One of my most cherished mentors from afar is a beautiful soul named Lisa Nichols. She is a captivating public speaker who openly shares her life story with others in all its darkness and light. Why is sharing failure more powerful than sharing success? Because, in doing so, we can all reach a higher level of freedom and healing.
The benefit for the sharer is that you have “nothing left to protect, prove, hide, or defend” (as Lisa says) once it’s all out in the open; you’re free. The benefit for the receiver is being able to see another person’s humanity; seeing how that person gets back up after falling. We all need someone to show us how to get back up again, because we all fall from time to time.
Why is Sharing Failure More Powerful than Sharing Success?
I’m sure Lisa will be fine if I share this small portion of an inspirational speech she gave at a Mindvalley conference not long ago. Her presentation, titled “Step Into Your Life Purpose,” provides a glimpse of just how powerful it can be to share one’s humanity with others.
The first thing to know is when you’re out of congruency with who you’re designed to be. That’s the first thing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t hide it. Don’t shy from it. Just step into that truth. That truth is sexy. Because it will make you do something you never thought you would do. It will make you get radical.
And I sat there with my son, not having food, eating beanies and weenies six days a week … I was so broke and broken. His father had just gone to prison. And, all of a sudden, my worst nightmare had come true.
I had made a commitment, being born and raised in South Central L.A., raised between the Harlem Crips 30s and the Rollin 60s—those are not cheerleading squads, y’all—that I wouldn’t engage on any level. I wasn’t available on any level for any gang activity, for anything criminal, because I would never be connected with jail. That’s just not my thing. I knew, early on, that’s just not my destiny. So, when my girl friends and my best friends started dating the neighbourhood thugs, “I’ll pass. I’m going to the library. I’m not participating. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know I won’t stay here.”
And so, I planned all this. I got out. I was an athlete. I was an all-American athlete. I held the record for the 330 low hurdles for 18 years after I graduated. My head was down. I was MVP all three years of high school. I was focused. I got out. I got out.
And then, all of a sudden, the man that I met at 27—beautiful soul, brilliant soul—just still had that hustle in him. And I’m not mad about a little hustle, but it can’t manage your integrity. And, for him, it just got the best of him. And I got the call. I said, “Hello?”
He said, “Lisa.”
I said, “Yes?”
He said, “I’m in jail.”
And my heart dropped. I’m 28. I had just given birth to his child. And now I’m linked to the very thing I tried to avoid for so long.
I’m sharing with you my story so you can validate and level set your story. Because I look up, and I say, “Wow, I’m working on my seventh best seller, I’ve had great conversations with Oprah and Larry King and The Today Show, and I’ve built a multi-million-dollar business, and my company’s gone public.” And it doesn’t change my story.
And now I realize that I used my story as my fuel, not my fortress. My story wasn’t my, “I get to be successful in spite of.” My story was my “because of.” It’s because of.
And so, I remember sitting on my couch going, “Oh, my God. My very thing I tried to avoid—my nightmare—is my truth.” And for years, eight years, I never mentioned where my son’s father was. I denied that he even existed. I wouldn’t talk about him. You couldn’t talk about him. … I walked around with this baggage on me, this story that if I spoke too loudly and let my light shine too brightly, then the light’s going to shine on him, too. And everyone’s going to know my connection.
…Yours is going to be different. But we’ve all got this chatter. … That was just my chatter. And I would be remiss if I didn’t share my chatter with you before I share with you how to get to an abundant life. You’ve got to know the depth that I come from. (Mindvalley, 2016)
That is so powerful. Don’t you feel that much more motivated after learning the depths Lisa rose from to reach her current level of success? Why is sharing failure more powerful than sharing success? Because it touches our hearts and shows us just what the human spirit is capable of. That’s where true inspiration lives—in rising up from failure, especially when all the odds are stacked against you.
During this same speech, Lisa talks about how abundant thinkers still fail like everyone else does; they just fail forward. They take the lessons from their failures and continue onward with persistence. Abundant thinkers leave everything that no longer serves them behind. They leave it in the past where it belongs.
But they’re also unafraid to share it. They live to serve others. If it will help you, they’ll share it.
The Importance of Persistence in Overcoming Failures
Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale are two more of my mentors from afar. I highly recommend listening to “Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich Condensed and Narrated by Earl Nightingale” in which the 13 proven steps to riches are discussed—”riches” being defined as “whatever it is that you want.” Persistence is listed as the eighth proven success principle.
Why is persistence so important along the pathway to success? Because you’re guaranteed to fail along the way. Failure is not the opposite of success. In fact, it is a natural part of success. So, expect it. Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it.
Napoleon Hill defines persistence as the power of will. Willpower and desire, when properly combined, make an irresistible pair. Persistence, to an individual, is what carbon is to steel.
In uncounted thousands of cases, persistence has stood as the difference between success and failure. It is this quality, more than any other, that keeps the majority from great accomplishment. They’ll try a thing. But, as soon as the going gets tough, they fold. Experience with thousands of people has proved that lack of persistence is a weakness common to the majority of men. It is a weakness which may be overcome by effort. If you are to accomplish the desire you set for yourself, you must form the habit of persistence.
Things will get dark. It will seem as though there is no longer any reason to continue. Everything in you will tell you to give up, to quit trying. And it’s right here that the men are separated from the boys. It’s right here that, if you’ll go that extra mile, and keep going, that the skies will clear. And you’ll begin to see the first signs of the abundance that is to be yours because you had the courage to persist. With persistence will come success. (Success Consciousness, 2017)
You may look at successful leaders in society and think they’ve had life easier than you. Or you may think they’re somehow different from you, smarter than you … better than you. That’s simply untrue. One need only read a recent article by Jeff Rose in Forbes magazine, titled “9 Famous People That Went Bankrupt Before They Were Rich,” to see that each of these leaders had to develop the habit of persistence to overcome some pretty major obstacles in their lives.
Why is sharing failure more powerful than sharing success? Because knowing that it’s possible to become one of the most beloved Presidents of the United States, even after experiencing repeated failures, is impactful. Learning that some of the public figures you admire most came back even stronger—even better—after experiencing failure, is energizing. It makes you want to try even harder in your own life, doesn’t it? It gives you hope that you can succeed, too, no matter where you’re starting from now.
There is Never Any Shame in Sharing Your Failures with Others
Whatever your faith, this story will inspire (and challenge) you to look at failure in a new way. It may even empower you to take the reins in your own life and go public like others have before you.
Why is sharing failure more powerful than sharing success? Because society can learn far more from your failures than they’ll ever learn from your successes. You may even help others to avoid some of the pitfalls you encountered along the way. And maybe you’ll change a small part of the world for the better in the process.
The corporate world seems to teach us that failure is something to be avoided. Sales managers implement performance improvement plans (PIPs) that are designed to shame those who fall behind. Investors will only look at startup founders who repeat the axiom, “Success is the only option!” and hastily discard the rest.
Maybe a more empowering alternative to this Darwinian “survival of the fittest” mentality is instead empowering and lifting each other up. Perhaps, we should invest our time and energies into those who share triumphant stories of how they climbed back up from the depths of despair. The truth is, there’s never any shame in sharing your failures with others. The only shame is in staying down after you’ve fallen.
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