We saw it a lot last month, those golden moments of failure.
Athletes who tried their best and didn’t perform as they or we expected.
We saw many Olympians who spent the last four years or more preparing for that moment and found themselves wanting on the day, for whatever reason. That’s the way it goes.
On my bad days or weeks, it’s often a struggle to get out of bed, let alone perform on the world stage. But on their bad days, they still show up.
They shoot their shot anyway, knowing it will fall short. Accepting that this time, it’s just one more leg in their journey to the top of the podium.
And then they get up tomorrow and do it again.
There’s a line on my resume that says, “fire-juggler.”
It’s been quite a few years since my Dad dipped a club into some paraffin, sparked its tip to a flaming ball, and flicked it 15ft through the air at my head. But I’m pretty sure I could still return a couple before setting my hair on fire.
And it’s not like they can ask me to show them in the interview anyway.
Juggling is an overused metaphor for so many great reasons.
For starters, it’s not easy to keep your eye on several things at once.
We can certainly learn to juggle more, but that means being comfortable with dropping those balls a lot more.
Just speed up the rhythm until those flailing wrists are sending them sailing above your head with a 12345671234567123456712…
It doesn’t matter how good we get at juggling; eventually, we have to drop the ball.
It’s not how long we can juggle for that makes us great at juggling.
It’s how quickly we pick the balls up when they fall.
That’s the secret to success.
Be happy to fail.
Accept that you’ll fail.
Prepare to fail.
Get up when you fail.
And look for more ways to fail when you succeed.
Take the biggest, most ridiculous thing that you can think of doing and go fuck that up real good for as long as possible.
Try something so impossible that even when you succeed, you’ll still have only started, so that you can keep on failing.
Fail for the sake of it, and fail at what you love.
There’s nothing worse than failing at something we don’t care about.
And there’s nothing better than failing at something we do — especially because it doesn’t feel like it.
There’s an easy way and a hard way.
There’s a smart way and a silly way.
There’s a simple way and a complex way.
There’s a short way and a long way.
And fortunately, there isn’t a wrong way.
We can go any way our heart desires. But there’s no way we won’t regret it if we don’t give at least one way a try.
And there’s no getting lost because all ways lead home.
Usain Bolt isn’t always the fastest man in the world.
Not all of Stephen King’s books are good.
And even Novac Djokovic occasionally drops a few sets.
All lovers hate each other sometimes.
All parents make mistakes.
Up must come down.
Everything goes around.
Nothing is the same twice.
And everyone gets another turn.
That’s the rules!
Scrapping the participation medal is a great idea. Losing is a prize.
The greatest thing about playing sports is winning, and the same goes for any competition. After all, that’s the point.
And the next best thing to winning?
Losing is the next best thing to winning because it means you were in the race.
People who have been forced to the sidelines are often delighted to lose because they finally got a chance to win.
And if you have been in with a chance for a while, losing usually means you’re a step closer to winning.
Another lesson learned. Another hurdle crossed.
Losing sucks. But it’s a lot more fun than spectating.
Not every day has to be a win.
Most days are going to feel like a tie — at best. Especially when we’re working on something big or important.
Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Failing a bit better than the day before is usually the best we can hope for. And all it takes to fail better is showing up, again.
And that’s plenty.
Some days just don’t have you in them.
We wake up feeling terrible.
We drag ourselves away from the soft, warm sheets and out to the cold, hard day.
We take a swing and miss.
And we miss again.
And we miss again.
And just when it seems like another miss might mean the end of it all…
It’s time to go back to bed.
You can’t hit a home run every time you play.
But that doesn’t make you any less of a big hitter.
Jim Carrey is the guy who wrote a $10 million cheque to himself and it became true.
Some people think he’s weird because he’d go to work with Limburger cheese in his pockets and hug everyone.
But that’s what you get when you hire a method actor.
Other people think Jim is strange because he’s not materialistic and he told Oprah how to manifest 10 million dollars.
But if you want to ‘manifest’ things you have to accept that you don’t need or want them to be happy.
Jim also talks about doing what you love.
He says: you can fail at what you love, and that hurts pretty bad.
But when you fail at what you don’t love — when you compromised and things still didn’t pan out — that’s crushing.
You can fail at what you love, or you can fail at what you don’t love.
There really isn’t a choice.
Our world can descend into chaos pretty quickly if we’re not careful.
When we make a mistake or get something wrong or get betrayed, we trip and fall. We ‘fail.’
But the world has tarnished the word ‘failure’ and made it seem like something to avoid.
Having failed many times before, I can confirm that it’s impossible to avoid failure.
And the most successful people on the planet — whether they’re artists or entrepreneurs or athletes or scientists — know they’re going to fail.
They will even seek it out.
The secret to their success isn’t the ability to avoid failure. Success is your ability to bounce back, get on your feet, and start over knowing you’re going to fall again.
Even if you ‘fail’ by the afternoon EVERY day and get back on the next morning, you’d still be doing — still be ‘winning’ — half the time.
That’s all success is, really.
‘Winners’ are just people who started and failed and got back up again more times than anyone else.
So, up you get.
Elizabeth Gilbert — author of “Eat, Pray, Love” — has a great story about creativity.
She talks about how dozens of people asked if she was worried she would never write something as big as EPL again.
And then she starts thinking, “What if they’re right?“
Those doubts lead to her throwing the next book straight in the bin, never to be read.
To publish another book, Elizabeth tells us how she had to come to terms with the fact that whatever she wrote would never be as successful as Eat Pray Love.
Seth Godin calls this, ‘Giving yourself a D’ so you can move on and make something better. It’s not a Fail but it’s definitely not great.
When I heard this for the 47th time it was like a weight had been lifted.
I was finally free to do some writing. There’s no way I can publish every day without most of it being below average. And none of it will be perfect.
The thinking is that if I write enough, somewhere along the way there might just be something that blows your fuckin’ mind.
But I’m not making any promises; except to show up every day and write.
It’s impossible to ignore the rise of robots.
They’ve gone from ‘awkward factory joke’ to ‘overlords-in-training’ in a handful of years. And it turns out the breakthrough was teaching them how to make mistakes.
Our brains learn through trial and error. For many years, when a robot produced an error it would simply stop, shake, make weird noises, give up, and perhaps leak a little fluid — like many people.
Teaching robots how to accept and learn from errors instead of grinding to a halt completely changed the game. It even makes them more likable.
And robots are happy to make 1,000 mistakes an hour because they don’t have egos (yet), so you can bet they’re learning fast. Really fast. Here they are, practicing a dance to celebrate their global takeover.
It would be deeply ironic if we wiped ourselves out by teaching robots to do the very thing we haven’t yet mastered: learning from our mistakes.
That saying about making lemonade was written by a bloke called Elbert Hubbard in 1915, shortly before a German U-Boat sank him.
As his boat sank, he calmly remarked, “Well, Jack, they have got us. They are a damn sight worse than I ever thought they were.”
He then locked himself in his cabin with his wife and waited to drown.
I’m not sure if I would call that making lemonade.
Elbert had written that famous phrase in the obituary of his friend, a famous entertainer called Marshall P. Wilder:
“He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade stand.”
And he was right: Marshall was born with achondroplasia when many people regarded it as a severe disability.
And Marshall would have told you that life gives us lemons because life is usually pretty sweet. It just wouldn’t taste any good without some bitterness.
Just like good lemonade, we need that bitter tang. It might overwhelm the sweet at first, but it always balances out in the end.
Remember, when life throws you a lemon, it’s all part of the recipe.
And you’re definitely sweet enough to take it. 😉