Failure is an Illusion

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Want to succeed? Get ready to look stupid.

In fact, success IS being outside of the norm, so you have to risk embarrassment to do that. And you have to be willing to be embarrassed over and over again – sometimes in big ways – because else you won’t get in enough attempts to figure out how to make things work, or what even works at all. You’ll emotionally shut down if every failure shuts down your motivation.

When I was younger I had a couple internet businesses. This was before having an internet business was a “thing” and before Amazon was even a thing.

I started these when I was around 20 or so and one night I was at college working on my computer on one of these businesses, and someone I hardly knew came up to me and said “That’s so lame why aren’t you out having fun like someone else – why are you so stupid?”

These words didn’t make me stop my businesses, but they DID stick with me. Somehow I’ll always remember them.

I did eventually stop and, you know what?, there are almost identical multi-million dollar businesses online doing exactly what I was doing who started at exactly the same time.

What if I had kept going? I was too insecure about failure to keep going. All I could think was “I can’t do that” and that stopped me from even starting.

Stopping was my choice.

I wish back then, I knew how to not give a damn about failure. But that took some time.

If you want to win over the long term, you have to learn this skill. But how do you do it?

I think you do it by observing patterns in your life, until your realize that – in nearly all cases – failure and embarrassment aren’t real.

Here are some things you can start to pick up on – you want to realize these patterns as you move through life, and start to ingrain them in your thinking and your character:

1) Reflect on past embarrassments, from years ago. This is easier as you age. Where are those people now? The people who embarrassed you? Some of them might not even be alive. Where is that failure now? Does anyone even care, remember, or even think about it?

Things have a way of passing – even things that seem huge – and if you aren’t in physical danger or in prison, they’ll pass for you too. The only things you absolutely must avoid are things that have a high risk of killing you or things that get you in trouble with the law.

Yes there are things that can scar you emotionally – but you have to be careful not to label everything under that category. And you can be thoughtful as you move through life to avoid those things. But most things don’t fall under that category. And being embarrassed, or even failing in a major one isn’t one them.

2) Reflect on the fact that you’re mortal. 200 years from now. Even 50 years from now. No one will remember you. So you might as well just go embarrass yourself. Try different things, see what works, be yourself, figure out who you are.

You might as well go through some pain too, and work like hell to get what you want. Because you’ll forget the pain, and you might not even get the thing you want, but who cares? You’ll learn from it and move on. Plus, if you’re smart, you’ll learn to amplify the upside of things and eliminate the downside, so even if you fail it’s not too bad.

3) Think about your past pain. Does is still hurt? Does the stomach ache? Does your first breakup still hurt 20 years later? If you’re too young to have perspective on that, I’ll answer the question for you: it doesn’t. You’ll look back and LAUGH at that experience. You’ll probably think “thank god I didn’t end up with that loser.” If you don’t believe me, wait 20 years.

I should also take a moment to apologize to my first boyfriend – you’re not really a loser – I’m just trying to make a point.

Start observing these things and you realize that failure isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. As long as you’re still functioning, you’re still alive, you haven’t failed. You can recover and learn.

One you realize that failure is just an illusion, and that the embarrassment is just an emotional state that you feel, you’ll get a glimmer of what it feels like to not give a damn. This is very freeing, because it’s when you can be yourself and try out new things, and not care about what other people think.

Not giving a damn doesn’t mean being rude or disrespectful — actually those people give a damn. Their rudeness is a defense mechanism against other people. You can still be a perfectly nice, awesome person to be around.

What it means not to give a damn is to be willing to be willing to stick out, to be weird, to have other people – even so called “friends” – tell you what you’re doing is stupid or useless. Because YOU know that doesn’t matter. You’re not playing the same game as them.

That’s your own secret – in your head – it’s your super power, so to speak. You’re not playing the “I need to fit in game”. You’re playing the “I’m going to keep trying and learning game” and live life on my own terms. So to other people that might look like you’re making a fool of yourself a lot of the time, but those people don’t matter because they’re not you.

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