The following post is an excerpt from my new book, Get the Hell Past It: How to Recover from Failure with Grace, Dignity and Possibly Some Cash. If you enjoy this section, I strongly recommend you pick up the book and learn to use failure as motivation like a boss!
Failure is a kind of motivation if you can strike while the iron is hot.
It’s like taking a test. Would you take the class, then take the test a year later? No, you take the test right away.
Well, your failed attempt was the class. The test is this: Can you learn to correct what went wrong? If you “take that test” by restarting right away, you have a much better chance than if you wait. Give it 3 months, 6 months or a year, and you’re much likelier to make the same mistakes over again.
Plus, waiting makes the fear mount.
Waiting turns a temporary setback into A HUMONGOUS GIANT FAILURE. When you wait, you create a break in the timeline. When your brain looks at that break, it will see a big ol’ valley in your productivity, motivation and output. It interprets this as, “Ah, that’s the time I failed. I probably shouldn’t do that again.”
On the other hand, if that break is only a week or two long? Maybe a month at most? It’s a blip. It’s that time you took a little break before kicking ass again. Or even less.
So remind yourself that you don’t have all the time in the world.
Let me share this adorable story from my adorable son, who was in the living room building a fabulously giant pirate ship, with flamboyant lego towers and spidery gangplanks and who even knows what else. Surprising no one, considering how delicate it was, the ship shattered into a million pieces as soon as he tried to fly it. (Yes, his pirate ships fly. He hasn’t even read Peter Pan yet.)
At first, he cried. But then, unprompted, he looked at me and said, “It’s okay, mama. I’m going to build a better ship.”
Kids have the right idea, see. Their entire lives are a failure. They haven’t yet learned that running and falling and running again is a bad thing, so they just do it. We could really stand to take a page out of their books, and get back on that horse/donkey/luck dragon/steed of choice without further delay.
Of course, getting back in the saddle isn’t easy, but it becomes simpler and less terrifying if you have a solid plan in place. When you first try and regroup, you’ll feel a little lost, which is why instead of trying to “figure out a new direction,” you should simply pick one task and have at it.
That might mean you should:
It’s not easy to learn to use failure as motivation, but it is relatively simple: You commit to doing the thing, then act as if you’ve already mastered the art until you do. As with so many things, you must simply fake it till you make it.
In the meantime, I’m here to help with a handy course that lays out the basics of getting started with the writing life, which I highly recommend you check out today!
Good luck. 🙂
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