Rewrite Your (Failure) Story

When thousands of people began reading what I was writing, I got scared. Each day I looked for more ways to reassure myself that everything I did would lead to a little more success, that each step would be safe. Eventually, I got so scared of failure, so scared of 'losing it all', that I stopped risking failure altogether.

It took me a long time to figure this out, and it seems so obvious to me now, but you cannot have success without failure. Success is achieved by overcoming failure. You can't have one without the other. The more that you try to avoid the risk of failure, the more you avoid the potential for success.

Here's something else I realized: a 'success story' is just that, a story.

There's nothing special or magical or mysterious about success. It's a story. It's a recollection of a specific series of events that follows the hero's journey, a common template that stories have been following for thousands of years. It involves 1) facing a challenge, 2) choosing to accept the challenge despite the risk of failure, and 3) overcoming the challenge.

A failure is just an incomplete success story.

A failure is one of the steps on the way to success. It's a toddler falling down on her way to running, the scale not budging on the way to getting in shape, and the frustration of inadequate knowledge and experience on the way to achieving a dream.

There are so many success stories and so few stories of failure because failure is a story that we don't want to hear (and because it's only part of a bigger story—it's an incomplete success story). Failure is a painful thing that reminds us that success requires work, that it requires effort. A story about failure reminds us that our work and our effort might not get us to where we're trying to go, that getting to where we're trying to go might require more work, and more effort.

The narrative of your life's story is controlled by what you choose to focus on. Reframe your story by consistently focusing on the positive, not the negative. Focus on the potential for success, not the risk of failure. Tell yourself a different story. Is there a chance you'll fail anyway? Sure, but focus on the positive! What positive thing might come out of failing? Focus on that.

If you choose to focus on the negative, all you'll see is negative. If you choose to focus on the risk of failure, all you'll see is failure. That's how stories work. Whatever part of the story you choose to focus on becomes your reality. It becomes your story.

Remember, you don't need to have a perfect record. You only need to show up more times than you don't.

So show up. Rewrite your story.

The Calm Before the Storm

I’ve noticed a pattern with my blog posting frequency: Whenever my daily life is going through a period of change, or when my short-term vision (1-6 months) is suddenly unclear, I tend to retract from expressing anything whatsoever; I retreat into the safety of my own brain until my short-term future is a little more clear. During that time, my posting frequency dries up and I have trouble organizing enough thoughts to write a single post. I'm beginning to realize that an unclear short-term vision creates an instantaneous writers block for me.

Everyone’s daily life changes from time to time, but the “period of change” I’m referring to affects more than just my personal life and short-term goals. Many other things are simultaneously changing: new blogs, new business ventures, new exercise routines, and even new writing environments and bank accounts. Some of my short-term goals are being completed (skydiving, scuba diving) and energy is being refocused to remaining goals (speed-reading, learning the piano). At the same time, the goals of existing projects (such as this blog) are are being redefined. I feel as though I’m revving up for all these changes and there’s one giant switch that’s about to flip.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that I dislike change or that I wish my “plans” weren’t disrupted. Quite to the contrary, I enjoy life throwing me surprises and reminding me that any plan, no matter how perfect, is destined for change. Expecting a plan not to change is guaranteeing myself disappointment. The only things I try to expect are this very moment, the lessons the past has to teach me, and the unpredictable potential the future holds. I’m constantly attempting to harness the power of the moment to augment the future while simultaneously searching for balance in life.

Floating in a Bubble

The past few weeks have been quite unusual, to say the least. Things around me seem to be happening so fast that all I can do is sit back and watch in awe and wonder. It seems pretty amazing to me that just two months ago, given as many tries as I wanted, I wouldn't have been able to guess that my life would be where it is now.

I've always felt as though everything around me wasn't real, as if my entire life was just a big elaborate dream. (If you've ever had a dream that you knew was a dream, you know how I feel while awake.) I still feel that way, only now I feel like I'm having a dream inside a dream, where in that dream I'm floating in a bubble not sure where I'm going to float to next.

This feeling of the unknown is not something I'm usually comfortable with, but the more time I spent wondering what I should do about it, the more I realized I was missing out on the moment. I am very happy and grateful for where I am now and wasting the moment seems like a horrible thing to do. As I pondered these new events in my life, a little voice in my head began whispering to me, "just run with it and see where it takes you".

We're all living in bubbles. We might have an blurry idea of the direction the wind is blowing us, but we really have no clue how we're going to end up getting there. Each one of us lives a life that we cannot fully predict. We meet people we didn't know we'd meet; we do things we didn't think we'd do; we go places that we previously couldn't have imagined a reason for going. Our bubble floats and bounces around throughout life, eventually bumping into something that makes our physical existence no more. Pop!

But this doesn't mean we should give up all control and just blow wherever the wind takes us. We should be mindful of the present and humbled by the unpredictability of life. Our ambitions, dreams, and purpose should guide us along the way but not create roadblocks. Our life shouldn't be rigid and easily upset by unexpected events. Instead, we should allow our life to flow like water.

Embrace unexpected events in life the same way water embraces an obstacle.

Less is More

I spent Saturday and Sunday working at my parents house, doing yard work and helping my dad tile the front porch. The weather was beautiful and it was so nice spending time outside for a change. I've always loved the outdoors however my current occupation does not allow for much outdoor activity. As a "computer guy", all of my work is done inside. Electronics and nature simply don't mix. Sure, I can use my laptop outside (which is where I'm writing this post right now) but the reality of it is, I cannot run my whole career sitting outside on my laptop. But, some people do.

I've heard stories of computer programmers who make a living accepting contract work over the Internet. They'll sit on a beach somewhere, with their laptop, programming and sipping fruity drinks. Then there are those who make a living running an online business that doesn't require anything except their laptop and a few hours of their time.

But maybe it has nothing to do with using my computer outside. Maybe I'm just sick of using computers themselves. Maybe I've been using them my entire life and have just come to accept that since it's what I know best, its what I'm meant to do. If that were so, why do I feel so undecided? Why am I not sure of what I want to do? That is so unlike me.

I'm a person of assurance. I don't do things because I think it's what I'm supposed to do, I do them because I know they're what I'm supposed to do. I understand that no one person can be sure of everything and that life is full of surprises and unexpected events. We must go with the flow. Never the less, when I feel myself losing control over something, I tend to hesitate and question myself -- question whether I'm doing the right thing. This is not a position I enjoy being in and it makes concentrating on anything difficult.

So every time I gain a new insight, I reanalyze my life. I do a systems check to make sure everything I'm doing still makes sense. I check to make sure what I'm doing is still in line with my goals. But how can I do this if I'm expecting and depending on the results of this and that? I have always followed the motto "if you want something done right, do it yourself" and I live my life that way. Life will always contain the unexpected. In life, as in programming, more variables equal an increased possibility for the loss of control.

My solution to this is to live life expecting nothing. Without expectation there will be no disappointment. Attachment creates waste and drains life. Ownership creates unnecessary work. Expect less. Own less. Attach to less. My Dad has always said "Less is more". I've never understood this more fully than I do now.