A few of weeks back, I heard a great story about a psychology professor.
He gave all his students a piece of paper, with a black dot in the middle.
He said, “I want you to write about what you see here for the next hour.”
Once his students were finished writing, he took all the reports and read them out loud. Every single one of his students wrote about the same thing:
The black dot.
Then he asked then, “It’s funny how every one of you wrote about the black dot. I’m curious, why didn’t any of you write about the white part of the paper?”
Here’s what he meant:
In life, it’s easy to focus on our own little “black dots.” Things like health issues, our finances, complicated relationships. And, what happens if we only focus on those black dots?
We feel irritated, stressed, disappointed (not really productive emotions). We often do the same thing when something didn’t go as we’d planned or when we’re afraid to try new things.
We focus on what could go wrong — the black dot — instead of focusing on what could go right.
So today, you’ll discover the same strategy my private executive clients use to effortlessly overcome any kind of failure.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves
- The “Invisible Frames” That Are Controlling Your Life
- Failing Is Not Failure. Failing Is Feedback
It’s a simple strategy, but once you internalize it you’ll be able to implement it with your team and your relationship.
The little lies we tell ourselves
Imagine you’re watching a football game, and there are thousands of people are cheering for their favorite team.
Then one of the teams gets the first touchdown.
The crowd goes berserk and the announcer’s scream run through the speakers like a racehorse on steroids. Now imagine all this noise is happening inside your own head.
In psychology, this is your self-talk. It’s that little voice inside your head commenting on your life.
Here’s the thing…
The words we say are usually a lot different from the words we’re thinking. Especially when we’re afraid of something that might fail:
A new business idea, investor meetings, difficult conversations with our team.
We say things like:
- “Honestly, it’s just not the right time right now. Maybe next month?”
- “I would love to do XYZ, but I just don’t have time”
- “I don’t have enough money”
- “It’s a good idea, but I don’t think it will work in this market”
Are any of these true? The short (and boring) answer is… it depends.
Most of the time it’s just an underlying fear of failing. Disguised as excuses like time, money or experience.
GOING TO THE GYM
- WHAT WE SAY: “I’d like to lose the last 5 lbs. But, I just don’t have time”
- WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS: “I didn’t reach my goal the last time I did this. Why would I reach it now? I don’t want to feel like a failure”
STARTING A BUSINESS
- WHAT WE SAY: “I’ve been thinking about starting my own business. But, I just don’t have enough money to get things started”
- WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS: “I’m scared it won’t work out. I don’t want my family to say ‘See, I told you it wouldn’t work’”
The “invisible frames” that are controlling your life
Here’s what fear of failure really is:
It’s a belief of what might, or might not, happen. I call this “Invisible Frames.”
Think back to the story from before about the black dot. If you only focus on the black dot, you’re trapped inside your own Invisible Frame.
And, when you’re trapped inside an Invisible Frame one thing’s for sure:
You’ll never find a solution to solve your problem.
Instead, what if you could use your fear of failing, as the ultimate form of motivation? Motivation to take more chances, have that difficult conversation with your spouse or finally go to the gym.
Question is, how?
You only need to change your Invisible Frame. Luckily, you don’t need a lot of practice to change it. In fact, you’ll learn how in under 30 seconds.
Failing is not a failure. Failing is feedback
We all have something we keep putting off.
Let’s say you have something you’ve been putting off, maybe a week, a month… half a year. It doesn’t matter what it is, just come up with something.
Then, start off by using The 5 Why Technique.
If you don’t know The 5 Why Technique, it’s dead simple: You ask yourself “why XYZ” five times. That’s really all there is to it.
The problem: You should prepare your presentation for the next manager’s meeting. But somehow, you always end up in front of the T.V., binge-watching old episodes of The Wire.
- Why? You’re too tired when you get home and should prepare a presentation for an upcoming meeting
- Why are you so tired? Your head is spinning because of 10 different meetings during the day
- Why is your calendar filled up with meetings? You feel it’s important that you attend those meetings
- Why do you feel you need to attend those meetings? Because you can’t motivate yourself enough to prepare the presentation, so you keep putting it off
- Why can’t you motivate yourself to do the presentation? You’re afraid everybody thinks the presentation isn’t good enough
True behavioral change happens when you understand the root of the problem. The 5 Why Technique is the perfect tool to find the problem… behind the problem.
Now you understand the problem. Next, you need to get your psychology straight. Let’s dive into how you easily overcome any fear of failing. It’s called The Failure Feedback Strategy.
The best part? It’s simple.
Let’s imagine you have to start a new business. You’re excited, you’re motivated, and then…
You feel your stomach turning. What if it doesn’t work? What if it fails? What if you’re going to look like a failure?
In that split-second when you feel the mental resistance, say this:
The Failure Feedback Strategy: “No matter what happens, it’s not a failure. It’s feedback.”
Essentially, when you feel you’ve failed, it’s only because of one thing:
Your result didn’t match your expectations.
Think back to the famous quote from Thomas Edison.
“ I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” — Thomas Edison
The truth is, failure is only your own interpretation of what happened to you. That’s why getting your psychology straight comes first, tactics come second.
Top performers have a very specific mindset:
They spend 90% of their time on the solution. Only 10% on the problem.
We all fail. The real question isn’t whether or not you’ll fail.
It’s only a matter of when!
At the end of the day you have two choices:
You can let fear of failing control you, or…
You can control your fear of failure, by changing the meaning from failure to feedback
All behavioral change in your life starts with brutal honesty. Remember: when you fear you might fail, that’s only your expectation of what might happen (or won’t happen).
So, to overcome any fear of failure, this is what you do:
(1) use The 5 Why Technique, and then (2) use The Failure Feedback Strategy: “It’s not a failure. It’s feedback.”
KRISTIAN THAULOW is the author of “The TRUST Method,” a Business Results Strategist, and the protagonist of the leadership revolution. He’s on a mission to help ambitious executives become amazing leaders and create more impact. Get his free case study and learn his proven “Hidden Leverage Blueprint” that will increase your profitability by 6 or 7 figures and retain your A players.