Fighting Failure with Failure: Winning is Fun, Failing is Awesome

“Success consists of going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill

One of my dance coaches has a strategy that I’ve not heard any other dancer use. If he has an unsuccessful dance with one of his Champion peers, he deliberately seeks out that person to do a competition with. That’s right, he gets back on the horse AND he raises the stakes.

Imagine how much he learns from that. And how quickly. And how long lasting those lessons must be. His strategy hasn’t hurt him, it’s not a sign of weakness or insanity: statistically, he’s one of the top-3 male leads in his dance style in the world, no matter how you slice the data.

The only thing you can learn from winning is that winning is fun.

There are no lessons in winning – it merely shows us that we did all the right things or had all the right luck to accomplish something that other people think is significant.

It’s like building muscle. To do it, you have to tear the fibres. During rest periods, the body repairs these “micro-tears” with thicker, more numerous fibres. We make real strides only by experiencing damage and taking the time to repair it.

Nobody plays to lose, though. You don’t start a business to go bankrupt; you don’t get married to get divorced; you don’t compete with the hope of finishing “DFL” (dead fucking last). Those situations push us out of our comfort zones and force us to face ourselves at our most vulnerable. But it’s hard to recover if the damage is massive or pervasive.

So, I’ve learned to congratulate myself for progress. Instead of using large-scale measures of success and failure, I focus on the micro-tears and work to repair them: what have I learned, did I catch that mistake earlier than the last time, did I do something better than before? I’m in full control of my growth, and that’s empowering.

How’s it going?

  1. Think about something BIG that you’re working toward, and for which you have a quantifiable measure of success. (Example: Grow my business by 25%)
  2. Write down things you’re achieving along the way that have nothing to do with the quantifiable success/failure measurement. (Example: Meeting interesting new people by networking more)
  3. Along the way, keep track of BOTH types of success.

Progressive Tense Cards (3)


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