Friday, June 14, 2019

Opportunity For Delayed Success

Chained to fear

There are very few things in this world that I'm scared of. I have horrible "needlephobia". Having endured spinal meningitis when I was 5yo and being held down while doctors performed spinal taps left me with an indelible phobia for those evil little pieces of hypodermic horror. As a rational adult, I understand that needles won't hurt me, yet I still suffer anxiety when I have to get a shot or have blood drawn. Our minds are exceedingly powerful, and we have a tremendous internal struggle for conscious thought to overcome unconscious thought. The struggle between rational and irrational.

The other thing I am horribly afraid of is failure. I'm not talking about losing a game or something inconsequential. I'm talking about big failings. Failing as a parent, failing as a leader, failing as a person. My entire life I have put a great deal of pressure on myself to be successful and to avoid failure. In 2001 I learned a very valuable lesson on failure. I became a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor and began teaching people how to ride a motorcycle. I'll give you the straight skinny...there are some folks who should NEVER ride a motorcycle. But it's this teaching experience that taught me about fear and failure. I'd see a perfectly able bodied person get on the motorcycle for the first time and be absolutely paralyzed by fear. Their motor skills were impaired, their decision making skills were impaired, and they became their own worst enemy. Fear wrecked their ability to perform even the simplest of tasks on the motorcycle. Then there was failure. I watched several students crash, some sustaining injuries, who would get up bleeding and jump right back on the bike. Some would quit, but some would insist they could do it and they'd keep trying and failing until I'd have to make a judgement call and remove them from the course before they seriously hurt themselves or others. I was taught during my training to become an instructor to never tell anyone they "failed". When a student failed the course, I'd ask them, "How do you think you did?". They would usually respond with "I guess I failed". I'd tell them, "No, you have been given then opportunity for delayed success". Most of the time they knew what I meant as I explained to them that they could retake the class again and I discussed their areas for improvement. Some felt patronized and got angry. One student even paced back and forth in the parking lot after class. I was fearful he was going to retaliate against me for honestly assessing his lack of skill development.

As humans, we're imperfect. We make mistakes. If you've read my other blog posts, you'll know I talk a great deal about servant leadership and how a great leader should always be the person who helps their team and individual team members succeed. They should be the biggest cheerleader. The master motivator. Failure in and of itself isn't bad, but the fear of it can be crippling. In my career, I have stayed in roles I hated and worked for bosses who were less than optimal out of fear that I wouldn't be able to pay my bills if I left. But I've also taken the leap of faith and found something better on the other side. Far too often we find ourselves trading our life for a paycheck. We spend the bulk of our waking hours working. Some are content to just "do their time" and trade their most valuable asset...time...for money. Once that minute is gone, you can't get it back. There are no more "opportunities for success" for that moment. It's gone. No redos. No mulligans. I've always been the type person who sees my job as validation for who I am. When you meet someone, they ask, "What do you do?" and I proudly tell them about the work that I do. I have a great deal of passion, drive, and desire for excellence. I believe that's the quality that separates someone who just goes to work to "turn the crank and punch the time clock" and someone who enjoys success and achieving goals.

I recently read Marshall Goldsmith's book, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There". Through that reading I discovered I'm what he calls a "success addict".  While this might be a good thing in some contexts, it feeds that fear of failure. I always want to be my best and deliver success. But there are many things I'd like to accomplish but don't attempt out of the fear of failure. The old syndrome of, "If I can't win, I won't play". This is totally detrimental to success. Our failures are our best teachers. They humble us. They educate us. They make us wise. I watched an interview with Valentino Rossi, one of the greatest motorcycle racers to ever live, in which he discussed that crashing is how you become a better rider. You don't know where the limit is until you cross it. Then you learn. John Calipari, coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team once said, "We win or we learn, but we never lose".

If you find yourself in a position where you feel you've failed. Keep an open mind and try to find the good in the situation. Our lives are filled with ups and downs, and we should be thankful for the down times as they teach us and help us enjoy the good times that much more. If you feel you have failed, or that you are experiencing a setback, don't just accept it. Be determined, tenacious, passionate, and positive...you may have been given "an opportunity for delayed success".

Rest if you must, but don't you quit

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