Take a Breather from Perfection
Who would’ve suspected that you could find relief (and subsequent success) with a willingness to fail? It would have never occurred to me. I avoid failure like the plague. It’s bad for the reputation and my carefully crafted mystique, lore, and image as a self-made man. If you give a damn about the way others see you, your precious ego, the way you see yourself, or your mission to climb the heights of success, then surely avoiding the crevasse of failure is the way to go, right?
If you can hear a ring of truth in that avoidance approach to failure, then surely you’re hanging out in my basecamp of “fixed mindset” climbers. (See fixed vs. growth mindset post)
I always thought the surest way to the top was one step forward while avoiding the two step backslide under any circumstance. Now I’m reconsidering. That approach may just lead to a roundabout tour of the base of the mountain. You can proclaim to the world on your satellite phone that you are mountain climbing, and you wouldn’t be lying. The view might be awesome as you look back and see how much progress you’ve made, even post Facebook selfies to prove it. However, as you turn and glance at the peak, it would be impossible to honestly convince yourself that you’ll be able to scale it unscathed and at this pace. You don’t really believe. And when you don’t really believe, you won’t take the steps. Just circling. Circling the base, consuming the provisions, paying the sherpas, making camp again, tomorrows another day. I’m mountain climbing people!
I’ve set to climb Professional Speaker Mountain. It’s not the tallest in the world, but if you go to a National Speaker Association event, it’s the only one they talk about. So far my speaking engagements have been on indoor rock climbing walls. I aim to ring the buzzer at the top and with no harness on every climb. I hope the onlookers will see it as masterful. I try to ignore and squelch the pesky clouds of doubt and imagining “F”ing it up.
I mostly do fine or at least pretty good. The worst part is not the actual speech, it’s this anticipatory anxiety. It’s the lack of enjoyment leading up to the engagement.
“Will it be good enough?”
“Is what I have to say valuable to anyone?”
“I hope I don’t forget a part or get twisted up”
“I hope they think I’m fantastic”
“What if it’s a disaster?”
Every event has the chance of failure hidden just beneath the thin ice. I do not want to die. Well not the real me exactly, it’s my self-image, my ego that doesn’t want to die.
I’ve decided, the real me is going to get a new climbing partner, and detach from this old one. Let’s be realistic, this skill or any other you desire must be developed. It takes training, practice, patience, and effort. It’s a learning experience. In order to learn faster, I must accept that my current skill level doesn’t define me as a person, or limit what might be possible. I must adopt a growth mindset, a willingness to experience failure and extract the lesson each and every time and not deny myself the advantage of learning it. This will accelerate my progress. It will give me the courage to accept and embrace riskier opportunities and reap the inherent fruit of growth.
I’ve been experimenting with this climbing style for the last few weeks and it’s given me tremendous relief. An acceptance of possible failure has put a huge portion of the fear at bay. What’s the worse that could happen? I’m learning something. Big Deal.
I’m ready and willing to swing across the crevasse. I’m confidently harnessed to my “Why” and anchored to my “Purpose” so if I fall or slip, it won’t be to the death. My speaking engagements this past week were free of the usual worry and anxiety. I’m certain that being more relaxed resulted in a better performance. I must give appreciation to Carol Dweck and her amazing book, “Mindset”. Her insights into the fixed vs. growth mindset is a profound work, and potentially transformative for those of us leaving the fixed camp.
Reporting live as I dangle here, surprisingly feeling a sense of relief, belaying across the chasm of the fear of failure. See you at the Top!
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