Two cyclists approach the bottom of the climb to the Turoa Ski Field on Mount Ruapehu; arguably the toughest cycling climb in New Zealand.
One of the cyclists decides not to attempt the climb. He believes that he wouldn’t be able to make it to the top. The other cyclist isn’t sure she will make it to the top, however, decides to give it a go anyway. Quarter of the way up she starts to feel fatigued, the lactic acid is building in her legs, however, she manages to continue. Half way up the climb she has ridden herself to a stand-still, there is nothing left in the tank. She is forced to turn around and ride back down.
Who is the failure? The cyclist who didn’t attempt the climb, the cyclist who didn’t make it to the summit, or both?
In this example, the cyclist who did not attempt the climb was probably afraid of failure, based on previous experience. However, by not attempting the climb there is no opportunity to learn and gain new insights.
The second cyclist who did attempt the climb could perceive failure because she did not reach the summit and therefore never attempt the goal again, or anything similar.
So, what is failure? By definition, it’s not succeeding at a goal, test or task. Fear of failure is irrational and is the handbrake that stops us from realising our potential. It stems from the belief that if we fail at something, then we personally become a failure. These days we seem to be taking failure to a whole new level by adding the adjective epic to it, as in epic fail. Does this mean that by extension we’ll start seeing ourselves as epic failures?
An alternative way of thinking for the second cyclist would be to view the attempt as a powerful learning opportunity that has provided her with rich insights, which will eventually allow her to achieve the goal. Learning and insight are the stepping stones to success.
We can all relate to the cyclists in this story. At some point in our lives we have all succumbed to the fear of failure, or the fear of being seen as a failure. However, our ability to achieve greater success depends on retraining our mind to dissolve the notion of failure, and of being a failure. The concept of failure is not real, it’s an epic delusion that will derail us from both achieving our goals and realising our full potential.
The new language we need to use in our mind should be that of fearless learning and insight, rather than fear of failure. We must banish the word failure from our mental vocabulary as if it were poison. When we do this success will come into sharp focus.
The answer to the question as to which cyclist is the failure is obviously neither, because the concept of failure no longer exists.
Kia toa, kia ora ai Koutou. (Be brave that you may live) – Hongi Hika
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