"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
I stumbled upon this quote in an article I was reading this past week and it made me curious to learn more about Thomas Edison. I remember in school we learned about many of his inventions, but we didn't really learn much about him as a man. As I was reading about his history, I read a quote from him during an interview with Harper's Monthly Magazine in the late 1800's. To summarize his quote, he said he had tested 3,000 different theories in connection with the incandescent electric light bulb and only 2 out of his 3,000 theories (or tries) ended up being true. As I read more about him, he never really claimed to be a genius, and in fact he related his successes more to the time he dedicated and his relentless persistence than actually coming up with a brilliant idea. He was a constant student and he never gave up after one failure (or 3,000). Those failures were just a lesson learned.
I wanted to discuss this particular quote today because I think we all have far greater potential and resilience than we give ourselves credit for. We can all succeed at a thing we set out to do, yet so many of us end up giving up too quickly. Why is that? I think there are a handful of things that we all do that set us up to fail before we even start.
1. We care more about the outcome than we do the skills necessary to achieve our end goal.
I know I've had an idea in my head of where I wanted to be with a new hobby or skill and I think that it will only take me a few tries to get it. Boy have I been wrong. I get frustrated and then I end up giving it up entirely, thinking I'll never be able to do it. I think so many of us set ourselves up to fail by thinking this way. We have to be realistic with ourselves. Know that most of us won't get it within the first few tries. But, are we willing to break down our time commitment to learning the skills necessary in a realistic amount of time to eventually achieve our goal? We all lead busy lives and I'm sure we aren't able to dedicate hours per day to this new skill/goal. So set yourself up for success by making small goals each day or a few times a week so you can eventually work your way up to your end goal. Practice dedication and patience.
2. We mistake lessons learned for failure.
This one is all about perspective. Instead of thinking of a set-back or a failed attempt as a complete failure, think of it as a lesson learned and something that you know won't work the next attempt. You are one step closer because you eliminated something that didn't work.
3. We completely throw in the towel instead of just learning to change our direction.
If you work hard on something and find that it doesn't work, don't think that it's a total loss. This is something that I'm learning myself. Instead, take the lessons you've learned from your initial attempts and be flexible. Maybe you need to change a few things, but that doesn't mean you should just give up and it's worthless.
4. We care too much about what other people think.
This is a BIG one that affects most of us. We care too much about what other people think of us. We care too much if they judge us or if they think we're a failure. The truth is that people will always have their opinions. We need to learn to not let that bother us. I know it's easier said than done, but this is your life and not theirs. If you think about your life 10 years from now, would you look back and regret not continuing to pursue something just because you were afraid of what someone else thought?
5. We don't believe in ourselves enough.
This is the #1 reason most of us don't achieve the goal we set out to achieve. We don't have enough faith that we can do it. After set backs, after all the judgement from others. It weighs on us and we start to believe that we can't. I'm not saying that setting out to do something new is easy. It's really, really hard. You are totally as capable as any other person on this earth to do anything that you want. You just have to be realistic with yourself... Will you put the time in to acquire the skills necessary? Will you put the time in each week to learn and do the work?
Remember, we can continue to go on long after we think we can't. Just believe in yourself and remove any negative distractions that you think will prevent you from achieving your goals.