Imagine that you’re launching a new soft drink and you really want people to take you seriously.
So, in a blaze of publicity, you drive a tank through Times Square to make your statement.
We’re gunning for you, Pepsi and Coca-Cola
But just three years later, you pull the plug – after all, you’ve achieved a paltry 0.5% market share and the business is going nowhere.
Now be honest, on a scale of 1 to 10, how embarrassed/humiliated/disillusioned would you feel?
Probably a 9 or 10, right – I mean, who wouldn’t be?
Not Richard Branson.
He came back from that disaster and kept on starting new businesses, some of which flopped while others became incredibly successful.
Now what sets apart people like Branson from regular folks isn’t usually a huge difference in skill, it largely comes down to mindset.
Really, it’s true.
Use Your Delusion
In their book Supersurvivors, psychologists David Feldman and Lee Kravetz quote Dr Marshall Goldsmith – a man who has spent decades studying executives from some of the largest and most influential companies in the world.
The successful people are all delusional!
And, according to him, that’s actually a good thing.
Why? Because it keeps people fired up and moving forward even in the face of adversity.
As he says,
Successful people fail a lot, but they try a lot, too. When things don’t work, they move on until an idea does work
Now that’s the exact opposite of regular folks.
If they make a mistake, first they beat themselves up mentally – how could I have been so dumb to think it would work? – and then they vow never to try something new again.
Whether that’s learning to snowboard, starting a business, or anything in between.
According to Dr Goldsmith, it’s almost as if successful people view the world through a different lens.
People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats
That’s why, even while Virgin Drinks USA was foundering, Branson still went ahead and launched Virgin Cars, predicting sales of 24,000 and a turnover of $450 million in the first year of business.
The reality was closer to 2,000 cars and $45 million, and the company folded in 2005.
But if you hear the name “Richard Branson” or “Virgin” you think only about the successes, right?
Like he has some kind of Midas touch and never makes a mistake.
Well, that’s just plain wrong.
Whenever people do anything, mistakes are guaranteed.
I’ve Failed……And That Is Why I Succeed
OK, let’s take sports as an example.
Arguably the greatest player in baseball history, Babe Ruth hit a career average of 0.342 – in other words, he failed over 65% of the time.
Then there’s the famous Michael Jordan quote.
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
And what about surfer, Laird Hamilton?
Now a dad in his 50s, Laird is widely recognized as one of the greatest big-wave surfers of all time, taking on and conquering the most life-threatening waves on the planet.
But Laird’s still human and that means he makes mistakes – here’s a small selection of the injuries he’s suffered over his surfing career.
- Surfboard through the cheek
- First degree shoulder separation
- Crushed vertebrae
- Torn and reconstructed ACL
- Broken toes
- Broken left ankle (six times)
- Broken eardrum
- Broken ribs
And over 1000 stitches.
But just because he’s made a ton of painful mistakes doesn’t mean Laird’s a failure.
He simply doesn’t allow himself to perceive them that way.
Make Your Rules Work For You
Fundamentally, we all have our own rules about what constitutes a “success” or “failure”.
And if those rules work against us rather than for us, we’ll be too paralyzed to take action and we’ll never accomplish anything.
Can you imagine if Laird Hamilton’s rule for failure was:
“If I ever feel scared or fall off my board while surfing, I’m a failure”?
What if Richard Branson’s rule for success was:
“Every one of my businesses must exceed the predicted profits for me to feel successful”?
Sounds insane, right?
But we all have rules that are just as crazy, make it just as hard to succeed, and just as easy to fail.
Remember, what you consider to be a success or failure comes down to an arbitrary set of conditions that you’ve imposed on a situation.
Even worse, you probably never consciously decided what those were or whether they were helpful.
But the great news is we can always rewrite our rules so it becomes easier to succeed and almost impossible to fail.
And we can do that instantly any time we choose.
So how about something more empowering, such as:
“If I give my all and learn something useful in the process then I’ve succeeded”
“I can only fail if I quit and learn nothing from the experience”
OK, here’s how that could work in practice.
Let’s say you’ve lost a bunch of weight but have put it all back on (plus a couple of pounds more).
Is that a failure? Hell, no!
Why? Because you learned how to lose weight in the first place, and you now know what not to do when you hit your target weight.
Or, let’s say your exercise program didn’t give the expected results.
That’s not a failure, either.
You now have invaluable real-world experience and you’re able to ask better questions next time.
That’s the kind of mindset that allows Richard Branson to “fail” and drive himself on to even greater success.
It works for him and it will work for us, too.
The Final Word
I just love this quote by the Greek philosopher, Epictetus.
Men are not disturbed by things that happen, but by their opinion of things that happen
Success and failure ultimately come down to the meaning you give to any particular situation.
And by rewriting your rules to make it easier to win and harder to lose, you’ll be able to tap much more of your innate potential.
That way, when those inevitable mistakes occur, you’ll be able to react with the kind of positive and aggressive attitude that’s required to achieve your desired outcome.
The same way you used to when you fell off your bicycle when you were a kid.
Remember how you mastered that?
Share this article with your friends!