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Why Failure Is The Greatest Teacher Of All

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Failure is hands down the greatest teacher of all. Here’s why you should embrace it.

I know a guy who was suspended twice in the same season during his senior year of high school basketball.

That guy is me.

After a teammate and I stormed the refs locker room in a rage to complain about a late call, my coaches suspended me for the first half of the biggest game of the year against our rival Moeller. (They said our league would suspend me at least three games if they didn’t deliver any punishment.)

I took it on the chin and then at the end of that game missed what would have been the game-winning shot at the buzzer—another failure.

A few weeks later, I received a week suspension for putting my teammate into a headlock four hours before the game after he took my phone during shoot around. Plus the coaching staff cited other conduct detrimental to the team in their reasoning for the suspension.

I thought this penalty was way too harsh, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I couldn’t practice or play for an entire week. And then was moved from the starting lineup to the bottom of the depth-chart once the suspension ended. That was not only a heck of a failure but also embarrassing.

My playing time and stats took a major hit. I could never get into a rhythm on the court and build my trust back with the coaches.

We ended up 10-12 as a team. And after scoring 16 points the first game, my minutes plummeted and I ended up averaging 4.3 points per game for the season. Yikes!

brian-robben-basketball

I consider that basketball season a major failure in my effort, attitude, and results. And I couldn’t bounce back from that year because it was my last year of competitive athletics.

What I put thousands of hours into to improve my skills on the court, I could never get another season to redeem myself.

Deep inside me I knew I didn’t want to waste another opportunity like I did during my senior year of basketball. I became obsessive about giving college everything I had and staying focused.

That’s what failure taught me: to seize the moment.

My performance skyrocketed as I turned my fate around in college to graduated summa cum laude with a 3.97 GPA and unlimited career options—until I committed to being an entrepreneur.

And this serves a good point. Sometimes you won’t recover from your failures in the current situation, but they will prepare you for your future.

I learned through that final basketball season that failure is not only a part of life, it’s the greatest teacher of all.

Failure Teaches Best

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. – Bill Gates

Failure is a great teacher, and I think when you make mistakes and you recover from them and you treat them as valuable learning experiences, then you’ve got something to share. – Steve Harvey

Compare these two quotes and the takeaway is obvious: Failure teaches best and success can’t teach worth a damn.

Why though? Let’s break it down.

I believe failure gets through to us so well because it forces us to change.

To stop failing we know we need to try a different approach to get different results. Be more aggressive or less. Go at a faster pace or slower pace. Read a book to learn something new.

For example, we must build our network if we want to get our dream job and put a stop to interview rejections. We must spend less if we want to have peace about our finances. And we must have the courage to ask the attractive person for a coffee date if we ever want a serious relationship to develop.

This idea that change is necessary to advance applies personally and in business. These three startup case studies highlight how failure can lead to major success once companies take a different approach.

However, the reason short-term success is dangerous is it lies to us and tells us we can stay the same and continue to do well. That’s what Bill Gates is saying in the quote above.

For example, eating unhealthy food in college but staying skinny because you had a fast metabolism tricks you to believe you can eat like crap forever. Though when you get middle-aged and your metabolism slows down, your weight balloons because you didn’t adjust your diet.

And for a business reference, Blockbuster didn’t evolve so Netflix destroyed it. Same with old taxi companies getting bulldozed by Uber. Blockbuster and the taxi companies previous success sabotaged their future right before their eyes.

On the other side of changing and improving your approach is happiness and success. That’s what it takes.

So the reason failure is the greatest teacher, if you allow it to be, is it pounds you over the head with this message to evolve until you get it.

And don’t miss the key phrase if you allow yourself to learn from failure, it’s the best teacher.

If you don’t have the mindset to learn from it, then you’ll fail over and over again, feel like a loser, and be nowhere closer to your goals than when you started.

One of my favorite terms to describe using failure for future success is the term fail forward.

Fail Forward

There’s a wrong and a right way to fail.

The wrong way is to feel sorry for yourself and call it quits. This is literally the worst thing you can do for yourself.

That accomplishes nothing for your attitude or your future.

The right way is to fail forward—the best thing you can do for yourself.

Failing forward means even though you didn’t accomplish your goals, you made progress or gained experience. And you brush off your bruises to keep going toward your goal with what you’ve accomplished so far.

A politician who fails forward loses election after election but carries on to eventually become known as one of the greatest presidents of all time. Think about Abe Lincoln’s political journey.

A NFL team fails forward when they lose the Super Bowl but gain confidence they can win it all next year and then become the only team in NFL history to go undefeated. Have you heard of the 1972 Miami Dolphins?

A creative genius fails forward when his newspaper editor told him he, “‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” But then he became one of the best businessmen of all time. Do you know Walt Disney’s story?

They’re technically failing, but their failure is the stepping stone to eventual victory. No failure likely means no victory down the road.

Of course if these legends gave up then they’d go down as a loser and have to live with their regret that they didn’t fight on. They’ll have wondered “what if?” for the rest of their life, and it’s all their fault.

Plus, the pain before success is what makes it sweeter once you do win. If everything went straight from 0 to 100 in your life then nothing would taste sweet.

It’d be expected and nothing else. That’s boring. Perfect is lame.

I want struggle. I want the process. And I want to fail forward continually until I climb atop that mountain like a battle-tested warrior with scars on my face.

Too intense? You’re reading the wrong blog.

Final Words

Like many things in life, failure is all about perspective.

If you become paralyzed and fearful when you fail, then you’ve empowered failure to win over your life.

But if you see failure as a wise teacher and temporary moment that you’re going to surpass, then you empower yourself to be strong and look for the opportunity in this situation.

The better response is obvious. And keeping a positive attitude during failure will completely change your professional and personal life.

You’ll have more energy, patience, and motivation to continue on compared to the fallen person who is moping around in utter defeat.

So next time failure presents itself, think, “Hey, old friend. I’ve seen you before. And I know you can’t get the best of me. I’m only going to become stronger after I overcome you.”

Then go prove it in how you bounce back from this minor defeat!

If you can look at failure with a different set of eyes than most people, you will be happier and more successful than most people. That’s a fact.

Related: Success And Failure Go Hand In Hand

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Career

Life Tip: Never Take Anything Good For Granted

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Have you ever had something really good in your life, until you took it for granted and lost it? What a horrible, miserable feeling, right? It’s the worst.

I know from experience.

My senior year of basketball still leaves a sour taste in my mouth thinking about it.

It’s strange though because it started out good, like really good.

After thousands of hours of insane dedication to practice my basketball craft and improve my shooting, dribbling, passing, defending, and rebounding, I reached a dream of mine: make the starting lineup for the St. Xavier Bombers varsity basketball team.

Not only that, my first game of the year couldn’t have been better considering I only played 14 minutes the entire game. The stat line below proves it.

brian-robben-basketball-stats

And we won the game by 23 points. Everything is going smooth, until it wasn’t.

From the next game through the last game of the year it was all downhill.

Let me explain.

The Lost & Final Basketball Season

Let’s just say I was a different guy in high school. Now I’m all motivated and focused on building my businesses and leaving a legacy.

But the 18-year-old Brian was all about wreaking havoc and having a good time above all.

To express himself at school or during basketball team activities, he’d go as far as he could to toe the line of breaking the rules for pure laughs and excitement. Often he crossed the line.

Here are some of the reckless things I did during that basketball season:

  • After receiving a hard foul when driving to the basket, I stayed on the ground and racked off 5 push ups before shooting foul shots
  • On the bench during a pre-season game, I grabbed my phone and sent a tweet out to my Twitter followers explaining what I just did (tweeted during the game)
  • Ruined team pictures by putting a 3 goggles sign on my thigh, so the school had to retake them a week later
  • Stormed the refs locker room after a frustrating overtime loss when a bunch of questionable calls went against us
  • Put a teammate in a headlock during a shoot around hours before a game
  • And a lot more crazy stuff

That’s not close to all of the bad-boy moves.

I don’t know if you realize this, but it’s hard to play solid basketball and stay in the coaching staff’s good graces when you’re messing around whenever you can. It doesn’t work out well.

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That’s why it’s to no shock looking back that I got suspended twice. The first time I had to sit out two quarters against our biggest rival. And then I was suspended a full week from the team later in the year.

Not to mention a bunch of other disciplinary issues and conflicts with coaches that I don’t have time nor want to discuss.

It all boils down to the fact that my antics sabotaged my final year of basketball.

After the season ended, the problem was I couldn’t go back in time to stay focused on basketball and give it my 100% again. That ship had sailed. The opportunity was gone.

So I had to, and now have to, live with regret when thinking back to that year and what could have been.

But regret about not appreciating the game of basketball isn’t the only thing I received from that experience. It’s the unforgettable lesson: never take anything good for granted.

Fortunately I learned this lesson at age 18, not 48.

Never Take It For Granted

Thanks to my failure that year, I developed a wiser perspective to appreciate the good things in my life.

So now I know never to take my work, my company, my clients, my health, my friends, my family, and life in general for granted. Regret is the worst feeling out there so I want to live in a way that eliminates it.

Where maybe if my senior year basketball season went smoother I’d never have learned the full extent of that lesson. Who knows? Maybe something far worse than a disappointing basketball season could have went down.

But because of the outcome I get to hold that experience in my back pocket going forward. I turned a scar into an advantage.

Although it’s always cool for me to flip negative experiences into positive ones, it’d be even better if I didn’t have to learn the hard way.

Truth is you don’t have to be a dummy like me.

I don’t know what your “it” is (I can guess it’s your family, friends, faith, career, pets, house, teachers, and country). I do know you need to never take it for granted if you want what’s best out of your life.

Also, don’t forget to appreciate the little things that come and go during the passing days.

It could be your peaceful commute to work where you’re alone with your thoughts. It could be the Monday morning cup of coffee you can afford without thinking about. Or it can be your place’s proximity to the beach that other people would kill to have.

Never taking life’s big and small gifts for granted is a big step to living the good life.

And there’s another reason to have this mindset: you don’t want to mess around with regret.

Regret Is Brutal, Eliminate It

Regret is the worst feeling out there in my opinion.

Sadness sucks but you can become happy again. Anger isn’t fun but you can eventually relax and get over it.

But regret, there’s no way to reverse it and recover. It sticks with you the rest of your life. That’s why it’s brutal.

Your only solution is to do your best job to eliminate it at all times by both being super grateful for what’s good in your life and staying focused to keep it going well.

If you are unappreciative and lose focus, there’s sometimes no going back from there. Your fate is often sealed once the moment ends.

I want my life to be filled with as little regret as possible. That’s part of the ingredients for a great life, in my humble opinion.

Don’t you agree? Please join me in this effort to never take anything good for granted.

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Personal Development

Brian, Promise You’ll Never Stop Writing

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Hey guys, to celebrate video number 40 on my YouTube channel I put together a different kind of video.

Here I share a personal story and value I hold dear to my heart. It’s all about my relationship with writing and how it’s went from zero to hero in my life.

I hope you enjoy the video and feel inspired!

If you’re interested, here’s the transcript:

Let’s first take it back to high school. You sucked at writing. Just like all of your other classes, you hated it and let your teachers know by your classroom antics or naps, and doing the bare-minimum on papers.

Writing never interested you because it was a part of the school system you went to war against.

Brian this is a note to your future self.

Things changed your freshman year of college. You wanted to be a big time lawyer, and writing soon became your major since top lawyers know how to read and write well. So you needed to write, and write well, to get a top GPA and reach your dreams. And you did.

But things changed again. You said see ya to law school, hello entrepreneur land and started the blog takeyoursuccess.com. That meant constant writing, and hours of it to publish 2-3 posts a week for the past few years. And then you became an author from your writing, already accomplishing a major achievement on your bucket list through this method of communication.

Now writing is your daily routine as much as breathing and eating is. Writing is your public and personal journal, the world sees it but you know the heart of what’s behind the words and the words unsaid. Writing is magical to you.

Although you’re a business owner, author, and coach, at the end of the day, remember your journey all started from a blog, from writing. You’re a writer, writing your story as you go, figuring it out piece by piece, and telling the world, striving to create your legacy one word at a time.

So note to future self, never stop writing. You wouldn’t be the same without it. And all great stories have a storyteller. You happen to be your own storyteller, just how you like it.

What’s your story?

What do you want to tell your future self to commit to?

What’s magical to you?

I hope by hearing part of my story you find clarity in your story. Because we’re all in this thing called life together, so let’s make the most of it.

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Career

The Art Of Negotiation: Care Less

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The art of negotiation is truly an art. Either you’re skilled enough to win, or you’ll stumble to the finish line as a loser. Those are the only two possible outcomes.

Depending on the deal, the difference in winning and losing could mean securing your dream job or entering unemployment, getting a deal or getting ripped off $10 grand, and building a million dollar business or going bankrupt.

But like many things in life—how to write a winning resume, who to marry, how to make money, how to invest—no one teaches negotiation.

Our parents: only if we’re lucky. The school system: fails at this. The government: nope.

If government and corporations had it their way, we’d never learn to negotiate so we would have to take the short stick without complaining. That’s just wrong.

Since you’re reading this article, you’re on the right path though. Because the first step is to want to know how to negotiate better.

The second step is to learn how…

“He Who Cares Less, Wins”

Emotions can often be helpful.

For example, you should feel love toward the person you’re about to marry before you go through with it. Duh!

Or you should feel sad when your parents are getting old and sick. That sadness can help you appreciate them better and prioritize quality time going forward.

But in the negotiation arena, emotions will kill you before you know it. It’ll be like a sniper with his finger on the trigger and a red dot on your chest—it’s already too late for you.

Why do emotions kill negotiation ability? It’s mainly because feelings cloud judgement.

Your brain focuses on how it’s feeling instead of reason, logic, and answering does the math work for you to go forward. Insecurities also come into play, which can make you do the opposite of what you intended.

Clouded judgement leads to rash decisions and often buyer’s remorse.

It also costs you real dollars.

This study found anxious negotiators were more likely to take deals 12% less financially attractive than their counterparts. If it’s a 12% loss off a $500,000 mortgage, we’re talking about $60,000. That’s a big deal!

But consider someone’s approach who couldn’t care less about winning the deal: They’re relaxed. They speak clearly and listen carefully. And they’re focused on the specific details of what they’re getting and giving.

Not to mention they hold the leverage because they don’t need the deal. If it helps them they’ll take it, but by no means are they getting on their hands and knees to beg for it like a dog.

It’s not hard to figure out that someone who is relaxed and focused performs better than someone who is scatterbrained and under pressure.

This explains precisely why caring less helps you win.

Plus, when you care less, you can’t lose. You either win the deal on your terms or you leave it on the table as a draw.

Caring less is precisely how you ensure you never make a bad deal that takes the shirt off your back. Those deals are the unrecoverable ones that will leave you unable to sleep at night.

Let’s check out how caring less comes to play out in day-to-day scenarios.

Real Life Negotiations

Negotiation happens everywhere, all the time.

You probably just miss it or don’t label them as deal-making.

To open your eyes and get a grip on how this goes down, read these four examples about how negotiating the right way changes the entire landscape.

1. Grad school admissions: Whether a grad school accepts you and how much money they give you comes down to 100% negotiation.

The university is negotiating to get the best students in their class (and fill the seats to make money). You’re negotiating to get into the school and make the best choice for yourself.

If you’re a top candidate with acceptances to all the elite schools, the game is on to negotiate the best offer package. You’ll want to negotiate for a fat scholarship, maybe a stipend, and see if you can get anything else (like a teaching assistant job) to entice you to come.

If you have average grades and admissions test scores, you’re playing a game of negotiating to get into better schools with no scholarship or less reputable ones with scholarship money. Use the acceptances into the better schools as leverage to get more money.

2. Buying a car: This is the classic negotiation scenario used from personal finance bloggers to authors. (Maybe because just about everyone buys a car and has room to negotiate.)

If you’re like most people, you’ll arrive at the lot and make a beeline to the car you want. Then tell the salesman, “I’ve always wanted this car. It’s perfect. How much is it?”

Their signals are telling them you’re an easy sale and to negotiate little. You cost yourself potentially thousands of dollars.

But say you come back another day after reading this article and bring a more tactical approach. Instead of making a straight shot to one car, you tell the salesman, “I don’t have any particular car in mind. I’m not sure I really need a car to be honest. Just had some free time and wanted to look around.”

You ask about a few car prices then “randomly” stumble on the one you actually want to ask the price, without being too excited (care less).

This is how the playing field gets tilted. The salesman is now the desperate one trying to both find you the right car and sell it to you.

And when you negotiate, you have to make an offer and be prepared to walk away with nothing (that’s a draw not a loss). There are plenty of stories where someone walks and the dealer calls them back the next day to drop the price to get the deal done.

This scenario works when buying a house, motorcycle, boat, and all other related-purchases.

3. Job offer and salary package: I feel strongly about this one. You have to negotiate your salary if you like yourself!

There’s free money on the other side if you do this well. That’s why I dedicated an entire section of my money book to salary negotiation, and have written about this multiple times on TYS. (See here and here.)

Let’s break it down (assuming you’ve been offered the job): The company is negotiating to get you on their team at a fair (or cheap) price, and you’re negotiating to get the job at a higher price.

Communicating you have other employment options and while you’d love to work here you know you may have to decline the deal, can often make the employer want you more. Odds are they fork over the extra money and hope you pan off as a long-term investment.

But if you don’t know how to negotiate and say, “I accept this,” the second after they tell you the salary offer, there’s no extra money for you. The reason you have less money is all your fault.

4. Business projects: Business comes down to negotiation across the board. If you’re an employee, freelancer, or small business owner, you need to know how to persuade the other side to get the deal and price you want.

Bad business negotiation means being in a place of desperation where you take contracts even if it’s 10%, 25%, or 50% your normal rate. The desperation will come through in your communication and be the reason you get taken advantage of in broad daylight.

A smart employee should recognize your company’s price is your price, and not care if you lose the deal because the person on the other side only values cheap labor, and not high quality work.

A freelancer should know the value in their work, price it accordingly, and have a take it or leave it mentality with clients. There’s always more work to be won instead of compromising your skill for cheap labor.

A business owner should double their rates to bring in more revenue (assuming they have a solid product, sales, and marketing), while not caring if they lose their smaller clients. That’s the quickest way to bring in more money, and it sure beats getting nickel and dimed on project rates.

Final Words

Everything is negotiable.

Knowing that, it’s your job to care less by having more options on the other side in case you don’t get what you want.

How do you get more options? The single best way is to work hard and provide value so you become financially well off.

Poor people are often in desperate, emergency-like situations where they can’t afford to shop around for a smart transaction. Where the rich have more time and opportunities to ensure they win the negotiation.

With wealth also comes the freedom to need less and become beholden to no one. This self-reliance empowers you at the negotiation table to only make deals if the numbers make sense to you.

You’re in a position of power when you’re finances are taken care of regardless what happens in these daily negotiations.

As you keep living, keep your eye out for negotiations big and small. Seeing them go down will give you mental reps and prepare you for your day-to-day negotiations.

Caring less about what you want, ironically gives you a better chance of getting it.

Related: Everything Is Negotiable

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