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Fail Fast Fail Often

“The point of this book is to help you take action in your life." 

"You might think of it as ‘Action 101’ because we teach the basics of getting going and making things happen, even though you may feel apprehensive, unprepared, or afraid of failure."

"The ideas presented here arose out of our work as career counselors and educators. In talking to thousands of individuals about their work, we made an important discovery: People who are happy and successful spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world and try new things, make mistakes, and in doing so, benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities."

"In the following pages you will find advice on how to follow your interests and take action, even though you may be unsure of your career plans, feel stuck in a rut, or be apprehensive of failure."

"We provide practical advice on how to trust your enthusiasm and allow it to guide you, break free from habitual behaviors and initiate new adventures, act boldly with minimal preparation, and leverage your strengths for rapid change. Each chapter includes a discussion of cutting-edge research, inspiring stories from the lives of famous and ordinary people alike, and specific steps to put ideas into practice to enact immediate change in your life.”

Welcome to Action 101!

Our guides?  Two leading physiologists and career counselors!

This book is based on a course they taught at Standford University called "Fail Fast Fail Often"

A course taken by thousands of students and based on research.

What is the course about?

Well, inside the course they make the argument that the happiest and most successful have a bias towards action.

Specifically: "Happy and successful people tend to spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes, and in doing so, they benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.”

How about you?

Are you already biased towards action?  Diving into things head first, and learning as you go.

Or are you someone who tends to sit back, plan and find all the ways something might fail?

If you're the former, this book is going to help you understand the strategy and why it's successful.

If you're the latter, this book is going to show you how to become more action focused, and live a happier and more successful life.

Fun Meter

“Your great-uncle was a crazy inventor, and his proudest accomplishment was the creation of a wrist-worn gadget he called the fun-meter."

"It records a measure of the degree of enjoyment you are experiencing—how enthusiastic, vital, curious, and appreciative you are feeling.  It rates enjoyment on a scale of one to ten, with one being down-in-the-dumps and ten being happy- as-can-be." 

"The stipulations of your uncle’s will are the following: You are to wear the fun-meter at all times. Each day the fun-meter will take the highest enjoyment reading for the day and wirelessly transmit it to the estate attorney’s office. If the reading never falls below a value of seven over the course of the next year, then you will receive the $100 million. But if on any day the high for the day falls below seven, then you will receive nothing."

"Let’s say you decide to take on the challenge of wearing the fun-meter. Right away you are going to have to live life like it really matters. You can’t let a single day pass without finding time to have at least a few moments of unadulterated joy. So here’s the question: What action would you take on the first day?”

This certainly sounds like a scam..

But it's actually a great thought exercise!

  • On any given day, what is your fun meter saying?
  • Once you've got a good idea of what your meter is saying, now what COULD your meter be saying?

The guys in the book say, we should aim for at least one seven a day.

Obviously this is pretty subjective and we don't actually have a fun meter.  

But it's a great way to bring mindfulness to our days.

Are we:

- Focusing on all the things currently stressing us out today.

- Neglecting ourselves in favor of working harder for some goal in the future?

- Actively sabotaging our own 'fun meter' in one of the many other ways humans tend too?

How do you raise your fun meter?

Personally, it's something that I've given quite a lot of thought, and it seems to vary person to person.

A really insightful book about this is Myths of Happiness and we've done a review on the channel.

Essentially, a lot of the things we think will make us happy won't.  And it's better to go for smaller, consistent happy bumps (like daily) rather than one big one!

Hit the 7:

“Recall how energizing and rewarding it can be to really connect with somebody, sharing a flow of thoughts and feelings with ease."

"As your day unfolds, seek out at least three opportunities to connect with others like this, with warmth, respect, and goodwill." 

"Opportunities may spring up at home, at work, in your neighborhood, or out in your community. Wherever you are, open toward others, freely offering your attention, creating a sense of safety, through eye contact, conversation, or, when appropriate, touch."  

"Share your own lighthearted thoughts and feelings, and stay present as the other person shares theirs.

"Afterward, lightly reflect on whether that interchange led you to feel the oneness of positivity resonance, even to a small degree. Creating the intention to seek out and create more micro- moments of loving connection can be another tool for elevating your health and well-being.”

Success = Action

“We like this story because it points out an important principle: successful people take action as quickly as possible, even though they may perform badly."

"Instead of trying to avoid making mistakes and failing, they actively seek opportunities where they can learn quickly. They understand that feeling afraid or unprepared is a sign of being in the space for optimal growth and is all the more reason to press ahead." 

"In contrast, when unsuccessful people feel unprepared or afraid, they interpret it as a sign that it is time to stop, readdress their plans, question their motives, or spend more time preparing and planning."

"Let us ask you some questions:"   

"When was the last time you accomplished something that you were really proud of?"

"How did you feel in the time before you reached this accomplishment?" 

"Was it comfortable? Easy? Did you have to do things that pushed you beyond your abilities?"

"Did you make mistakes and mess up?"

"If you are like most people, you will probably find that the times in your life when you grew and accomplished the most are also the times when you made the most mistakes and blunders and had to overcome the greatest obstacles.”

When was the last time you accomplished something you were really proud of?

Likely, that accomplishment came after many failures.

  • I posted over 50 videos on YouTube before anyone really started to pay attention. 
  • I must have called 100's of businesses before anyone bought my marketing services.
  • But building these two businesses have been some of my greatest accomplishments.  

Failure hurts in the moment, especially when you're first starting.

  • Often we've got a hope of creating something great without failing..  
  • We think that the plan we've created is foolproof and won't need to be iterated on.  Of course that's not usually the case.

But failure, is the best learning opportunity and we would do better (long and short term) to just make a lot of attempts, and iterate. 

  • When starting a business, you're going to have to change your offering dozens of times before you find success.
  • Journeys to personal growth often come with a lot of failure as well, first you set goals, then realize habits are important and finally realize it all comes down to attention. 
  • The number one thing you can do to become successful faster?  Be willing to fail.

Bad = Good

"They are willing to fail time and time again in order to get their bearings, move forward, and learn."  

"Successful people understand that the best way to learn about something and get good at it is to fail at it as fast as they can. Since every significant accomplishment is preceded by flops, bad ideas, false starts, and failed efforts, these people are willing to fail as quickly and as often as possible to get it out of the way."

"Instead of studying, preparing, and delaying so as to avoid making mistakes, they find ways to immediately take action, create, or do something even though they know their efforts will fall short of perfection (or even minimal competency)."

"Since success is usually preceded by bumbling starts and botched efforts, you can think about anything you would like to succeed at in terms of how you must first be bad at it." 

"You can put it in this form: If I want to succeed at __________, I must first be bad at __________.”

The Formula for Achievement: Talent x Effort = Skill. Skill x Effort = Achievement

Effort counts twice!  

  • Every time we step up to the plate and make an effort we get that chance to be more skilled.  
  • If you're making videos, each one gives you the chance to learn.
  • If you're making marketing pitches each one gives you a chance to learn.

This makes failure a little easier..

  • Knowing that each swing you take you have a chance to become better.
  • I love this quote from Be Unstoppable:

"‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

TLDR: no matter where you start, action and persistence are the two most important parts of the success equation.  

Between the lines, hides the truth.

  • The truth here is that failure is certainly part of the achievement equation..  
  • But only failure that we learn from is actually worthwhile.  There are a lot of people doing the same thing over and over without success.
  • So how are you learning from your failures?

Try a post-mortem analysis of any project/action you take. 

Step One: Take the action (knowing the desired outcome). 

Step Two: Try your hardest!  Follow the plan. 

Step Three: Ask the stoic questions.

  • What went well?
  • What didn't go well?
  • What can I do better next time?

Small Steps

“It can be difficult to get started on big projects such as changing your career path, reorganizing your office, or establishing a healthier lifestyle."  

"When you find yourself becoming paralyzed because you are unsure of how to proceed, it is time to stop worrying about your difficult goals and to focus instead on finding one small thing to do. No matter how confused or chaotic your life may be, you can always find one positive step to take."

"By taking that first step, you get things moving and open yourself to new opportunities, making it easier to take the next step."

"So what next step would you like to take? It can be anything that will allow you to learn, explore, or make progress at something that is important to you." 

"The point is to get moving and make things happen, not to strive for a significant accomplishment. The smaller and easier your action step, the better! One of the hallmarks of the small wins approach is that you often don’t know where your actions will lead. So don’t worry about trying to follow a linear path. Just have fun taking lots of little steps and enjoy the surprise of being led to unexpected places.”

Having a big goal or vision can be paralyzing..

Often it can feel so far away it seems pointless to even start (even if you knew where).

  • This is something a lot of my coaching clients struggle with (and why they come see me). 
  • They have a big vision of what they want to do.
  • But they are stuck in two places:

1. They aren't sure how to get there, often they have a plan but aren't sure it would work. 

2. They are afraid to get started in case they don't get any of the rewards they imagine.

How do we overcome the paralyzing effect of big dreams?

  • Focus only on the steps in front of you.
  • Together, we follow these three steps:

Step One: Understand the WHY behind what you're looking to accomplish.  Often times this is more important than that WHAT.

Step Two: Forget completely about the WHAT.  Measuring yourself against your ideal doesn't serve you.

Step Three: Follow the next 2-3 steps that you know you can take.  Learn from them and take a few more steps.

More information about this in The Four Disciplines of Execution (Lag vs Lead Measures).

Failure ≠ Fun

“Here you might be saying: “Well, all this talk sounds nice enough, but no matter how you spin it, it’s still no fun to fail."

"It is certainly true that no matter how positive-minded you try to be, it can be painful when things don’t work out the way you want—when your application isn’t accepted at an elite school, you don’t get the job, your artwork isn’t taken by a gallery, your business doesn’t catch on, or you find that you aren’t as talented as you hoped."

"When this happens, it is going to feel disappointing. It may make you doubt your intelligence, abilities, and ideas. That’s OK. It is a short-lived pain that will go away. This is nothing compared to the fear of failure, which drains your vitality and paralyzes you from taking the actions that bring joy and meaning into your life."

Sure, failure isn't going to be fun.

Which might seem like we've come from "life should be all fun" to "life is full of failure". 

The ideas here mix though, making sure we're having fun in life and committing to getting better at things can go together.

  • “It is natural to feel uncertain, unmotivated, or fearful when facing new challenges. But negative feelings shouldn’t stop you." 
  • "The best way to gain confidence and improve your mood is to take action, even though you’re not feeling up to it. The next time you find yourself hesitating due to your negative mood, get going anyway. Go for a run even though you feel lethargic; invite a colleague to lunch even though you feel shy; volunteer for a project even though you doubt your abilities; or enroll in a challenging course even though you feel unprepared."
  • "Now it’s time for you to get out there and fail as quickly as you possibly can. And then fail again.”