We know that successful people are not immune to fearing failure, so how do they still manage to succeed?
This is my third and last post that steals, er, curates, the ideas proposed by organizational psychologist Adam Grant in his TED talk. He says that successful people do fear failure…but, even more, they fear not having tried.
These people can put aside their fear long enough to come up with lots of ideas and lots of projects. They look at bad ideas as part of the process, and the same goes for rejection and failure. They see those as steps on the road to success.
They don't give up, so if one day they face death without having realized their dream, well, at least they will know they gave it their best shot. A study of the regrets of very old people backs this up--most of them said they regretted more the things they didn't do than the things they did.
My quest for 100 rejections
I’ve recently put this into action with something that I was finding depressing—the fact that so far agents have failed to grasp the greatness of my YA novel. I'd received about a dozen rejections, most in the form of hearing nothing back.
Rather than suffer with each new rejection, I decided I to go for 100 rejections. I don’t rule out the idea of rewriting the manuscript if I get useful feedback, and I’m moving forward on other projects at the same time. If some astute agent wants to handle it before I get to 100, that’s fine, too. But in the meantime, it allows me to be playful and philosophical instead of depressed.
Three ways to re-frame a problem
The cliché, “It’s all how you look at it,” is true, as is the maxim, “It’s not what happens, it’s how you respond to what happens.” (Actually, it IS partly about what happens, but your response is even more important.)
In the previous post, I mentioned “the best-friend strategy,” in which you consider your own problem as though it belonged to your best friend, and decide what advice you’d give them. That’s one example of re-framing.
Another is to change the time context of whatever is happening. If you are upset about something, imagine going forward a month in time. Do you think it will still upset you? What about six months from now? A year from now? In many cases, putting it into perspective as one of many things that are happening and will happen brings down your anxiety level immediately.
The third re-frame is good for situations in which you can’t see the way forward.You're taking something you consider impossible and re-frame it as possible.
Even if you have come to the conclusion there is nothing you can do about it, imagine you’re interviewing yourself and ask, “But if you could, how would you do it?”
You repeat the question until you come up with something. Here’s an example:
"I’d like to take a two-week vacation in Europe this summer, but I can’t, I don’t have the money."
But if you could, how would you do it?
But if you could, how would you do it?
"I’d have to find a way that’s free or really, really cheap. And the places I want to go aren’t cheap."
If you could find a way to go free or really cheaply, how would you do it?
"I’d have to find somebody who has a place who’d let me stay, but I don’t know anybody like that."
If you could look for somebody who has a place to let you stay free, how would you do it?
"Well, maybe I could do some work for them, but I really want to enjoy myself…wait a minute, there are house-swaps and house-sitting agencies…"
A solution may not come quite that quickly, but often if you persist you will find a way.
REFRAMING IN THE FACE OF DISASTER
Admittedly, there are situations that are just plain awful, but even in those a re-frame can be helpful.
For instance, the Irish practice of holding a wake for the departed moves the emphasis from grief for what we have lost to a celebration of what we had. That doesn’t negate the loss, but it helps balance it with a more positive element.
The reframes that work in the face of true disaster don’t deny that terrible things happen, but they can help us remember that sooner or later the wheel of fate will turn.