Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

Practice Failing.

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My wife feels a lot of anxiety. Pretty much anything new will set of a series of thoughts that inevitably cause her a great deal of anxiety. In this time, she’s preoccupied and edgy. I can’t imagine it’s pleasurable. We’ve been working on breaking down the anxiety and what leads to it, but we have a ways to go.

Ultimately, what happens is that she gets hung up on the idea of failure. Instead of thinking of actual failures, she thinks of the consequences of failure. This is an important distinction.

Failing takes practice.

When I think of failure, I think about exactly what part is preventing me from reaching my goal. Instead, my wife thinks about the consequences of that failure. That unfairly raises the risk assessment of achieving the goal.

If you artificially increase the risk of failing to achieve a goal, the value of the goal is decreased. That is certainly something to feel anxiety about.

It’s hard to think about failing, visualize it and then move on to another strategy. It’s even harder to really understand why something didn’t succeed. Far too many people attribute failure (and success) to luck.

True luck is about being observant, which means you observe why things fail or succeed. The specific things that contribute to the outcome and ignoring those that don’t.

Failing is like reading.

Because of this, you start out rough. I know when I started out failing I had a hard time of it. It was big and it was messy. I made a lot of big mistakes, but I learned.

Every night I think about the day. Mainly I try to answer two questions:

  1. What did I accomplish today?
  2. What could I have done better?

I remember being started as a young adult and asking myself this. The answers were usually depressing. It was so tempted to answer #2 with, “Everything”.

Watching my son read is kind of like that. There are so many words he doesn’t know. So many words he can’t quite sound out. He struggles and makes mistakes, evaluating and constantly revising his reading knowledge.

This is exactly like learning how to fail. You have to do it and you have to do it out loud. Eventually it comes easier, even when you don’t really know what you’re trying to do. More importantly, I’ve also learned where to look for answers.

Learning the best lessons.

Learning how to get the best answers is a challenge. I have to stop and think hard about the outcome. I imagine what would be different as I change little things.

More importantly I think it’s helpful to talk about it. Even if I’m talking to myself. It goes back to learning to read, it’s easier to sound out the failures.

I don’t want to ever feel embarrassed over saying a stupid thing aloud. Sometimes it just happens. It means that I’m still growing and improving. I believe that not growing and expanding out to fulfill my potential is the only true failure.