Never Failing is a Bad Idea

It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!

Ooh, I like this speech. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today. Don't get me wrong, being able to bounce back from defeat is important. But it's also important to fail sometimes and be unable to bounce back. Otherwise you're missing out on life.


Let's imagine three high-jumpers; we'll call them Alice, Betty, and Carmen.

Suppose first that Alice, during her entire jumping career, never misses the bar. Let's suppose she clears the bar all the way up to 3 meters, no one else can match 3 meters, so she never loses.

Great, right. Actually, kind of strange, right? Wouldn't Alice want to know how high she can jump, regardless of how high anyone else can go? Maybe she could have made it to 3.1 meters, 3.2. Who knows?

I think most would agree that Alice is not fully exploiting her gifts. The fact that she never lost is irrelevant.

Now, let's consider Betty. Betty is not as gifted as Alice. In fact in a competition with Alice, Betty made it up to 2.49 meters. But when the bar was set at 2.5 meters, Betty missed.

But that's not the end of the story. Betty trained and trained, swallowed raw eggs, and eventually came back and cleared that 2.5 meters. She missed again at 2.6 meters, but eventually she came back and cleared that 2.6 meters.

Inspirational story, right? We all have goose bumps. And suppose the end of the story is that Betty never missed the bar again. Betty has something that Alice doesn't, namely she knows that she made herself better. This is an important principle. Failure gives you a benchmark for making yourself better.

But like Alice, Betty doesn't know how far she could have gone.

Let's take finally the case of Carmen. Like Betty, Carmen failed at the 2.5-meter mark, then trained until she succeeded. Also like Betty, Carmen failed at 2.6 meters, but after that, no matter how much she trained, Carmen never made it higher than 2.55 meters. 2.56 meters was forever out of reach.

Of our three jumpers, Carmen is the richest, because she knows she squeezed as much as possible out of her gift.

Every day you negotiate with yourself on what to achieve for the day. If every day you achieve the goals you set, this indicates mainly that you're a lousy negotiator. (Always having your offer accepted indicates lousy negotiating skills.)

If you fail at some of your daily goals, and then come back later to meet them, good for you. This is what Rocky is talking about: get hit and keep moving forward. Sometimes a negotiation requires several rounds before a deal is concluded.

But an optimal negotiator ends up walking away from some deals. You can't make the best deal unless willing to risk the deal falling through. Likewise, if you succeed at all of your life goals, that indicates that you could have had more.

Negotiate harder.

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