Making Failure Your Access to Success

 In Growth

What do you think when I suggest that you step out today and start to live exactly as you heart desires.

Does your mind pause, and think… “I can’t possibly do that, it just won’t work?!”

Why won’t it work?

“Because I’m not properly setup for doing that yet? My ducks aren’t all in a row?”

So… what if you just went and did it anyway?

“Well… I might fail!!” you say.

Fail. What does that conjure up? Our worst fears?
How much failure can you stomach?
What do you think and when I say the word failure?

What are your biggest desires, the things you would truly love to do?
List them out right now.

Now, read this quote, which I first heard about 10 years ago.

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”

It comes from Thomas Watson Jr. who was the second president of IBM, Watson is known as one of history’s greatest capitalists. In the ’60s, his first attempt as creating a supercomputer failed to the tune of $20 million in losses (a huge sum at the time) — but undeterred, Watson went on to make IBM a household name.

It’s not so much about doubling anything, or being a big “success” – whatever that means.
It’s more about the principle of being unafraid to failure, letting it a part of your life and vehicle for growth.

Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Why, because in the scope of our lives, if we are to use the general definition of “failure” as losing something – then we are ultimately going to lose everything. This very basic definition of failure suggests that, according to this view, we are all guaranteed failures. So, if that’s the case, let’s jump in, and give up trying to protect something that we’re bound to lose anyway.

How I see it, failure cripples people in society before they even get a chance to succeed.

It nearly crippled me. I was so intent on pleasing everyone, and trying to be a “success”.
In the end I threw away my desire for keeping up the lies that were driving me to live a life that was purely based on “not being a failure” in the eyes of everyone… except myself.

When I confronted that, I ended up crashing each of the main structures in my life. After spending 2 decades creating the ideal situation that most people crave, a beautiful home, cars, a business with a dozen staff and hundreds of clients all over the world, touring and presenting to thousands of people, I got completely burnt out and sick to my stomach of everything that I created.

This included going through all of the following:

  • Leaving a completely dysfunctional marriage of 15 years and getting a divorce after my mothers death
  • Becoming a single dad to finish raising my daughter
  • Closing down my company that was sucking the life from me
  • Losing all my assets, all my properties in the divorce, plus and ten’s of thousands in the stock market
  • Leaving the city I’d lived for 18 years and walking away from all my friends
  • Hiring a team of experts to strategically go bankrupt

I did all of that over 4 years. And planned every part of it. All of it to free myself.
Because, when freedom is your number one goal, and you really own it down to your bones, like I did, you’ll be willing to do anything. I was totally willing to “fail” in the eyes of everyone.

Most people would consider all of that as a series of catastrophic failures.

To me it was a liberating, empowering experience that would propel me forward, train me and strengthen me in the skills I would need for the coming journey, and the coming changes that will be unleashed upon our world over the next decade. I had a plan that no one else understood, and so to me everything made perfect sense.

I became crystal clear that running a large company and living in a single city with a conventional life in no way suited me. I tried it for 18 years, and it nearly crushed me.

So perhaps creating big companies or traveling the world might not be your goal, but surely having a life you love is something that you seek. How strange that following your hearts desire too often occurs as foolish and something destined to “never work”.

Says who!?! Why let failure hold you back from living a life that would truly love.
This ain’t no dress rehearsal. Don’t kid yourself. this day is all you’ve got.

But still, your hearts desire might seem completely impractical.
Regardless, not living it is distracting you from fully engaging with your life today.

And crazy as this may sound, you may even find that you don’t even love your dream! It could just be a fantasy, but a persistent fantasy that keeps rolling around in your head… unless you give it the opportunity to actually play out in reality. Only then would you know if it was something that you truly wanted to continue with.

Allowing this to unfold is called… going with the flow. Opening up and allowing your desires to move through you rather than always keeping a lid on them requires some practise. And opening up to your dreams also involves even opening up to the possibility of failure.

Which also involves opening up to not pleasing others as well as giving up the concern of what others think of you. After all, society is built upon the concept of everyone trying to impress other people that they don’t even know or care too much about. Is that you?

Now to make embracing failure as part of life a truly winning formula, there are some other important aspects to throw into the mix. Such as creating structures for reflection, serenity and time out. Because when you start to regularly give yourself the space to just be, you develop clarity and the ability to to spot failures early on.

“Fail fast and cheap. Fail often. Fail in a way that doesn’t kill you.”
Seth Godin

This means give something a go. Get in. Work it. Keep checking how things are going. And correct and change course as often as you need to keep everything moving forward.

A smart person ensures that their failures won’t wipe them out, and that will be able to keep playing the game no matter what. Some will even ensure that a potential failure will even leave the seeds for a new potential venture, opening the door to new potential successes.

What this means is that you list out all the potential outcomes you can think of, and focus on designing your ultimate environment that is optimal for you to succeed. So you stack the game in your favour, ensuring that you keep winning even if you “loose”.

This involves picking only the best people to hang out with. Those who celebrate you and encourage you to grow.

You make use of the complete globe as your play. You pick the best locations that suite your current situation. This means you get real with your current financial situation, and live in a location that actually supports you to get ahead, rather than one that depletes you.

It is quite likely that you won’t be easily able to embrace failure in expensive Western countries where your runway to success is actually very short. Said another way, you give yourself very little space for stuff ups. And with very little space, this means you have very little room to move, be creative, and flexible – further fuelling the fires of stress and anxiety, which do nothing but keep you locked into not living your dream.

Picking countries where you have the room to stuff up and make mistakes just makes good sense.

Then when you add in choosing new accommodation styles that cost almost nothing also give you that space. Such as HouseCarers.com and WorkAway.info

It’s for this reason that I create situations like the one I’m currently in, where I find living in Mexico for these 4 months on the beach, in a housesit for free. All this helps me ensure that even if some of my projects don’t work, I’m still ahead.

And after that, I’m planning my next trip to Thailand. A place where you can rent a brand new apartment for $1,500 a year!

Some people might say that because I’m about to lose my property in New York City that I’ve been renting out on AirBnB for the past 10 months as a set back. This is because the owner is selling it. But I’ve already made double my money each month on renting it out – and I’ve been living in other countries, far from NYC, and never even going there.

But I’m about to write a new book that covers how to use accommodation in new ways, and how to profit from hidden opportunities. So, I’m turning the apparent loss of one stream of income, into a new stream of income.

What structures could you put in place allow more flexibility to fail, and then keep expanding no matter what happens?

Let your imagination go wild, and start brainstorming.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Bret Thomson

    Love this message mate! Love how you’re a walking talking example of this!

  • marion

    go barnaby, your posts are wonderful!

  • Tim Browning

    Thank you for sending this to me. I know it’s a blog post emailed to many but it is speaking directly to me. I have been in the mental bonds of western society most of my adult life; you have to have a job, you need to work hard etc. I am in the process of gaining another perspective and reprograming my mind. Keep up the encouragement and wisdom.

  • Ciaran

    That’s awesome.

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