Somehow we need to be right, and fear to be (proven) wrong. How come?
It's not in our genes, but in our head. When we became adolescents we started to mistake goal for means: but the means are not success, the means are failure. When you fail over and over again, in the end there's only success left
As usual, a Twitter conversation drove me out here. Gunther Sonnenfeld is the culprit this time, when saying:
@MartijnLinssen amazing how much fear we ascribe to "failure", when the reality is that it may not even be the thing that we are facing.My answer? This:
.@goonth It's how we (are able to) grow up my friend, embedded into our system. Then again, Failure is the means to the goal of Success
And yet again, a blog post is born
The picture above nicely shows the path we travel in our lives: full of pitfalls. How do you know what a pitfall is? When you fall down the hole for the first time. Is it a pleasurable experience? Probably not, and it certainly doesn't meet with the Goal you had in mind
When we're young, we're untainted. We haven't been taught the principle of duality (good and evil, right and wrong, pretty and ugly) and we all Love everything and everyone around us. We crawl across the streets if mommy would only let us, hug the vicious-looking dog and don't think much of heights - watch the stairs!
Then, we grow up. Physically, but also mentally. We learn to walk - by falling on our behind many, many times. After months of falling, we stand straight for the first time, and walk a few steps - to fall again
Talking, eating, bicycle riding - we fail and fail over and over again. Do we cry each time? No. Do we feel ashamed each time? No. Do we feel hurt? Well maybe a little bit, physically - especially when it comes to learning to ride a bicycle
But then, it comes. At the age of 6-8 or so, we learn to have opinions. We admire mom and dad, the teacher, and we want to impress them. They have such great, vivid opinions - WOW! We want to have them as well.
What are our first opinions? Our opinion of food. When we form our first opinions on food and are able to voice them, we are rewarded, usually. "I'm full" is the first, "I don't like the taste" is next, and before you know it, we're Master of Opinion on the topic of food. How do you recognise a child that isn't taken seriously by its parents? It claims to not like nor eat almost everything
A little while later, we form opinions about people. Whom we like, whom we don't like. We form opinions about clothing, neighbourhoods, cars, girls, politics, religion, everything. The Judge in our head is almost exploding
What's the difficulty in that? There is no goal. There are no means. We usually like what the majority likes, and dislike what the majority dislikes. Of course that majority is our inner circle majority, our own little democracy in our own little world. Our home, our church, our school, our town. When we leave the nest we have a chance to change those opinions without too much "loss of face", and sometimes we do. Still, when our majority changes, we have to change along, or be proven wrong. Because we are afraid that we will "betray" our Group we belong to, we'll betray ourselves by denying our own feelings, emotions and contemplations, and align ourselves with that which our Group does
During puberty we have an enlightened moment: we somehow subconsciously realise what's wrong, but we don't figure out the entire system is wrong, we just change opinions from black to white, dark to light, and vice versa.
If we'd be really astute, we'd notice that's not the answer either, and find that looking for balance by choosing either end or intermediate parts of the scale is an endless and useless exercise, as there is no scale - in stead, we know the outcome of the game is not okay, so we change the rules - while we should change the entire game in stead.
So, what do we perceive to be Success? Well, simply sticking to your inner circle's opinion when around your inner circle. And our perception of Failure? Doing the opposite. How much inner circles do we move in? Many, and yet we manage to be perceived to be right in every one of them. That takes some serious Self-sacrifice
Update 18th September 19:42 CET: this is where and when Failure and Success get con-fused. In stead of failing a few times before getting something right, we learn that failure is not accepted. You either share the opinion of the Group (Success) or you don't (and then you're immediately out, excommunicated, rejected). Failure is not an option, you have to be succesful right from the startWe are taught to detest to be wrong. We are taught to need-to-be right. We surround us with like-minded people, to limit the chances of having to review our opinions, and so we can prolong our false perception of Success. Take a look at any enterprise collection of middle management, and you'll see a sad example of optimising that paradigm. A gaping void of like-minded incompetents, afraid to take any action towards changing the status quo
Fear. It's fear that rules our life. Fear of being wrong, losing face, losing your friends, being laughed at, ridiculed, expelled from the Group - and yet, we try to be an individual because we're seeking to retrieve our I-dentity. The trade-off, it's suffocating, isn't it?
If you recognise the system, look at it. Take a step back, and look at it. Recognise the fact that you're trapped in the pitfall of trying not to fail, and what that means to you, your loved ones, your colleagues, your career; what is the investment you put in - the energy, the worrying, the cautiousness - and what is the return on that? No, really, what is the ROI of avoiding to fail?
Failure is the means to the goal of Success. If you want to succeed, fail fast, fail early, fail often. If you don't, it will take a lot of time, money and energy before you fail. And by that time, because you're up the proverbial ladder so far already, you'll fail big - and the hurt might be more than you can take
Mistaking means for a goal is a common mistake. But mistaking the goal of Success for a means is the biggest mistake you can make