The secret to success is found in failing and failing often.
This might strike you as counterintuitive and for good reason. We’re taught early that failure is the result of a lack of ability, effort or both. Consequently, we learn failure is to be avoided. Failure is embarrassing. Failure is for failures.
Many of us have carried this aversion to failure into adulthood and it’s holding us back.
The hidden truth is there's a secret power in failure that is accessed only by planning to fail more often.
Fear Of Failure Will Stunt Your Growth
Research tells us the fear of failure negatively impacts our motivation by pushing us towards goals and activities that make us feel good about ourselves rather than those that move us beyond our comfort zones. The impact of this fear can be seen in children as young as 7-years-old.
A study conducted by Stanford and The University of Chicago examined the impact of two types of praise, one that focused on a kid's effort, the other on a kid's characteristics. Those who received praise that regularly pointed out their effort (e.g., "You really tried hard on that") later in life opted for challenging tasks, developed strategies for overcoming obstacles and believed a person's intelligence wasn't fixed but could grow.
On the other hand, those kids who regularly received praise that pointed out their abilities (e.g., "You're so good at math") avoided challenging tasks out of fear that their failure would also be understood as part of their make-up, too. These kids were more inclined to internalize failure and it impeded their development.
A fear of failure will stunt your growth, extinguish your creative spark and make you victim to procrastination. Don't let this happen.
Growth Demands Failure
One way to overcome your fear of failure is to recognize that growth demands failure. It's not accidental. It's not optional. It's a requirement, our bodies teach us as much.
In fact, bodybuilders recognize that in order to maximally grow their muscles, they need to work until they achieve muscle failure, that point where your muscle can't be fully contracted. It's during these time that lactic acid is released, triggering not only a painful burning sensation but muscle growth. There is power in pushing yourself beyond what feels comfortable.
Arnold Schwarzenegger understood this commitment to excruciating failure wasn't for everyone: "This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That's what most people lack: having the guts to go on and just say they'll go through the pain, no matter what happens."
The next time you see someone with a picture perfect physique (or business), you can trust they achieved it through repeated failure.
Failure Is Fruit
Frankly, the truth about failure and success is straightforward. You can succeed only if you try. If you try, you will likely fail. Fail enough and you just might succeed.
You've likely heard the story of Thomas Edison's thousand failed attempts at the light bulb or about Walt Disney getting fired by a newspaper because he "lacked imagination."
Yet, those failed attempts were fruit that came from the same tree as their successes. Those failed attempts were proof, to themselves and the outside world, that they were bringing something to bear in the world, that they were using their resources to attempt something great. If anyone needed proof, they could see the fruit of their failure.
It's true, there are good ways to fail and bad ways to fail and we will get into that in another post. But, please, make no mistake. If you plan to succeed then you better plan to fail.
T.D. Jakes is a charismatic leader, visionary, provocative thinking, entrepreneur and compassion humanitarian with a voice that has reverberated from the world's most prominent stages. His look at life comes from the perspective of a father, a student, a pastor and a friend. His daytime talk show will be premiering this fall across the nation. Follow @tdjakesshow on Twitter!