Failures Happen On The Way To Goals

This weekend, while walking through the park, I saw an interesting thing. One adult was teaching another how to ride a bicycle. One was holding the seat and pushing, and shortly after letting go, the rider fell. Generally everyone learns to ride a bike like this, learning requires a combination of time and failures, until success is finally reached. Although most of us learn this as children, we all had a similar process, a string of many failures until success was ours.

As adults, many of us have similar procedures in many realms. Maybe we are starting a business, maybe we are trying to lose weight, maybe we are trying to find a spouse. Whatever the goal, we likely have many failures on the way, but if the goal means enough to us then we keep trying. Much like we never said "riding a bike isn’t for me, I give up," we also have goals as adults which are very meaningful. Failures can be frustrating, and for a time it may feel like success is not possible. But, if failures make you want to give up, then my first question is whether or not it means enough to you. If a goal means enough, we make it happen no matter how much failure. It usually isn’t easy, it usually doesn’t happen overnight, but we do what we need to in order for it to happen.

Failures happen on the way to goals. The question is what happens next, does the goal mean enough to you to keep going?

Be In The Moment

Of the several tremendous experiences I had in Nepal, one of the best was rafting down the Trishuli River. Paddling an inflatable boat through tough rapids does not always sound like fun, but once you are on the river, everything changes. Making this an even more unique experience was the fact that several different languages were spoken on the boat. Communication was not verbal, it couldn’t be because no one would know what anyone else was saying.

In today’s world we spend so much time not in the moment. We spend so much time on our phone, worried about what is next, what we have, what we do not have, and what we need. When doing something like rafting, there is really no option other than to be in the moment, paddling in unison, holding on through big bumps, and getting soaked as blasts of water hit the passengers. We may not have been able to have conversations with each other, but we laughed together, worked together, and truly bonded. The boat ride was truly something I would describe as ecstasy.

Dangerous adventures might not be for everyone, but living in the moment is. Find activities which have you in the moment. If you cannot do a certain activity without thinking about what is next, what is missing, or what is wrong, then that activity likely is not for you.

Be in the moment. Find a way to get there as often as possible. It is the only place where true joy and ecstasy happen.

Find Your Limited Contexts

Yesterday I tried eating an avocado seed. It was after I read this article that I decided to give it a try. I probably consume at least 500 avocados per year, but not once have I thought about consuming the seed until reading this article. Every single time before yesterday, I discarded the seed without a moment’s thought.

There are likely places in the world where people eat the seed by default. In places like this, discarding the seed would be considered a waste, and no one would ever give that a moment’s thought. Just by having a different context, not only would these people do something completely different, but they don’t even consider the alternative as an option.

Situations where there is more than one option that is never even considered applies in a surprising number of places. Even just working as a coach, I have seen it in how people choosing how to deal with family, responding to an unhappy work situation, deciding who pays for certain things, and deciding what to eat. One person might choose to do anything to make their work situation better with no thought of quitting, while another would quit as soon as they are unhappy. One person may go to Yelp to find a restaurant as soon as they are hungry, while another looks for the nearest supermarket.

Sometimes we have a very limited context without even realizing it. This is why it is wonderful to travel often, and why communication is so important. Seeing other situations and learning the context of others will help recognize when such limiting situations exist within us. This not only gives you many more options for your own life, but it greatly helps you in interactions with others.

Find your limited contexts. Your life will change in ways that you never imagined possible.

Know When A Leap Is Needed

Sunday I had the pleasure of trying trapeze for the first time. It was a wonderful activity, and getting to the point of letting go and being caught by another swinger was one of the greatest feelings I have had in awhile. Before all that great stuff happens though, one must think about the takeoff. Trapeze starts at least 40 feet in the air on a tiny platform. From this tiny platform, the next step is to grab the bar and jump forward. Even with a net below, this takes an enormous leap of faith. I learned very fast myself that without this jump, the ensuing swing does not have nearly enough power, and any type of trick or catch will not be possible.

Climbing to the top is scary, there is nothing supporting you, and only a net 20 feet below can stop someone who falls. The platform provides a comfort zone of sorts, because reaching there provides momentary relief. Jumping off this platform is extremely uncomfortable and requires leaving the only thing in the area which feels safe, something which is very difficult to rationalize in our minds. But, without this jump, we can pretty much guarantee that our swing will be unsuccessful.

There are so many places in which the same idea applies. I spoke with someone this week who is starting a business. They have all the pieces in place, i.e. they have climbed the ladder, but now they have to leave their current job and a few other comfortable situations to give things a real chance. Without this jump, they will fail, that part is certain. With the jump, anything can happen, but reaching their big goals requires it. So, while it may be extremely uncomfortable, the question of making this jump is not if, but when. Waiting longer only will delay the goals.

A similar idea applies to starting a romantic relationship. One can date someone and be very guarded, never sharing themselves, never taking a big leap of vulnerability. Much like many people had great days on Sunday without swinging on a trapeze with me, being this guarded is a totally acceptable course of action. But, being this guarded also guarantees not moving forward with that relationship. If the goal is to move forward with a serious relationship, then the leap has to be taken at some point. It will be uncomfortable at times, and anything can happen as a result of this leap, but it may lead to something great.

Know when a leap is needed. To get what we truly want, we will have to leave our comfort zone at times. Leaps can be scary, but they can lead to something great.

Follow The Process to Big Goals

When you have big goals, you are often in process. This is how it has to be by mere definition, big goals do not happen quickly, otherwise they aren’t big goals. This "in process" time might involve some amount of risk, it might provoke a bit of anxiety, and it might produce a legitimate amount of doubt. All of this is completely normal. Very few successful businesses opened and then suddenly were worth millions with no doubt or side steps along the way. Very few people meet the person with whom they spend the rest of their life without "failing" with several others.

When being in process means any type of overwhelm, doubt, anxiety, or risk, remind yourself of the bigger goal. While it may sound appealing right now to go back to a place with very little risk where everything is safe, this is not what you wanted when you set the big goals in the first place. I can tell you first-hand, I would certainly be "ok" if I was still in Maryland, but instead I took a big risk with a lot of big steps and a lot of doubt, and now I reap the benefits every single day.

Generally, what you are doing at times like these when you feel anxiety and doubt is taking one or two data points and making them into a pattern. Just because you had recent setbacks does not mean everything you do is a failure. Recent setbacks means nothing more than you had recent setbacks. Any meaning you assign beyond this is your decision, and a decision that you do not have to make.

Follow the process to big goals. Remember you always get to write your own story. This means you choose which events are most important, and you get to choose the ending.

What Holds You Back Here…

Last night I took a class in tumbling. It turns out that I can do a standing back flip, i.e. I am able to jump from a standing position, flip my entire body backwards, and land without breaking my neck. However, I am very far from doing this without a spotter and mats, and the reason is my own fear.

Sometimes fear is completely warranted. Without adequate training, there was a legitimate chance I would land on my neck, and my life would instantly change for the worse. Something needs to stop me from doing flips whenever the mood may strike me. However, sometimes the fear is completely in my head. Last night, the landings were into a foam pit, with no chance of injury. With the spotter and the foam pit, it turned out I had no trouble at all doing a flip. But, it took me several minutes of overcoming fear to even attempt it.

Fear without danger is a context. The magical thing about context is that when it appears in one place, it always appears somewhere else, likely in several places. This means that fear when there is no danger is also the exact thing holding me back in other parts of my life, not just in doing flips. I spent a lot of time reflecting last night on this, and have ideas for moving forward, and breaking other barriers. This work is not always enjoyable, but much like landing a flip, the results can be pretty amazing.

What holds you back here… holds you back everywhere. Learn to identify your contexts, and break through them on every front possible. The results are always worth it.

Look On The Other Side Of Fear

This week I went snowboarding for the first time. I have very little experience with "winter sports," having gone skiing only a handful of times, with the last being 2011. Two straight days this weekend was quite an immersion. Early on, I was very tentative. Even standing for more than a few seconds became difficult, there was fear of picking up too much speed and fear of crashing into something. My mind was often thinking about what the repercussions of an injury would be, something like a hurt wrist would mean many weeks of no training.

Eventually I remembered that I am here to truly try snowboarding. As long as I do everything tentatively and with fear, I am not giving it a full shot. As long as I worry about the effects of a possible injury, I am not really trying snowboarding, I am just being safe. I decided instead to change my story, and to really go for it. I stopped intentionally trying not to have speed, and let it all go. I still fell several times but I went down the mountain much faster, and quite honestly it felt amazing. By the end of the second day I was exhausted, but I fully understood why so many people love snowboarding.

Sometimes the safe decision really is best. Many other times, the safe decision is not. Love is never found by being safe, whether it is for snowboarding, for another person, for a place, or for anything at all. As long as you have one eye on what happens if you fail, love and greatness is not possible. Love and greatness never occur when steps to get there are accompanied by constant fear.

Look on the other side of fear. Whatever it is in your life that you are doing, ask yourself if you have fear of failing. What is possible if this fear was not present? Would you love? Would you do something great? Would you have a lot more fun? Then ask yourself if it is truly needed. The other side often is a source of much excitement and happiness, it just takes a leap of faith to get there.