I knew as soon as the words left my mouth I regretted it. They weren’t my words, and I was just parroting back something I had heard way too often.
“Just keep failing. Just keep failing until you figure it out.”
Ugh. I wince just hearing myself repeat it in my head. It has been bothering me since that day. I was doing an interview with Tyler Bramlett and at the very end he hit me with one final question, “what’s your secret to success?” And that’s how I responded.
Here’s the thing: failure is absolutely an option. No matter what you do at some point you are going to fail. You may fail in a big or spectacular way, or you might fail in some tiny insignificant way. Either way you’re going to fail at some point.
Success however doesn’t come from failure. Success comes from… wait for it… wait for it… success. To be sure you will learn some things from failures along the way to success, and some people will fail more often than they succeed. That doesn’t change the fact that ultimately to succeed, you have to succeed! Success moves you closer and closer to your goal, whatever it may be.
I would argue that even the tiniest successful step forward has a greater net effect of moving you towards your goal than a failure, even if that failure moves you infinitesimally closer to your goal.
Failures teach you what not to do, success teaches you what to do.
You can’t guarantee success which is why it’s so important to just take action even if you ultimately fail. Doing is always, always, always more powerful than not doing. Don’t believe me? Tell someone you’re trying to teach a skill or a task to what not to do and watch them find new and creative ways to screw it up. Tell them what to do and while it may not be perfect on the first or third rep, it will get better and better each time.
Even further, success is not an end state, a mindset, or an outcome. No one is ever “successful.” Rather, success is how we describe a series of successful action steps. Want to be a success or be successful? Rack up the wins.
The takeaway is this: if you can figure out how to make your steps small enough and correct enough that you succeed you will win over, and over again. So if I could revise my statement, I’d say: “Just keep succeeding. Just keep succeeding until your successes get bigger and bigger.”