You hear the famous quote “Failure is NOT being an option” all the time. Who knows how far back that phrase originated, but the concept behind it still rings true today. However, I don’t think this is the right way to look at things; it leaves you delusional, and unprepared if things go south. Being an Entrepreneur, for example, is riddled with chances at failure. If you are bringing a new product to market, there is a chance not enough people see the need for it. Or someone else releases something similar a week later and suddenly you are an also-ran. There are always money concerns, as you must become profitable as soon as possible to stay alive.
If you are an athlete, there are no guarantees to success, and failure is always omnipresent. Things outside of your control may impact the outcome, such as poor refereeing or an injury to a team mate all can have impact on the final result. AS a comedian, you and your test audience might think a joke is a huge hit, only to have it flop when in front of a live audience. Working for a large corporation does not insulate you from this either, as there are layoffs, downsizing, and other concerns.
Please allow me to let you in on a little secret…
Failure is always an option.
It’s true, everything you undertake has the possibility of failure tied to it. There are no safe plays in life, just some that are safer than others. It is your job to do everything in your power to make sure it is not the option that is chosen or that comes to fruition. As an athlete or a businessperson or a comedian, you do as much work as possible in advance to help ensure you know what you are getting into, and what the possible outcomes are. You work, hard, to prepare for everything you can imagine might possibly happen, and you create a contingency plan for each scenario. You prepare your own mind to hold up under the pressure of competition, or the stress of a performance. Doing it well once doesn’t protect you from failure in the future; a successful business venture doesn’t mean your next one is going to succeed. Hitting the winning shot on a buzzer beater doesn’t mean you are always going to hit that shot when it counts. As good as Michael Jordan was, he was asked to shoot the game winning shot, 26 times he missed. Its just reality.
I am a realist, and I have learned a few things the hard way. I have put myself into situations that were clearly not set up for success; sometimes I managed to pull it off and make things work. Other times I crashed and burned and got lots of “I told you so” offerings from those around me. Here is the thing that most people don’t understand: To achieve something great, you have to be willing to crash and burn. Most people sit on the sidelines and wish they were in the game. They could be, they just are too afraid to put on a helmet and step onto the field. I’ve been knocked around, flattened, been crushed, etc. with some of my endeavors. But I have also achieved some great things personally and professionally, and not one of them would have been possible while sitting on the sidelines.
I always have a SHTF plan; when things go horribly wrong and there is no other choice but to admit defeat and backtrack, I always have a way out. I have family and friends to lean on, I keep a little in reserve myself, and I charge forward into the brink knowing that if it all comes crashing down that I will survive. That might sound a little extreme, but the reality is that I have been in situations where it seemed all hope was lost and I was crap out of luck. For example, before leaving for a business venture in FL, I was speaking with a good friend who ultimately was advising me not to go and do this. The idea was solid, but the venture was underfunded, we were brand new at our vocation, and had no contracts or revenue waiting for us. I was Hell bent on going and proving everyone wrong, so off I went. He made me an amazingly generous offer, which I did not fully appreciate at the time. He promised me that if I was flat broke, and needed money to get back to Phoenix to start over, he would help me.
Things almost reached that level of desperation; within a year our business failed miserably. We had been taken advantage of from the start. After limping along for several months with no real plan, we finally had to admit defeat and pull the plug. It is a long drive from Tampa, FL to Phoenix, and if I would have needed one more day on the road, I probably would have had to pick up the phone and call Jim for his help. Luckily I didn’t, but his offer kept me going through those dark times. It was a beacon of light in the darkness, a glimmer of hope that knowing this wasn’t truly the end, but only the end of this chapter.
If you are going to chase an adventure of some sort, whether it is sports related, school or in business, be sure you go all in. Fear will cause you to hesitate, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.
Do your homework ahead of time, plan for every single thing you can think of, and have contingency plans ready to deploy. Fight until there is nothing left in you. If you make, it will be worth it. If you don’t, it may have been worth it anyway, as you are never the same after an adventure that most are unwilling to take. And lastly, be sure that you don’t really paint yourself into a corner. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind so you can find your way back once you have exhausted all other options. It’ll help you sleep at night, and if things go bad, it will help you to reach equilibrium faster than bouncing off of rock bottom.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.