea, or the solution you’ve been looking for, is already out there and has probably been shared by someone who came before you. Instead of retreating and feeling disempowered by that, you can feel motivated and inspired to pursue that information. What will always be entirely unique is your context. No one will ever interpret information exactly the same as you because your life experience is solely yours. So the idea might not be original, but the understanding always is, which allows you to contribute something novel.
But in order to gain that key insight, you need to be a sponge. You need to soak in the wisdom of others and let it influence you. And if the books, podcasts, videos, and worksheets aren’t enough, reach out to that person directly! You’ll be shocked to learn how accessible some people are when you approach them with a genuine curiosity about their work.
Anti-Expectation with Matthew Zachary
As a contrarian thinker, Matthew Zachary presented an interesting philosophy about introducing change to the marketplace. In describing this thought he mentions a book that has a very logical title for the topic - "Disruption".
It takes an extra step of empathy to do, but being able to deliver on the wants and needs of others before they voice them to you is a game changing skill to develop. It's relevant because it also applies to yourself and your own development. If you continue meeting your own needs as they exist at face-value, you’re going to be missing an opportunity to dig deeper and get to the root of what would be most valuable to you.
"I get by with a little help from my friends."
Unfortunately we live in a culture where many people view asking for help as a weakness. If you need help that means you’re not capable of it yourself, which reflects negatively on who you are. But that doesn’t make sense. Are you expected to be the absolute best at everything? We know that can’t possibly true, and asking for help is actually a strength because it allows you to focus on what you’re good at and get support where you need it. Ask anyone who’s done well for themselves and they’d tell you the same. So the first piece to this - You need to let others help you.
And all you need is a little help. It’s not like you’re completely reliant on other people to manage your own well-being. In getting help you’re not undervaluing your own ability to get things done, you’re supplementing it by tapping into the skills and perspectives of others. When you ask for help, you’ll find that people are happy to give it to you. It makes others feel good when they can help because it reminds them of their own capabilities, so you’re giving them a little gift in opening them up to your world and how they can be supportive. The world is only give and take if you choose to see it that way. I prefer to see it as give and give, because then value can be transferred and received.
So let’s tie it all together - "I get by" (access the things you need, when you need them) "with a little help" (it actually doesn’t pull people that far out of their way) "from my friends" (who are all around us people we don’t even know that intimately). You’re not the only person on this planet for a reason, we all need some help sometimes, we’re all capable of offering help as well.
How To Disagree
The beautiful and sometimes frustrating part of life is that we’re all different. With our own histories and experiences, we see things different ways, and often that leads to disagreement. Today I want to share what I’ve learned about how to fairly, honestly, and effectively disagree with someone.
First, it’s important to not wrap yourself in the idea that you have to be right. If we disagree with someone and engage them about it, it’s likely because we want to convince them of our view point. If that’s the intent of the interaction, then you need to be prepared to change your perspective because that’s the other person’s objective as well. If you want someone else to be open to a new way of thinking, you first must be open to a new way of thinking, and setting a constructive, non-defensive, inquisitive tone to the conversation will be mutually beneficial.
Then, when it comes to the core argument, don’t seek to prove the other person wrong. Any form of personal attack will violate the openness of the conversation and it can turn defensive very quickly. So the best thing to do is ask clarifying questions, have them elaborate on points you don’t understand, and after knowing what they believe you can share your honest perspective on their opinion.
Something that goes a long way is communicating how your opinions have changed based on their insight. Although it may only be subtle, it affirms that you are listening, internalizing, and interested to learn. In approaching the conversation as a mutual learning opportunity, you encourage the other person to be more open to learning as well through your actions.
At the end of the day, sometimes it’s just not worth it to align on everything with everyone. Pick your battles, know that everyone is entitled to seeing things their own way, and have confidence in yourself, your intuition, and your own perspective.
Value isn’t fixed, it’s actually very moldable and subjective, meaning that it very much can be a matter of opinion.There are 3 different components to value that I think are important to keep in mind when determining something’s worth.
The first piece is the context. The urgency and scarcity of something drives how valuable it is perceived to be. For example there’s no cost on air. It is abundant and around us every day. But if you’re drowning underwater I imagine you’d pay quite a bit for some air. That’s an extreme example but it demonstrates how important context is.
This leads to the second component of value, which was referenced - Perception. Perception includes context because it includes how all people view things through their own relative lens, and draw their own conclusion on how valuable something is. There is where sales comes in, you can create a higher perceived value on something based on how you position it.
Now this leads to the third component, and most importantly, how value can be created. A bar of iron costs $5. Made into a horseshoe it costs $12. Made into needles it’s worth $3500 dollars. A core fundamental resource can be used and manipulated to become something more valuable. You are in a position to create more value in everything you do simply by leveraging it accordingly. Your time, money, and energy can all be spent in any number of ways. But there are some ways that are more valuable, and you can choose to pursue those ways to lift the value of everything you do.
If You Don't Use It, You Lose It
If we want to continue benefiting from certain things in our lives we need to consciously control the way we access it. We’ve been trained to think that there’s not enough to go around, and the responsible thing to do is save it for when you need it. Quotes like “save it for a rainy day” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” really encourage this idea that what we have exists in finite quantities.
But I believe this idea is out of place and that we should think more abundantly about that which we have access to, which is why I’m posing an alternative quote - “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” In fact, there are many everyday examples that abide by this more welcoming principle. Think about your muscles - if you don’t exercise or workout, they decrease in size and begin to atrophy. Or a company budget - if you don’t spend the amount you’ve been allotted you’ll receive less next year. If you don’t use it you lose it. But what I think is more compelling, and the real nugget to today’s thought, are the more subtle ways this concept exists in the world.
First it applies to your creativity. If you don’t actively pursue creative thinking on a consistent basis you will become less creative. And second, which may seem backwards, is your energy. It takes energy to make energy, and being more active throughout the day actually helps you to be be more energized. It’s not that you’re dipping into the well and pulling out finite resources, your creativity and energy are strengthened by being used.
So if the first half is about losing these qualities if you don’t use them, then the second half is that you can grow these qualities if you actively participate in them. If you want more love in your life give more love. If you want to make more money, spend money and invest in developing skills. We’re not meant to protect our resources, we’re meant to share them and exercise them, because then they’ll return in numbers. Reject scarcity for abundance.
Act, Learn, Iterate
One of the foremost philosophies of entrepreneurship is called iterative design. The intent is to slowly make progress and optimize a process through fast trial and error. There are three key phases to iterative design: First is to act. You cannot know how something will actually behave or perform in practice without doing it. In entrepreneurship speed of action is just as important as quality. Then the second phase is learn. Once you’ve seen the results of your action it’s time to get feedback, analyze metrics, and understand the factors that created the result. Then last is iterate. Hypothesize what might be a primary area for improvement, design that into whatever you’re creating, and give it another go.
This cycle of act-learn-iterate isn’t as foreign as you might think. It’s designed into nature as the mechanism of evolution, called survival of the fittest. It’s part of our childhood development when we learn our boundaries and capabilities as a kid. And note that there’s no failure in the process, there are only opportunities to learn. If you keep that in mind as you pursue your own growth, you’ll see the value in your decisions and be more inclined to take action.
You can’t improve until you’ve learned how to make things better. And you can’t learn until you’ve taken the actions to do so. Act, learn, iterate. And do it all over again and again until you’re where you want to be.
"What is meant to be will be."
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make things exactly how we want them. We have a certain expectation on how we want things to be, which could be clearly defined or just a vague idea, but in either case it’s something that we hold ourselves accountable to chasing. There’s a disconnect between how things are and how they’re “supposed to be”, and that can impose a lot of pressure.
The thought I really want to highlight today is - Your path is already in front of you. You don’t need to force fit or make crazy concessions to walk on it. The difficult part is that we don’t always see the truth in the thought that you’re right where you’re meant to be. It may be nearly impossible to comprehend in the present, but as you’ve seen before (and you’ll see again) it’s only after you’ve walked on the path and you’re looking back where you can make sense of the steps that got you where you are.
That’s the shift you need to make if you really want this to work because you do have a role in this. It’s not that it’s all going to happen on its own, it’s that you need to be open to experiencing the uncertain and unexpected in order to allow everything to unfold as it’s meant to. You must have faith in the situations you encounter, good and bad, and understand that they are there for a reason. Each step is part of the process in manifesting what is meant to be.
So with that in mind… breathe. You are exactly where you’re meant to be. It may not feel like it, but it’s true, and it should feel refreshing to know. But it’s important to carry that mindset into the rest of your life so that what is meant to be for you will be.