Did you know as an inventor, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before finally succeeding? When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Imagine if Edison had quit at 500 unsuccessful attempts? He would not have been the inventor of the light bulb! Most of us cannot imagine keeping at one goal for more than twenty attempts, let alone one thousand attempts. Yet consider that each attempt to follow had the lessons of the prior attempts incorporated into its plan and execution. As Wayne Dyer once said, “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” It appears that Thomas Edison installed this mindset beautifully. As we model a new way of approaching our desires and goals, we create a new lens through which to look at risking failure.
Most of us have been conditioned to feel frightened, and potentially ashamed and humiliated at the prospect of failing. Yet if we review any great accomplishment in human history, they all involved some failure and crisis of faith, and usually more than once. I love to imagine that under the name and accomplishments of the great leaders and inventors of the world, would be included the number of times they failed or in more truthful terminology, “kept at it,” learning and incorporating the lessons into the next iteration of their continued effort. This requires, as my mentor Mary Morrisey puts it, “brave thinking.”
What if we could see our attempts at something bold and potentially great for others as feedback first? Consider all the things we did by failing first, beginning with walking. Has anyone seen a baby give up and decide he or she was not meant to be a walker? Look at the determination in those eyes! And what about the other things many of us do such as learning to ride a bike, playing an instrument, or learning a sport? There’s a certain acceptance that we must fail or embrace our imperfection in order to learn. But somehow there’s been a disconnection when doing other powerful and important things in our lives that keep us in the land of the mundane rather than going for our dreams and goals. What if we also applied this same acceptance of risk through study, experience and determination when pursuing our dreams and ambitions?
A new lens of perception is a must if we are to overcome the negative stigma that failure has been given. We can no longer assign fear, shame and humiliation to our failed efforts. We must be willing to risk greatly in the interest of our vision, and this requires connecting with our passion for our goal – the original spark that ignited our idea and the excitement at the prospect of delivering it to the world. The passion for our vision is our “why.” By connecting to it daily, we place ourselves in the picture of the successful outcome. In this heightened vibration of feeling and thought, the ideas and inspirations for our next steps are more at hand. While in this state, take notes and serve the ones that have “zing” in them. More than a mental activity, our “heart and gut” come into to guide us, as well. The more we practice connecting in this way, the more we can work on trusting the ideas that come to us. This is not to say that the next steps we are guided to take immediately lead to our success. As with Edison, we are given the needed lessons and insights to keep going and harvesting until our goal is joyfully delivered.
When we go for our dream, we will most likely come up against critics. Our loved ones, however well-meaning, may want to protect us from the pain they perceive in failure, so they try to dissuade us. Others, because of their own fears, will second-guess us with criticism. One of my favorite motivational speakers, Les Brown, put it this way: “No one has ever built a statue of a critic!” It’s easy to be on the sidelines and criticize others’ failures and flops. It’s another thing altogether to dive into the fray and serve one’s vision.
If failure is merely feedback, then how best can we interpret our feedback to keep going? Discernment is key in determining the next steps we’ll take. It may be that you need to refine your idea, do more research and consultation, or turn back a bit, but it doesn’t necessarily mean to quit. It just may be that it’s not the way you thought about it originally. Discernment is found, again, at the same thinking and vibrational state that brought you your idea, so it’s important to connect at the higher level of your goal. One of my favorite phrases when facing a frustrating roadblock in my goal is, “I didn’t come this far to only get this far!” Take a step away for clearing your disappointment and then come back and serve your vision again with new insights and ideas. Rest. Don’t quit! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach this to our children so that it becomes second nature to strive in alignment with what inspires us? It would be a future where the word failure is obsolete!