Feedback, Not Failure
Failure’s not real.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Feedback is just information.
Imagine walking on a rocky surface — maybe a beach, or a dry creek bed, or a hiking trail.
Some of the stones are stable and solid. If you step on them, they don’t move.
Some of the stones are slippery. Maybe there’s a little algae on them, or some mud.
Some of the stones aren’t stable. They wiggle or tip when you step on them.
With every step you take, you are getting feedback about the path. And you can use that immediate feedback to correct course as needed.
If you step on a rock, and it shifts, did you fail?
You just got important information about the next thing to do — try another rock.
You got feedback.
It’s data that you can use to make a decision.
When you walk on rocks, you get feedback. The physical sensation of whatever the rock is doing — sliding, tipping, or staying steady — tells you what you should do next.
Same as with all your other movements, whether in the gym or outside of it. If you feel yourself leaning too much to one side, or losing your grip on a weight, or losing your balance, you take action to correct that.
Same as with your eating habits. If you notice that red-light foods seem to make you overeat, or make you feel sick, then you make a decision about whether to keep those foods around.
Over time, you build a database from your feedback.
If you walk that rocky trail often enough, you might start to learn which rocks to avoid or step on.
If you do your exercise or sport movements often enough, you learn which movements are tricky or harder to do properly. And you figure out some ways to anticipate and/or change that.
If you get red-light-food indigestion often enough, you’ll probably try to learn which foods trigger the gut churn.
It’s all just information.
And, failure’s not real.
If you stumbled on that rocky path, you got feedback about an untrustworthy rock. You didn’t fail walking.
If you fell down in the gym, you got feedback about leaning too far to the left. You didn’t fail exercise.
If you ate suicide chili hot wings and spent the evening trying unsuccessfully to digest a fireball, you got feedback about what foods work for you, or don’t. You didn’t fail eating.
No matter what happens, you don’t fail.
In those moments, you just made a choice that didn’t work — but that gave you important information anyway.
Explore and analyze
Today, be curious about feedback.
All of this is a path to self-knowledge. Look at the choices you make, and notice what happens when you make them.
What information did you get? What insight? What data?
What does that feedback tell you about what you could do next, or change?
Try getting rid of the words “good” or “bad” and substitute “interesting” or “useful”, as in: “Well, that’s interesting” or “That’s useful to know”.
Change your perspective
To shift your perspective, you can ask yourself some key questions:
- Do your expectations of progress match reality? How do you know?
- Are you doing all the behaviors that truly matter the most, consistently?
- Could you be doing one or more of the basic practices a little bit better, or more often?
- Are you looking in discouraging or unsatisfying places for progress and happiness? Where else could you look?
Treat it like a game.
Ask yourself, “How’s this working for me?”
If the answer is “Fabulously,” then keep doing it.
If the answer is “Not so great,” then use that information to change course. No big deal.
Accept the feedback, learn from it, and go forward with fresh perspective.