There is an old adage which reads, “He who dares wins”. The simple truth is that when we attempt something, we either get our intended outcome or we don’t. In contemporary vernacular, that is often called “success”, or “failure”, respectively. Much has been written about how failure is really only feedback, so I’ll only review that point here as I offer a suggestion.
Take something simple like trying to shoot a basketball through a hoop. You aim, you take the shot, and you either make it or you don’t. No, “almost” making it doesn’t count as gray area – it didn’t go through the hoop! But let’s say you have no crucial game on the line, just taking some shots for fun. You grab the ball again after your “failure” and adjust to the feedback you just got. For instance, your shot pulled too far to the left, so you adjust, and aim a bit more to the right. Then you get more feedback, it goes too far to the right. So you again adjust, grab the ball and aim with the new information in mind. Eventually, you will succeed, unless you are ignoring the feedback, and failing to adjust to the new information. We’re clear that all “failure” is just that, feedback that is intended to help us adjust our approach.
Therefore to continue using the word “fail” we must have a time constraint. For example, no “practice” shots are allowed, so no feedback. You either get the shot on the first try or no deal. How many times do we allow ourselves only one such try before giving up? Often, in my experience, at which point we cut ourselves off from further attempts, further refinements, from learning.
The temporal therefore becomes a huge part of our decisions about outcomes, about our results, and therefore about how and whether we learn.
There are many reasons for this, the most common being appearances – we like to look good. As adults, we are concerned about not being proficient at everything we attempt. Though how many times does that actually occur on the first try? Maybe you shot a “swish” through the hoop the first shot you took, perhaps you got on that two-wheeled bicycle like the big kids ride, no training wheels, and with no practice, no falling, just already knew how to ride it. Maybe…but not likely. Too many things in our world require coordination, skill, training. That’s where learning is a crucial survival skill for us. Some things we learn are trivial and perhaps inconsequential, like making that basket. However many learned behaviors are vital to survival, to achievement, to having a healthy relationship, a healthy life, well-adjusted children, and so forth.
Would you be okay if your toddler tried walking one day, fell down, and decided to never try again? Or if after riding the bike with training wheels, tried it once without, fell, and just gave up? Think carefully, because while it may seem obvious, this is a profound idea – we are teaching our kids how to persevere, measure their outcome, make adjustments, to learn. There’s much more at stake than simply knowing how to ride a bike or walking. We are establishing patterns and values that impact decisions all throughout life.
Now if you find yourself choosing to give up after your first try, consider that it’s never too late to learn something new.
As we give up ideas such as “one try and that’s it!”, we stop worshiping time as a part of our self image, our assessment of our own capabilities. One key is to let go of concern over not looking slick or perfect. Very few people have ever succeeded on the first try at anything. And if they did experience “beginner’s luck”, how often can they replicate it? To consistently perform an action successfully requires learning and practice. We have to open ourselves up to the experience of learning, which means that until something is “known”, we may not be successful with any consistency. But it’s all in the name of becoming better. If we let go of the temporal requirement, we allow ourselves the necessary time to practice and develop our skills. The notion is that in time, we will have developed that skill and capability, and will demonstrate success with consistency. Of course, to those who didn’t see your practice, you still might appear lucky. Let go of that concern as well, as it doesn’t serve you.
Becoming excellent does.
Is there an area of your life, whether personal or professional, where you have shied away from developing your capabilities, afraid to appear foolish or unskilled? Some of the hardest things to learn, for instance, being a great partner for your spouse or significant other, take experience and practice. But if your first attempt at dating doesn’t work out (or marriage for that matter!), or the second, or the third, you may be tempted to just give up. But we need companionship, even those among us who love our time alone. But taking your partner for granted, not making them feel loved or appreciated, is a certain way to lose them. We must all learn to become excellent at these things, ensuring our ability to be a good partner, and to maintain a great relationship.
Perhaps some people communicate so well with others that they managed to learn fairly quickly how to be a great partner. However, very few among us just innately knew how to do it right away. We had to date as young people, struggle through new and complicated feelings of possessiveness, jealousy, love, anger, hurt, passon, and so on. As we learned, however, as we communicated with others and ourselves, as we struggled with the times where we totally missed the basket, so to speak, we hopefully used that feedback to adjust our aim, and to eventually become great.
With no more temporal concerns, we can continue adjusting, continue learning, until we indeed become the person we want to be. And that formula works in everything we face in life.
Though if you don’t dare to show others and yourself that you don’t yet know something, you have no place from which to begin learning. So as you don’t dare, you can’t yet win.
Begin to dare, begin to let go of time constraints on your learning, and begin really learning.