There is no failure only feedback – Ignorant but willing, now what?
Written by Wesley Kew – Clinical Psychologist
Very early on in my career as a therapist, I was told that I don’t really know what I’m doing but I have a good feel for it. To many this many sound like an outright insult, judgment or whatever negative connotation springs forth in your mind. However, from a young age I had the talent for finding/listening to those that have ‘been there and done that’. In a more sophisticated and elegant way I could also call the been there and done that people mentors or coaches.
So, when I heard that “I have a good feel for it” from a mentor I was as happy as the cow that jumped over the moon. Why did a cow jump over the moon, I’m not sure but that cow must really have been determined or really happy to believe that they could get there. Maybe I felt validated and now had the belief I needed to, shoot for the starts; who knows, but it was what I needed – and I was now ready to launch into the acquisition of further knowledge.
I was ignorant about many finer details regarding therapy, nevertheless I trusted my ‘gut feeling’ and above all I was willing to learn, determined to succeed and disciplined in my pursuit. As I investigated the most successful individuals in various fields of study, sport and business many similarities began to emerge. What stood out for me was their desire and determination to do whatever it took to get the job done and truly understanding that: There is no failure only feedback.
During many difficult and steep learning curves I would continually remind myself that “you don’t have to be perfect, sometimes you just have to get the job done”. This realisation was something I felt set me free and lifted a great deal of pressure and expectations off my shoulders.
Desire, determination and willingness will only get you so far. At some point you have to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed on another level. As many of you know, determination will only last for so long. If you want long-term success you have to understand what it is you are doing.
I recall many times during my formative years, being told to be mentally tough, keep pushing and visualise what you want to achieve. All very sound advice. However, they did not finish the sentence, there was no actual coaching involved. Nike have a great slogan in “just do it” but do what exactly? As a young rugby player I would often be told “don’t be afraid, be mentally strong and dig deep”, but what did it mean and most importantly how the hell does one do it?
Many years later I began to ask those that had been there and done that what it meant. I did not get a step-by-step version, but I did get life stories and experience. It was the messages that I extracted from these stories that gave me the guidance and understanding needed to build my mental fortitude. After listening to many stories, reading many books and studying the methods used by successful individuals I began to put together a step-by-step method that I now teach to many athletes and executives.
These key lessons and experience I now carry with me whenever I engage and coach athletes wanting to go beyond what they thought they could achieve. Many coaches have the best intentions when they tell athletes to be positive and just keep pushing, stay focused or visualise the success. To more adequately explain what I mean, I shall briefly highlight some elements of what visualisation entails.
• Are you using a dissociated or associated view point when visualising your success or past performances
• Are you going through the performance at game speed or slowing it down
• Are you running through the performance from start to finish or just isolated moments
• Are you using kinaesthetic awareness or perceptual positioning
• Are you focusing on what you want to achieve or what you did incorrectly etc.
It is only when we pair willingness and guidance in the right direction that we begin to truly experience knowledge and gain wisdom. In turn, this wisdom brings calmness and belief to perform in stressful moments or to mentally prepare for pressure matches, situations or meetings. Understanding how we succeed and remain calm under pressure gives us the ability to find what works for us, reproduce it – and even create our own working model of success.
Often we have to delve deeper into that which we know instinctively, that is if you wish to understand and consistently reproduce it. I hear you saying “if it ain’t broken don’t fix it” – but what if it is broken, what if what you are doing is not working or you find yourself in a slump or rut? Because trust me there will come a winter session and if you are not prepared it may last longer than you have planned for.
Thus, if what you are doing is not working, change it. And that may require some questioning of what you know and possibly some letting go what you know to make room for something new. It is here that the good are separated from the great because the greats are willing to relook and reinvent themselves many times.
To remain on the top of your game you must be willing to stay one step ahead of the competition, which means continually looking to improve and push yourself. And as stated above, know your ABC of what pushing harder means. Know what visualisation means, how to push and at what pace. And also know when you are at your maximum push, or if you need to move from your comfort zone.
As any successful executive or sportsmen will attest, resting on your laurels is the first step to losing the top stop.
Don’t just stick to the highlights package, at times we must sit through the entire process and slowly acquire the lessons needed to build our knowledge base, then get feedback as we gain wisdom. Basically, after acquiring the skills needed one must start the teething process of implementing them. As Mike Tyson reminds us, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Plan for the winters of life during summer. And soon you will be able to find summer in winter.
Written by Wesley Kew – Clinical Psychologist and NLP Practitioner