The two cardinal sins that prevent success

by | April 14, 2014

There are two cardinal sins on the road to success.

The first, as you know, is never getting on the road to begin with.

“If you’ve never failed,” writes Roy H. Williams, “it’s either because you’re frightened or you lack imagination.”

Being willing to fail, to humiliate yourself, to risk losing everything but your indomitable will is the first, most fundamental step of success.

The road to success is a free and open highway lined with people, petrified with fear, looking at you drive by with wistful and envious eyes.

But drive a ways past this starting point and you’ll find other people who are stalled on the side of the road.

You stop to see if they need help and they tell you, “No, we’re getting a tow truck to take us back to where we came from.”

These people are committing the second cardinal sin: Not learning the right lessons from failure.

Their tow truck that keeps dragging them backwards is their confirmed prejudices and false beliefs.

They enter into a business partnership, which goes south. “I knew partnerships were a bad idea,” they lament.

They lose money in an investment. “You can’t trust anyone,” they advise their friends, bitterly.

Their first real estate investment tanks. “Only rich people who have a lot of money to begin with can make money in real estate,” they pontificate, falsely.

Thus, the lesson they learn does not progress them, but rather inhibits them by adding even more baggage to their false beliefs.

If the lesson you’ve learned, the belief you’ve developed from a failure keeps you from trying again, you can know with certainty that you’ve learned the wrong lesson.

You haven’t learned the right lesson if you continue wallowing in the past, stay stuck in victim mode and blame yourself or other people for your failure.

Show me the person who still bemoans his 401(K) losses from the recession, or the person who’s still blaming his boss for losing his job ten years ago, and I’ll show you a person who has learned nothing from his experience.

You know you’ve learned the right lessons from failure when you’re eager to try again, this time with more wisdom. You know that your failure has brought you that much close to success because of the knowledge you’ve gained from the experience.

When you’ve learned the right lessons, there is no blame — there are only accurate explanations. When you’ve learned the right lessons there are no regrets — there is relief that you’ve made it through a challenge.

In short, when you learn the wrong lessons from failure, you feel burned. When you learn the right lessons, you feel enlightened. The wrong lessons keep you stuck. The right lessons keep you progressing.

I don’t know where you are at on the road to success. What I do know is that most people are either on the sidelines at the beginning, afraid to get on the road; or stranded on the shoulder after a failure, cursing their bad luck and anxious to get back to their risk-free, comfortable — and mediocre — life.

The first need courage. The second need wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from failures fueled by courage.

Unfortunately, too few people learn wisdom from failure — they learn bitterness.

It’s not enough to just be willing to take a risk. You must also be willing to introspect after failures, take responsibility, and learn the right lessons that continue propelling you forward.

As Winston Churchill said,

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

The thing that maintains your enthusiasm — indeed, the only thing that can — is the courage and wisdom to learn the right lessons from your failures.


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