Sign a Contract with Failure

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on December 2, 2010

Contract with FailureA contract is an agreement between two or more parties.  It’s a relationship builder.  It basically says that the parties involved agree to abide by the terms of the contract no matter what.  It’s a way of pledging that you will do a certain thing because you’ve given your word and signed on the dotted line. 

There are all kinds of contracts from work/job related contracts to contracts to purchase an item such as a car or house.  We’ve all signed many contracts throughout our life but how about a contract with failure?  Say what??  Stick with me here.

The fear of failure is something that all people struggle with.  Don’t think that you are alone.  You are not.  Everyone is afraid of failing.  Everyone.  I am.  Your friend is.  Your neighbor.  Your boss.  Everyone.  If someone says they are not afraid of failing they are lying.  You are not alone so don’t feel bad about it.  It’s what you do today to deal with this fear that will set you apart from everyone else.

You Will Fail

I once worked a high stress job doing data processing.  It was stressful because there was pressure on us to not make any mistakes.  The integrity of the data we were working with was only good as long as no mistakes were made.  But the truth is we learn by making mistakes.  We learn by trial and error.  By making mistakes and analyzing what went wrong we can make adjustments and changes where needed.  Through failure we improve our skill in troubleshooting, of figuring out how to be better, how to step up our game.

Have you ever noticed that it is the times in our lives where we get shaken up and thrown off our game that we find the most inspiration and motivation that ultimately leads to innovation?  So why is it that we harbor so much adversity to failure?

Throw Some Darts

Have you played darts before?  Let’s say you stood 2 feet from the dart board and threw darts.  Obviously you could hit the board every single time at that distance.  Would that give you a sense of accomplishment?  Would you consider that to be a success?  I would suspect not.  It’s not until we create a challenge that we receive the feeling of doing something incredible.  Stand back 20 feet or more and throw darts.  Your success rate will go down (failure rate goes up) but your sense of accomplishment will go up when you do hit the board. 

Life is the same way.  You won’t feel a true sense of accomplishment unless you push and challenge yourself and that will naturally include a higher failure rate.  But much like darts or any sport the more you practice the more you learn from your mistakes and the better you become.  It’s easy to be a success at living a mediocre life but your sense of accomplishment and fulfillment will be diminished.  I say strive to fail.  Take the risks and dangerous missions that your mind is saying are crazy.  Fail.  In fact fail a lot.  It is only then that you will succeed.  It is only then that you will actually live.

The truth is no matter how safe you play it you will still make mistakes and have failures.  Think about it this way.  You cannot be a failure.  Failure is an event not a person.  It’s time to disassociate yourself from the event.  Stand back and look at what happened.  Ask yourself the important questions like what went wrong? What can I change to get a different result? 

Life is Like a College Chemistry Class; Go Experiment

Does a drug company instantly develop a new cure for a disease?  Of course not!  They experiment, learn from mistakes and make changes until eventually they develop a drug that helps people.  Your life is an experiment so get out there and try different things.  Mix it up.  If something isn’t working for you then change it.

We all have that million dollar idea.  So why aren’t we all millionaires?  Because very few of us actually apply action to our ideas.   Let’s think about what it is we focus on.  We focus on and dream about being a success.  And what happens when we become a success?  All of our past mistakes and failures are forgotten.  So then what do you have to lose?  The truth is that the fear of failure is much worse than the actual failure itself.  If you want to be successful you must find ways to overcome your fear of failure.  It might even be said that failure is a necessary component of success.

OK, so how does this all relate to taking a sabbatical?  A sabbatical is just like any other goal or idea in life.  We don’t take action because of fear; be it fear of the unknown or fear of failure.  Whatever those fears may be, they are holding us back.  When we overcome this fear and see it for what it really is (an opportunity to learn and grow) we will quickly realize that taking a sabbatical or launching that business or whatever it is we want to do may be the best thing we ever do.  The only thing holding you back is yourself.

Your Personal Contract with Failure

So here is where you can start today.  Sign a contract with failure.  Click this link to download a pdf of this contract.  Read it, print it out and sign and date it.  It’s only binding between you and yourself.  It simply says that you agree to not give in to the fear of failure.  Now hang it somewhere prominent where you can see it every day.  Will this suddenly make you fearless?  No, but it’s a clear reminder that when we don’t face our fear of failure we condemn ourselves to a mediocre life.  So here’s to failing big.

If you feel really bold leave a comment below saying you signed the contract and we’ll celebrate the extraordinary person that you are.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea December 2, 2010 at 4:45 am

Great post! I have found, as you’ve said here, that pretty much every time something hasn’t gone the way I hoped or expected (a failure in my head), it has launched me in the direction of something bigger and better.

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matt December 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Hi Andrea! I totally know what you mean. When I look back at decisions and choices I’ve made I realize that they have always worked out for the best. So really we have nothing to fear.

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Gillian December 2, 2010 at 10:57 am

I believe there are no failures. I would rather try something and ‘fail’ than not do anything for fear of failure. I learn best when something doesn’t work out as I expected. I read somewhere that to manage that fear you should face it head on…really look at what failure would mean – would it mean losing face? Losing some money? Losing your house? Whatever it is, look it straight up and ask yourself ‘well, could I live with that?’…could you REALLY live with the consequences? If the answer is yes, the risk is worth it..then you’re done, just do it. In reality the chances of things going that haywire and ending up in that place are minimal…the safety net follows us closely and would catch us well before we hit bottom. Excellent post! Cheers!

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matt December 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Hi Gillian! Love your comment. We really should just get out there and do it instead of analyzing all the what-if’s. And I agree with you that the chances of something going so wrong that you couldn’t ever recover from it are pretty slim.

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ayngelina December 2, 2010 at 11:40 am

Really loved this post, often people are so afraid of failure that they do nothing. I always think “how bad can it really get if I fail?” and the truth is not so bad.

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matt December 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Hi Ayngelina! I’ve had my fair share of doing nothing because of fear. The times that I have stepped out things have always worked out and I had the time of my life. So I totally agree that it’s not really that bad. In fact it can be really good. But you never know until you try.

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Mary R December 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I’ve lived my whole with this fear, and it’s sometimes prevented me from doing things I really wanted to do. I didn’t even apply to a college I longed for because I was so worried about getting rejected. Strange, huh? By not even trying, I ensured that I would never get there!

Great post, Matt! These days, I think of failure as a step closer to reaching my goal.
Mary R recently posted..My Guilty Travel Pleasures

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matt December 4, 2010 at 9:17 pm

So true Mary. Failure isn’t a step back, it’s a big step forward. One will never know what could have been if one never tries.

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Phil December 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

Matt,
You’re an inspiring dude! Really enjoyed this post. Thanks. And speaking of million dollar ideas, I sent you an email. Check your spam folder. It involves the ships of the desert.

B well,
Phil
Phil recently posted..Dimanche à Bamako- a Day of Marriage

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matt December 7, 2010 at 1:49 am

Phil! Found your email and sent you a reply. Your journeys are an inspiration. Keep at it man!!

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Erica December 6, 2010 at 3:15 am

The older I get the more I agree with this mantra. While I’ve had some very serious heartaches and failures, I wouldn’t be in the place I am right now. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Love the contract. Very inspiring.
Erica recently posted..Travel Photography December 3

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matt December 7, 2010 at 1:52 am

Hi Erica! I often hear the question posed of “if you could go back in time and change something about your life what would it be?” On the surface we could all go back and remember something that caused us pain and want to change that. But it’s the experiences of our past that have shaped who we are today. I like who I am so I wouldn’t want to change anything. Definitely agree with your point here.

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