The Illusion of Failure

The Illusion of Failure

We are all of us failures – at least the best of us are.” – James Barrie

When he was 14, he received a C-minus in music. His teacher specifically commented that he “had no aptitude for singing.”

Later in life his audition for a local quartet failed—again because of his perceived lack of talent. After a performance at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, the concert hall manager told him he was better off as a truck driver because he’d never make it as a singer. 

The first time he performed in Las Vegas he was booed off the stage.

That singer was Elvis Presley. Today he’s arguably the most famous singer in history and ranked at #3 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Shakira was deemed so bad at singing she wasn’t allowed to join her school choir. Her teacher thought her now-iconic vibrato was “too strong” and she “sounded like a goat.”

Her first two albums were commercial failures. It wasn’t until her third album that she became the star that we know today.

In coach training 2009, I completely butchered my first-ever coaching session. Mainly by repeatedly “suggesting a solution to the problem” every 5 minutes. 

I can still vividly recall the frustration in that person’s face! 

Later on, as I was trying to build my coaching business, I had a rude awakening. People who had stood in line to wine and dine me when I was the head of a successful company didn’t even return my calls. Eyes glazed over when I told people what I was up to. 

Despite seeing my bank account dwindle year after year, I kept on investing in myself to the point where I chose to sell my apartment in Stockholm. But I always knew that, even if coaching didn’t work out, the process of trying and failing was building character. And it was helping me master the inner game alongside the game of business (and they are intrinsically linked). That would be priceless growth should I decide to choose another career. 

What holds us back is fear of failure. Or, more accurately, the stories we tell ourselves about failure. In this way, failure is an illusion. In reality, you fail yourself to success. 

Our lives shrink or expand in proportion to our courage. But courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage comes from realizing something else is more important. 

Fears and limiting beliefs can be transformed. That’s the alchemy of the inner game. 

It’s never too late. You can stop playing it safe and choose to play a new game right now. 

I learned to speak as I learned to skate or cycle: by doggedly making a fool out of myself until I got used to it.– George Bernard Shaw


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