Do You Ever Beat Yourself Up for Failing?

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"Scientists fail all the time. Only they don’t call it failing. They call it 'collecting data.' They call it 'learning more about a situation.' Seeing nuances that make them question their assumptions. That make them question the rules that have come before."

For accessibility and ease, you can listen to this post narrated by Mike:


Being a visionary is kind of like being a scientist.

We’re constantly seeing the big vision—imagining what’s possible, getting the intuition that this hypothesis might be true.

And then we start experimenting. We start taking action. And we fail. A lot.

Scientists fail all the time. Only they don’t call it failing. They call it “collecting data.” They call it “learning more about a situation.” Seeing nuances that make them question their assumptions. That make them question the rules that have come before.

Science is the continual process of having an impossible vision that questions the rules and experimenting with actions to learn more about that vision.

We visionaries are all scientists of our own lives. Every moment of our lives, every word we speak, is a kind of experiment. An experiment in deepening into our genius.

I’m constantly learning which foods make me feel like a genius, and which definitely don’t. And which business practices help me share my genius, and which definitely don’t.

And I used to see it as failing. I used to see myself as failing all the time. Living in the shadows—the opposite of my genius. Unsuccessful and Misaligned and like a big Mistake. Rather than learning more about what it means to be Successful and Aligned and Unmistakable.

I didn’t see it as an experiment. I saw it as a test. Like I had to prove myself—my worth—to somebody out there. Because I’d been told that I was wrong all too often. “Too much” and “not enough.”

I didn’t give myself any space to learn how to be human. I expected myself to be right every single time. And shamed myself when I tried to learn anything.

One of the most powerful reminders I have that all of life is a science experiment is a routine. I love doing things routinely. Whether it’s writing this blog each morning, talking to Sherri for hours every Friday, or going to Aruba every New Year’s. 

Every good experiment has two things—a control group and a variable group. One that always stays the same, and one that changes. So that we can compare what’s different.

Because one of the biggest challenges in life is that things are alive. They’re always moving. And they subtly change in any given moment.

The Earth is rotating all the time, but we don’t notice that it’s actually changing. Because it’s happening all the time.

We’re aging all the time. But we can’t see it from day to day because it’s so subtle. It’s only when we look back at pictures—a control, a constant—that we notice just how much we’re growing into ourselves.

So routines provide a control for our lives. Because we are constantly changing.

Every day, I get up and write. The action is the same every day. It happens at about the same time every day, I nearly always write 1,000 words. And it takes me about the same amount of time. I’ve been doing it over five years. It couldn’t be more routine.

But some days I’m so energized to write. Other days I don’t feel like it at all. Or my ideas aren’t flowing. Or they’re spilling out of me so fast. And I have to reflect on what specifically changed.

Because, with a constant, we can notice what’s different.

Many of us intuitively do this already. We’ll use time or the calendar as a constant. If we spend every New Year’s Eve reflecting on our year, then the practice and year rhythm is constant, and we can get a better sense of what changed in our year. Or if we always meditate every morning, we might notice that some mornings we’re super focused and other mornings we’re incredibly distracted.

But the best part is it’s not a test. Because we do it routinely. If I was really, really struggling in my exercise this morning, who cares? I didn’t fail. I’m just going to get up again tomorrow.

The more we do something, the less impact each individual instance holds. If we do things routinely, they become a lot less about individual results and more about learning.

We forget to be upset with ourselves for “failing” because we’re too busy noticing what changed. Maybe my workout was harder because I didn’t get as much sleep. Or because I have a lot on my mind. Or because I ate sugar yesterday. Or whatever variable did change.

Lesson learned. Experiment advanced. And we’re just going to get up and do it again, anyway. So we can release any judgment we have.

So often, we visionaries are hard on ourselves. We’re so used to being told that we’re “too much” and “not enough” that we tend to internalize the blame and shame first. We immediately think we’re the problem rather than collecting data on what changed.

The trouble with thinking we’re the problem is that it implies we’re this fixed object. Like we don’t change at all in every single moment. Sure, my remote control can be broken. But can a person be broken? Can we really throw away a person like a broken appliance?

Of course not. That’s utterly ridiculous.

We’re not fixed objects. So we can stop objectifying ourselves. Even if we did something that caused a result we didn’t want yesterday, it doesn’t mean we’re doomed to repeat it forever.

We took an action. We got an undesirable result. We learned something and changed our behavior. And now we’re different than we were yesterday.

Every scientist understands this. Because the process of learning is inherently transformative. Once we learn something, we are fundamentally changed. We’ve absorbed this lesson, and we are therefore different. We’re always evolving.

So, sure, our action might not have given us a desired result. But we can’t possibly by the problem. Because who we are today is already way different than who we were yesterday.

 And our only job now is to treat life like a giant experiment. Collect data everywhere we go. Notice what changes compared to what’s constant. Learn and be transformed by those lessons. And, ultimately, live more of our genius.

If you knew you were truly a genius, then your only job would be to experiment with what brings that genius out of its shell—what makes you truly come alive.


Questions for Reflection:

*Answer in a journal, in the comments right here, or take it over to the Sacred Branding® Facebook group where we can support one another:

Do you ever beat yourself up for failing?

— Do you ever feel ashamed or upset with yourself because you didn’t get the results you were looking for? Maybe your launch didn’t fill up the way you expected, or your art didn’t sell, or your date didn’t go as planned.

— Do you ever completely give up on doing something because it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to? Have you ever told yourself that you’re a failure? Or felt exasperated, frustrated, and defeated?

— What if you saw yourself as a scientist and all of life as just one big experiment? What if you saw every result as just collecting data? What if you chose to do some things routinely—regardless of the day-to-day result—to have a constant to compare against? What if you chose to learn from and be transformed by every result—even if it defied your expectations?

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele

Mike writes about how artists, entrepreneurs, healers, and visionaries of all kinds can actually build a life around the genius inside of them.

He's CEO of Mike Iamele LLC and Creator of Sacred Branding® and the Sacred Circle.

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