We tend to think of failure and achievement in separate terms.
Achievement means you were right. You were correct. You set an expectation and then you met it.
Failure means you were wrong. You missed the mark. You set an expectation and you didn’t measure up.
When we approach our work with this separate mindset, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure. Here’s why:
In order to continue growing as a person with your respective craft, you have to set unreasonable goals. That’s the point. You have to aim outside of your comfort zone and push yourself to stretch for things that you cannot yet do. As we like to say around the office, “If you know what you’re doing, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
However, in order to actually set goals far outside your comfort zone, you have to understand and be ok with the fact that you will “fail.” You won’t get there the first, or second, or third time. You will fall short. You will make mistakes and it won’t be a straight shot to the end.
However, “failing” to meet the expectations you set for yourself when aiming outside your comfort zone actually moves you much closer towards your goals than if you were to “achieve” something easily within reach.
Thus: Achievement, in this sense, is actually detrimental. “Failure” is the real win.
The problem so many people run into, and the reason why so few are able to reinvent themselves over long periods of time, is because they fear “failure.” It is much easier to set a reasonable goal, achieve it and then have everyone around you clap and cheer and pat you on the back, than to set an unreasonable goal, not reach it, but learn so much more in the process.
This goes back to the dilemma between the appearance of success versus deep inner knowledge. Many would rather set smaller goals and appear to be more successful, than to set bigger goals, appear to have failed, but acquire an endless amount of working knowledge beneath the surface.
If you see your journey in terms of achievement and failure, you’ve already failed. You are already disconnected from the process itself. You are far more concerned with appearing successful than actually having working knowledge of your craft in ways only attainable through messy “failure.”
The truly successful, the innovators, the creative geniuses, the legends all share this in common. They do not care about appearing successful or as having failed. They only care about knowledge of their craft, and they are willing to go to whatever length to get it. You can’t discover anything new without “failing.” You can’t explore different ways of doing things without “failing.” You can’t forge a name of your own without going off the beaten path, getting lost and then coming back and sharing what you’ve found.
Failure does not exist.
It only exists to those who are more concerned with appearing successful.
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Originally published at www.inc.com