What I want to share with you guys today is a mindset that some will say defines successful people. Actually it’s not even about successful people. It’s about the successful handling of goals. How you can approach your goals in a way that doesn’t set you up for frustration when things (inevitably) get tough.
And if you’re in the process of building something personal, creative and/or ambitious, then you know how important this is.
We’re working off of two assumptions about what it takes to successfully lead a project:
- Awareness of what is being sought (Well defined goals)
- Knowledge about the path that lies ahead (Knowing what the hell you’re supposed to do)
Obviously, missing just one of these components significantly reduces your chances of producing any results.
Having goals but no vision of how you’re going to achieve them can be one of the most frustrating things, I know. And at first you might feel like the simple fact that you don’t know how to do it, is somehow proof that you’re not “smart” enough to do it.
But trust me when I say it’s only your mind playing bullshit tricks on you.
I like to look at the facts: Before you and I learned to walk, and talk, and do all the complex activities we do as adults today, we had to observe, mimic, sit through classes, and mostly fail our way all the way through to the Mastery we’re able to enjoy today.
Not knowing what to do next is not a sign that you should give up, it’s a sign that you should start looking.
That’s the first thing you should keep in mind when it comes to reaching your goals. Sounds like common-sense but you’d be surprised to learn about how many people kill their goals on the basis that the road ahead is “unknown” or “looks difficult”.
Then there’s those of you who’ve got goals, and you do know what you should be doing right now, at least to some degree.
For you guys, I’d point you to a book by Matthew Syed: Black Box Thinking, Why Most People Never Learn From Their Mistakes But Some Do
Matthew Syed is an English journalist, former international ping-pong player and National Champ for England during many years.
He’s authored 2 books on high-performance/success, and in Black Box Thinking he argues that one of the determining factors of success is how we react to failure.
Because if you’re doing something even remotely new, chances are you’re going to suck at first. And you’re going to make plenty of mistakes along your way to figuring it out. That much is known and understood by you and I.
There’s no such thing as “errors”. Just the natural process of going from beginner to expert.
Now here’s the thing: I don’t know about you but I’m definitely the type of person who likes to do things perfectly. Like right off the bat perfect.
I don’t like the feeling of sucking at something, right. Who does? Even though intellectually we understand it has to be this way.
Now some of us take this a step further. Some of us we not only hate being bad at things, but we also try to do them perfectly. And if you, like me, are prone to this nasty habit, here’s something I wish someone would have told me before I tried to do anything significant:
[insert name], your parents clearly think you’re precious. And that’s great. But you need to get real about what it takes to make it in life. You may be smart. But being smart doesn’t mean squat in the real world. Smart people do dumb shit every day. You need to understand that getting what you want has nothing do with being “smart”. It has everything to do with how fast you can learn, and how badly you want what you want. Pride does not pay.
And some of us we’ve decided to stay stuck in a place of “arrested learning” because of pride. We’d rather do the wrong thing (sometimes knowingly!) for years than listen to someone who knows what we’re doing wrong and what we should be doing instead.
“I don’t need someone to tell me how to live my life.”
Well yeah, listen, maybe that’s true. But apply that kind of attitude to your goals… and trust me, you won’t be going anywhere fast.
Feeling like you know better than people who’ve got what you want is absurd. Not only that, but it’s also the best way to waste your own time and accumulate frustration. And for once I can say that I’m definitely the right person to deliver this sermon. (At one point I held the World-Record in pride-lifting for teenagers. Ask about it.)
And look, the truth is that you might just be gifted, at things.
After all there’s genetics, and upbringing, and all kinds of factors that can lead to someone having what you and I would call “natural talent”. But see “natural talent” is not what put a man on the moon. It was years upon years of failed experiments, of trial-and-error, and the enormous humility to be able to look at those experiments and say:
” Yup, we messed up right there. We messed up badly. So what can we learn from this screw-up to not only avoid it next time but to also make sure it can never happen to our astronauts again?”
That’s Black Box Thinking, (Named after the flight recorders found in airplanes, that help investigators determine the causes of crashes by recording everything that happens during the flight. Part of the reason why airplanes are one of the safest means of transportation today.) and what Matthew Syed talks about in his book.
You can also read my other article where I discuss why I think humility is the key to self-improvement.
The question is:
Are you going to let mistakes frustrate you, or educate you?
School ends when you die.
A lot of us, our attitude towards mistakes is trying really hard not to admit them. And of course there’s various reasons: Fear of being judged, avoidance of guilt, professionalism, appearances, pride/ego… etc
But at the end of the day all of this shouldn’t matter because the only person who really needs to know about the mistakes you make is you.
Because what happens when even this person is kept in the dark is that poor decisions start to be made. In the context of setting and achieving goals, fear for example is the reason you and I will set only vague goals.
People can’t accurately judge your progression that way can they… it’s clever in a way.
But who are you really fooling when you do that?
A lot of you spend more time making excuses for why things aren’t working, than time actually working on said things.
Do you think that’s normal?
Look, all I’m saying is that if you’re doing something worth doing at all, then you better get into the habit of looking yourself in the mirror when things go wrong. Because I promise you those are the moments that will actually make you a better person, and a better performer. And that’s true whatever your occupation is.
Everybody makes mistakes alright? Everybody. Even me, even your mom, even your dad, even your favorite artist or childhood friend, even the president.
It’s a sign we’re all at least trying to do something in the world, for ourselves or other people.
And yeah sometimes they’re kinda tough to take and swallow but, you’ve got to be tougher than your issues to survive in this world anyway right?
Now let’s see it. 🙂
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. -Michael Jordan
Follow me on Facebook