DID YOU REALLY FAIL, OR DID YOU QUIT?
There’s a difference between failing and giving up. Really, there is. Trouble is, too many of us are getting the two situations totally confused.
Failing and quitting are not interchangeable. All the time we’re telling ourselves something didn’t work when, in fact, we didn’t try everything we could to oil the machine, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
Let me make this absolutely clear: if you walk away from something before you’ve tried every possible option to make it work, you didn’t fail – you QUIT!
Why is it important? Well, from a purely #HippyShit point of view, there’s a big ol’ energy difference between those two states. For the record, I’m slightly at risk of contradicting myself somewhat here; see, I don’t really believe in ‘failure’ in the same way some of you might. Same applies to ‘mistakes’.
For me, if we can find the teaching in any situation – learn from it, use our new found wisdom to do things differently next time – well, I see that neither as a ‘failure’ nor a ‘mistake’ – instead, it’s a really powerful life lesson.
That said, if we go with the mainstream idea of a failure, we’re looking at something that absolutely didn’t work. We tried, yet we didn’t succeed. We can dig around, find all those rich teachings and use the experience to enrich our future. We can hold our head high, safe in the knowledge that we did our best – or, at least, that we did what we could on the day.
There’s a different energy to quitting. Quitting means we walked away. We gave up. Whether we lost hope, lost interest or just stopped caring enough to give it a proper go, the collapse of that particular enterprise is entirely on us. Quitting means we actively, willfully chose to walk away.
That’s not to say, of course, that quitting isn’t sometimes the wisest move. Sometimes the bravest step is to leave something behind – particularly if it’s something that really doesn’t serve us, or is actually making us unhappy or ill. But that still isn’t the same as ‘failing’. Quitting is a choice – it can even be a positive one to be embraced. True failure, however, is something entirely different.
To be absolutely clear here, I’m not talking about situations such as unhealthy relationships, or those scenarios where we can guilt ourselves into believing we haven’t tried hard enough when, in fact, we just need to get the hell out of Dodge.
The scenarios I’m talking about in this column are in a different realm entirely – we might file many of them under work or material adventures though, of course, it’s up to you to define that line.
So, what’s the big deal and why am I harping on about it? Well, my beef with all this is that I’m hearing too many people claim something is a failure, or it doesn’t work, when, in fact, the truth is that they haven’t put nearly enough effort in. Of course, most of the time, people in this situation don’t want to admit they’ve not tried hard enough – ironically, they don’t want to be seen as a ‘failure’, so they blame the situation instead. “Oh, I tried, but it just didn’t work.” No. What you mean is that YOU didn’t work. You literally did not put the work in.
If you claim something doesn’t work before trying everything you reasonably can to make it a success, IT didn’t FAIL. YOU QUIT!
Let me give you an example…
A few years ago, a lovely chap I’d been working with wanted to run a workshop. For the purposes of this column, let’s call him Dave. He was really excited about the idea and it was a solid concept, so I was surprised to hear that he didn’t get enough bums on seats to make it fly.
He was really despondent and couldn’t understand why it hadn’t worked out. He felt the entire universe was working against him and felt dreadfully let down.
When we began to scratch the surface, though, it transpired Dave hadn’t done nearly enough to secure the success of his event.
He’d talked about it at a couple of business networking gatherings, but they were miles away from the venue he’d chosen and the chances of people travelling for this particular event were pretty remote. He’d posted a couple of videos on Facebook and created an event page. That’s it.
So, when Dave sat down with me, head in hands, and told me he’d tried everything, but his event failed – just like everything he’d ever tried had failed – it was time to kindly point out the error of his ways.
Had he tried networking to promote the event close to the venue? No.
Had he contacted relevant businesses within traveling distance of the event? No.
Had he drummed up interest for his event through social media? Partially. He’d dabbled on Facebook, but not posted in any relevant groups, been specific with his targeting or tried any advertising. He hadn’t touched LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, or any of the social networks that were popular at the time.
Had he tried to generate any PR? Newspapers? Magazines? Radio? No.
Had he used any email marketing? No.
Had he picked up the phone, even once? No.
When we laid it all out, Dave was the first to accept that his attempts to make his idea succeed were, at best, half hearted. We dug a bit deeper and found a similar pattern when it came to all those other times in Dave’s past where he’d blamed the world and its wife for forsaking him. All those times he’d believed something to be a failure, the truth was he’d given up. He’d stopped trying. He’d rested on his laurels.
However you want to paint it, Dave had, essentially, quit.
Of course, I could spend ages going into analytical coaching mode, exploring Dave’s habits and beliefs, looking for conflicts and patterns and reasons, but that’s not really what this column is about. Did Dave and I get to the bottom of what was going on? You bet – and I promise you, his outlook changed for the better and his approach to making things work became far more realistic and positive. But, again, that’s really not the point of this story.
The point is, if Dave had continued to believe everything he tried failed, he would likely have given up on his dreams. In reality, nothing was failing – he just wasn’t giving enough passion and effort to making things work and then, when the bottom fell out of his plans, he blamed bad luck and some dodgy karma, rather than looking at how he might approach things differently to achieve a more positive outcome.
At some point, Dave had been so convinced that the odds were stacked against him, he’d created a self-fulfilling prophecy… and he was blissfully unaware of his own self-sabotage.
See, sometimes we genuinely don’t realise we’re giving up, or not giving our all, as opposed to a situation failing us. Sometimes, though, we know exactly what we’re doing. Sometimes, we absolutely know we could have done far more, but we don’t want to admit that to anyone – least of all ourselves.
I’ve talked before about that cartoon that does the rounds on social media every now and then: there are two men, equipped with pick axes and digging for diamonds. On the top level, the guy has turned back, pick axe slung over his shoulder and looking dejected. On the lower level, we can see the other diamond miner, face full of excitement and determination, about to hit the jackpot. Both were at exactly the same place on their journey. One decided his task was fruitless and, I suppose, might have said his quest had failed and the grounds were barren. In fact, he quit one swing of the axe too early. The guy who knew he still had more to give ended up with the swag.
See the difference between failing and giving up? You might argue it’s all about perspective. I’d argue it’s more about self-reflection, self-knowledge and good, old fashioned honesty.
Until next time,