Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pain, Failure & The Only Thing To Fear

Most of these blog entries are of situations… I get to observe something, put some deep thought into it, and then think about how to restructure it so it will produce as much energy as possible. Then in most cases I try it out and see what happens. This one is a little closer to home, it is actually about me directly and an experience I had recently.

Through great friends and some fast-talking, I signed up for a 50 mile ultra-marathon road race called the Cremator. Who in their right mind signs up for a race called the cremator??? Well, anyway, I did. I have done a few marathons, a 200-mile relay and lots of training, so I figured “What the heck?”. We did a ton of training and I gave up all my weekends for the two prior months just to do long, hot, sweaty, painful runs. …and then I did the race, see below to see how it went.

I am not a psychologist, but I am guessing this begins in very early childhood. We start off trying everything as the world provides us feedback, mainly in the terms of some type of pain. We start to build mental models of what we believe is worth trying. Early on it is physical pain of hurting ourselves, but as we grow we experience the emotional pain of things like embracement and belonging. This is a whole new type of pain that hurts from the inside out and, seems to linger on and on.

As we get even older we experience the self-esteem pain of failure. The pain of failure runs deep, it extends emotional pain to a whole new level and can last a lifetime. The pain of failure can run so strong and deep that often it only takes a single experience of it to change a person’s entire life. People will use enormous amounts of energy, build elaborate systems and make severe compromises just to avoid minute levels of the possibility of failure. Not actual failure itself, just the possibility.

The problem with avoiding failure is that failure is what life is really all about. Life is not about the avoidance of failure (we will all fail), it’s about trying and being really great (and fast) at getting back up and learning from the failures we do have (…repeat). Examine your life and I bet the greatest moments came right before failure, or the possibility of failure and right after. I am fairly certain that your greatest growth and learning came directly from failure. Consider these quotes:

Life is not about avoiding the falls, we will all fall; it is about getting back up. :D
John E. Smith  

As we move into the business world, failures take on a whole new meaning. We expect people to execute on completely new challenges with zero failures. The pressure to avoid failure becomes so strong that most people stop trying or hide failures. When people stop trying your competition starts to pass you by and when people hide failures they create a bad culture eventually blowing up into a catastrophe. When people don’t fear failure they try more things, failures show up at lower levels that simply turn into learnings along the way to success. By creating a culture where small failures are welcomed, people will be more innovative and sharing of knowledge, catastrophes can be avoided. 

So I ask you... do you fear pain and failure or will you fear the act of not even trying? Trying! :D

ps… so I failed the Cremator, I made it 30 some miles at which point I started to vomit, which lasted for the next 9 hours. …I started training again 2 days later. :D