Saturday, December 06, 2014

How to let go of failures and move forward

Someone asked me this week, "how do you teach a kid to let go of a failure and move on."

You can't get there from here. As long as you are thinking about failure, you are holding onto it. Even if the voice in your head is chanting "Let it go."

We're not built that way. Our brains are built to let go of things we are not accessing, not giving any attention. As soon as we give something our attention, we make it easier to access. You make your fears and your failures stronger when you give them your attention. Even if you're telling yourself "just let it go."

"Let it go" is impossible advice. It's like telling kids to "sit still and listen." Many kids listen by moving. They can't listen if they sit still and they can't sit still if they are listening.

One of the secrets to leadership is to give people instructions they can follow. In this case, the instruction is not to "let go." It's "build." Ask "how will I teach someone to recycle parts of a failure to build something new?"

The way to move forward is to catch a glimpse of what you want to build. Then you begin to reassemble the pieces available to you. Some of them will be building blocks that were created or freed up by a failure. You won't learn from those building blocks if you continue to see them as part of a failure. You'll learn when you start to see them as the components for building something you want.

I don't like failure any better than anyone else and I am still learning to encounter it as a step on the way to getting what I want. Over the years, however, I have come to suspect that failure is a much better teacher than success.  When I trust myself and God (call it the universe if you're more comfortable with that) to be making choices that will get me where I am supposed to go (substitute want to go if you're more comfortable with that), then every choice is a choice that can move me forward. The trick is to move my eyes around until I see the opening it has created.

Of course you have to let go if you want to move forward and build. But you don't have to think about it. You have to think about the next step and put your eyes on what you want to hold.

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