We like to talk about fear of failure – how to overcome it, how to stay with it, how to become comfortable with it etc. But there is another part of us that is just as important and we pay very little attention to – the part that WANTS to fail. It’s important because it holds a key to a more authentic expression of our core essence. The part of us that wants to fail wants it because whatever we think we want is not necessarily what we really want and its service is to point that gap out to us, to remind us to come back to our own unique truth. We pay little attention to it because it doesn’t make sense before it does (and because we are usually busy disliking our fear of failure).
What the hell am I talking about? Let me give you a personal example. I’d just finished writing a book and I needed help with creating its marketing strategy. So I reached out to my friend Andrei and asked him for some coaching on that. One of the first tasks he gave me was to imagine what would happen and how I found feel in two scenarios: 1) if everything goes wrong and I fail miserably with my book and 2) if it became an amazing success (aka ‘Oprah calls for an autograph’).
I began by drawing my failure with some coloured pastels. The first things that came out were that I might need to get an office job (perceived loss of freedom), I would feel all alone in the world and disconnected from the rest of humanity (because they don’t seem to care about what I care about), etc. But then something else bubbled up – a realisation that I’ve failed before and every time I failed, I got up and moved on as if that person that failed was not me anymore. I’d find a way to be happy again with whatever circumstance I was in (which by the way is human nature – unless we put work into moving our emotional set-point, we always return to it). And then it hit me – oh wow, I actually want that. I want to fail, because I love starting over, having that blank piece of paper in front of me and creating from scratch. I don’t enjoy the long hard work of incremental improvements and the complexity things acquire as they grow. Seeing this, it was crystal clear to me that’s not something I want to fix – that’s a resource I want to use! I created a new mantra: ‘I start over every day with new ideas, actions and commitment to what I want to bring into this world’. And I decided I will find people to help me with parts that require more persistence, organisation and longer term project ownership.
Painting 1: Failure
Then came the success part. And again, the first thoughts I put out on paper were the ones that made sense – having millions of book copies sold, doing a TED talk, building a big team and community etc. Then I asked myself how I feel about those. And a quiet little voice inside me said ‘Bullshit’. I laughed. At first I thought maybe I need to work on allowing myself to believe this is possible. But then it hit me this is exactly what I should not do. Because once again, there was a part of me that wanted to fail with this definition of success. And it wanted to fail, because this was someone else’s idea of success. I remembered Mary Oliver’s poem:
“You do not have to walk on your knees.
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
Painting 2: Success, v.1
The soft animal of my body loves connection. If that soft animal doesn’t get its connection but instead gets a long solitary writing process, followed by hustling to get published and famous and all that, it will be miserable. So my success with that book would mean it needs to support me in connecting with others, in creating magical moments and spaces of interaction that allow both me and those I am speaking to be transformed in the process. If that’s not honoured, it will make sure I fail until I honour it. So I took out another sheet of paper and started drawing a new version of book success, a much more personal, organic, intimate and rewarding one that puts the focus on the quality and impact of the interaction rather that the quantity and fast spread of a printed book. You can see below what my inner child drew for me as a guideline 😀 I then used it as a base to employ my rational mind on and build a strategy by asking “What would that element mean in the case of the book I want to put out?”.
Painting 3: Success, v.2
If you have a project you are in the process of starting or creating, I’d highly recommend going through this exercise. It can help you greatly if you take some coloured pencils and draw it out before writing, because that facilitates connection to that part of you that drew long before it learned to write. First draw your failure. Really stay with it as long as it takes to sink below the common sense answers. The question that can help you open that door is: “Is there a part of me that wants to fail? And what does that part want?”. Take that answer not as something to fix, but as a resource to use to reshape your strategy. Then take another sheet of paper and draw your success. Ask the same question, stay with it and see what happens. You can then use your rational mind to journal and translate what you found into specific insights and steps.
About Lessons in Paradise
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘Lessons in Paradise’ youtube vlog is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching and workshops. Reach out if you feel curious to explore these topics with me.