Fighting Back Against Failure

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 8: Confidence, subscribe and buy here

It’s ironic that this issue’s topic is about self-confidence and inner game at a time when I’ve been in a dark place. Perhaps my self-confidence has left me, maybe it’s just a slump, but the reality is that for a while I simply allowed failure to take the wheel and drive the bus.

It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not through it yet. The good news is I am negotiating back my way to the wheel.

It’s a hard thing to write about not succeeding and I almost didn’t. Being in the place I was, I wasn’t sure that what I had to say could be useful to Alpha Efficiency readers. It was a friend and long-time client who changed my mind; he persuaded me that sharing my personal experience openly and honestly was something that I should share – silence was the soft option.

I have been lucky enough to accomplish many things: I’ve published ten books, participated in a TEDx Talk, been on the cover of cool Magazines like Alpha Efficiency. I’ve been proud to be part of the Alpha Efficiency adventure since Issue 1 and I’ve always delivered to the highest standard. Even with all this, I need to work; to get to the next day. On the good days, I’d be motivated by my goals, my routines, my systems. On a bad day, my fears and the feeling of failure took me over the line. But in this dark moment, even my fears weren’t sufficient and, to put it simply, I sunk.

The problem is that the more I sunk into the failure, fears, and self-doubt the harder it became for me to simply exit, to continue, to go back and “play pro”, as Steven Pressfield defined it in his books The War of Art and Turning Pro. The difference between the Amateur and the Pro is not the lack of fear, doubt and lack of self-confidence, it is how you respond to it. The problem is that even Pros need to work daily on it, otherwise the fear wins and you lose your Pro status.

Why is this helpful? It is important to be human. It is important that when you want to be someone that people turn to, who shares what they know, who is considered an “expert” in purposeful living, then you need to be able to be vulnerable, to be human. This is what my friend told me, and it’s the reason I decided to write what could be the most difficult article I’ve ever written.

But what better issue to admit my fallibility than the issue where the fabulous Patrick Rhone is on the cover! I have been reading and following Patrick Rhone for years. He even did something really cool on one of my early books: I offered to send him a courtesy copy and he replied to me that he had just bought it to support me as a writer. Nothing gets cooler than that.

If you read Patrick’s writing for a while you will discover that he is not afraid to show when he is good, bad and in between; he is not afraid to show his happiness or share his tears. He has experienced failure, success, fear, and doubts. He is, above everything else, human.

Sometimes we forget that we are human, that the important thing is not to never fall, but to be able to pick ourselves up and carry on. Being human is about enduring; about working through those moments of failure and coming out of the darkness into a world where things no longer seem unreachable, impossible.

Sometimes we forget that we are human, that the important thing is not to never fall, but to be able to pick ourselves up and carry on.

I decided to write about a little bit of Failure and the lack of self-confidence because, after more than 10 books, I am in what I call “the valley of despair”. It’s a dark, damp and cold place in which everything feels as if it is going to end right there, a place where it feels easier to quit than to continue, a place that your worst fears show up making you feel not only weak but worthless.

It is not the first time I’ve been to the Valley of Despair and I can guarantee you it is not going to be the last. The fact that it’s familiar doesn’t make it any easier, but even in the despairing moments, I know deep down that the path back towards the light is one that I’ve found before. The reason it is important – according to my friend – for you to know that this place exists is that you will see soon how I bounce once more, and it is this article, the opportunity to show you that I showed up even when it was hard, when all that I wanted to do was eat ice cream and pizza and quit. I showed up even when the dampness, wetness, coldness, and darkness of the Valley of Despair felt bigger than anything I can handle right now.

Productivity is not different; life is not different. Sometimes you need to show up even when your self-confidence is not there when you feel raw when you feel that you simply failed, that you can’t handle more… You show up because you are a Productive Person; you show up because you are a Writer; You show up because honoring your commitments, pushing through the darkness and laying it out on the table is part of who you are. You do the best you can, even if your level of self-confidence is so low you could step right over it with a single stride forwards.

The lesson? Be human. Be vulnerable. Show up every day, work through it and eventually, you’ll step into the light. I hope the next time you read my work I’ll be writing from a happier place, but for now, I hope you took some inspiration from my personal struggle.