The imperative to keep on going, even when we fail
It's hard to get started on anything in life. We procrastinate, we wait for conditions to be perfect and think we’ll be better-prepared or more skilled if we start out tomorrow rather than today.
Sometimes it’s fear that’s holding us back; fear of disappointing results or of a lukewarm reception from our customers, of apathy from the wider world. Fear of embarrassment, of exposing a lack of genuine skill or ability or even fear of success.
Regardless of the justifications that we offer ourselves, no matter how compelling the case we may build for holding-off from starting, all we can really do is to try, and to try today.
“Do, or do not. There is no Try“
I understand where the diminutive Jedi-master was coming from with this statement; a lukewarm or half-hearted effort may be likely to yield disappointing results before it’s begun.
Our beliefs and perceptions about the results we’re likely to achieve as we approach a task, will likely to influence our results from the off. If our expectations are minimal, our efforts will be too, the results will be disappointing.
This will re-affirm our preconceptions that it is hard, returns are disappointing and so the circle of despondency continues.
It’s simply impossible to constantly act with courage and vigour, to believe that each and every project we undertake will be an unmitigated success. That’s not how it goes for the mere mortals amongst us.
Encountering and overcoming obstacles, embracing and learning from failure and modifying and pivoting our approach are all essential to the process of growth and eventual success.
As Seth Godin puts it, each and every product we ship out to the world must be done with a spirit of “this might work, this might not work” if we’re to free ourselves from the fear of potential failure and to do it anyway.
I firmly believe that to try, has its place. Do so with as much vigour and conviction as you can manage, even if that’s merely a trace amount. Just make sure you do it anyway.
Here are some positive effects that I’ve experienced over time as a result of the various projects and endeavours I’ve tried my hand at. I look at my accomplishments as something of a mixed bag of lessons learned, successes achieved and scars that have shaped me for the future, slightly better equipped than I was before. It all starts with a willingness to give it a try.
Trying things out is a solid means of testing a hypothesis, finding out what works and what doesn’t
Something that’s initially perceived as a mistake or a failure may yield the lessons that spawn a future success or suggest a course-correction that yields value and success. There’s no shortcut to such lessons other than making the mistakes in the first place. This starts with trying.
Results take time - the clock starts when you try
No matter how established you are, the results, the sales or the achievement of benefits take time to emerge. The same is often true in proving that an idea won’t work or that it has no future.
When I write something, I do so in the hope that it’ll reach the people who need it, that it’ll strike a chord with them and that just maybe it’ll trigger a movement or kick off my meteoric rise to fame. The results are usually more modest, but that doesn’t negate the value of trying in the first place.
Something I write now may only find the right person, trigger a thought process or prompt a reflection months or years after it was originally written. The value doesn’t decay or diminish as time goes by just because things are no longer topical, fresh or new. The act of creation and sharing is the purpose in itself. Once a product, a service or a piece of art exists, it is there to be discovered for all time.
We don’t have to wait until something is finished to determine if it’s valuable or viable
In the process of trying, you’ll create things that become a finished article, and there’ll be others that you abandon when what seemed like a good idea is quickly exposed as garbage. The process of making something, of putting it out there can direct you down another rabbit-hole. Within that you might just discover the idea that corrects your course and sets you onto the right direction with your current project. Until you experiment you don’t know if an idea has merit, a market, or whether it’s compatible with your preferences, desires, values and world-view.
Trying becomes the route to building a body of work
Through trying, and the repeated act of putting in the work day-in and day-out, we are gradually creating a volume of work for the world to find. This cannot be done overnight, and whether it’s represented by a huge list of publications, a range of products or the many consulting engagements on a CV, it takes time to build. There’s no shortcut.
The only true way of becoming knowledgeable and authoritative regarding a subject is to put in the hours and the hard miles in learning the craft. Reading, exploring and expressing views on a subject, and taking steps to apply and explore the concepts in practical application are often the only true way of building experience and refining your offering.
In the process you’ll also be creating a body of work, whether that’s projects delivered, pieces written, courses created, properties viewed, websites built, widgets manufactured or services sold. Whichever applies it’s often only through building a body of work and evidence that we demonstrate to others (and more importantly ourselves) that our products and services have mileage and value to others.
It builds our self-worth
In many fields we’re striving to build credibility, a track record and to seek validation from others around us. The process of trying, of keeping-on with the struggle is one way of doing this, but a far more wholesome and useful effect is in helping us to build credibility with ourselves.
Many are prone to dreaming and scheming, but regardless of whether we succeed or fail we win when we try. We gain the war stories and the tales of success that allow us to speak with credibility to others about the things we’ve done. It’s as positive to have tried and failed a few times at some bold endeavours rather than making a career out of the steady progression, slowly harvesting the low-hanging fruit.
To stretch the analogy further, I’d rather have climbed the ladder beyond my comfort zone and taken a few falls in pursuit of the prized fruit higher up the tree. To have done so gives me credibility with myself. I’m able to remind myself that whatever happens, I’ve tried scary things before and I’m still here to tell the tale, even if some of them were the most abject of failures.
Ideas, philosophies and dreams remain just that until the rubber hits the road and we try and bring them to life with action. In an ideal world we’d all muster absolute conviction, be able to sift out the worthy ventures that were destined for success, and then power through with their delivery.
We don’t live in an ideal world though, and the next best alternative is to acknowledge that we’re not all superhuman. All we can do is try our best on a daily basis, and accept the rough with the smooth.