…mistakes that you end up on top of instead of buried underneath” Dave Ramsey
I can attest to the fact that failure is part of the process of getting better at anything. You need to expect to fail, to mess up, to be confused throughout a large chunk of the time that you do anything. Because I had ambitious goals in my racquetball career, I moved up the ranks too quickly. I had somewhere to go, and I was in a hurry to get there. I was impatient, and I probably made my path more difficult by doing so, and I took more losses because of it. I know for a fact that in my professional career that I lost more matches than I won. Once I reached a certain ranking, I no longer had to qualify for the main draw. Starting out, I would play the qualifying rounds to get a shot at making the main draw. This means that I would win two or three matches to get to the main draw of 32 players, and then lose to a top ranked Pro, making my record for the weekend 3-1. Once I was starting in the round of 32, my weekend record was 0-1, having lost to a Pro ranked above me and getting eliminated.
In my amateur career, I am not sure where my overall win/loss ratio ended up. because I was winning tournaments for much of the last five years of play, I likely ended up with more wins than losses, but am not sure. I lost a lot of tournament matches in my career, I know that. But this didn’t deter me, and that is the real message. I didn’t allow the short term failures and losses to weigh on me to the point where I wanted to quit. I was future-focused, and this allowed me to recover quickly after a loss. I learned it was part of the process, and until you were the dominant guy in your division, there were going to be losses. And until you were on the very top of the pile, you weren’t really the dominant guy anyway, so might as well keep climbing.
In my business career, I never settled into a role for as long as I am currently in. I have been with my current employer for ten years, and in the same role of VP of Sales since day one. It has been a roller coaster ride for sure, but I have become the dominant guy in this world as well. It took a lot of losses, a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but I got here. I didn’t dwell on the losses (or non-wins) or not getting selected as the vendor of choice by a company. I did not give myself time to dwell for long. I went back to work, trying new things and refining my process to the point where now I do exactly the same presentation for every prospective client I speak with. It is dialed into the point of proficiency that it matches my backhand in terms of reliability. The losses and misses added up, but I managed to stay on top of that ever-growing pile, instead of getting buried underneath it. That was my key to eventual success.
In contrast, I allowed myself to get buried under a pile of debt. One bad decision after another and eventually found myself getting crushed under a huge amount of personal debt. I had to relearn how to manage money, and change my mindset to help ensure success in this area. The “losses” were stacking up in this area of my life, and I didn’t realize how bad it was until I almost couldn’t breathe under the crushing weight of $70,000 of debt. Only recently can I say that I am standing on top of that pile instead of trying to exist underneath it. It took help, mostly from my wife, to change my mindset and my priorities, to end up debt free minus our house payment in a few short years. I didn’t file bankruptcy and burn the pile to the ground, we grabbed a shovel and started digging our way out. We built a different mountain right next to the debt one, and I used this new pile to climb to new heights. the good pile grew in proportion to the shrinking of the bad pile.
The path to the top of any mountain is never a straight line; it can’t be, as the pitch is too steep. It is a winding path, scenic and meandering, and eventually you find yourself standing on top looking down at where you started, so long ago. This is how success works; it will take longer than you want it to, but that is necessary. It is necessary so you are prepared when do arrive at the peak.
As the saying goes, everyone wants to eat, but not everyone wants to hunt. We all want to be successful, and have the rewards that go along with that. But few people are willing to put in the work it takes to get to the top in any endeavor, and that is what separates the few from the many. I believe that not many people can handled the losses well enough, and for long enough, to get to where they want to go. Much of success truly boils down to the simple idea that you just have to keep showing up, no matter what. You have to deal with the blows to your ego, the long time line, the blow opportunities and the sporadic wins. You have to tolerate all of that to get yourself into position to keep inching your way forward. You’re gonna slide backward at times, tumble on occasion, but you have to keep going. The only guarantee there is in the process is this: If you quit, you will guarantee you will never succeed at what you are pursuing. Other than that, there really is nothing you can count on as a “given” in the process of trying to get to the top. But if you keep showing up, you might just get there eventually.
Here is the best advice I can share on this: Embrace the failures. They are an integral part of the process, there is no way around it. How well you deal with the losses and misses is going to determine how far up the mountain you can climb. They are unavoidable, so don’t hate them and don’t think you can side-step them. Failure is part of success, period. The trick is to end up on top of the pile of failures that stack up instead of getting trapped underneath, and buried in the process.