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MYST 82 Trevitorial: How to Fail Faster and Easier

Six Essential Techniques to Guarantee Failure at Anything You Attempt!

Success? Sure, we all want success. Or at least we think we do. But so many people seem afraid of success that they self-sabotage their plans, which inevitably brings about the failure that so consumed their lives with worry.

If you are going to worry about failing, and think only how bad it will feel to not achieve your goals, I guess we need to make sure that you are able to achieve your absolute and abject failure as quickly and painlessly as possible. That way you will have more time to worry about your next doomed plan.

I’ll steal from David Letterman, counting backward from the least likely to bring catastrophic failure to the one that is sure to end your plans, but unlike Mr. Letterman, I was able to refine my list to the top six essential techniques.

Number 6 Set a Goal which is Too Aggressive or Based on Fantasy

People who embark on a weight loss journey often want to reach their goal as fast as possible, so they vow to eat only 500 calories a day until they lose their 150 pounds. Or they announce “I will only eat foods that begin with the letter X Y or Z.” Or “I will only eat food that is orange.” That will not work. Trying to lose that aggressively will give you rapid losses—for a few days—and then your feelings of starvation will creep up and urge you to “have just one piece of bread” and soon all your previously controlled dietary needs will crash upon you and you will regain everything that you lost, and then a few more pounds. And you will say to yourself: “See? I know it wouldn’t work.”

Maybe you have a physical goal: I will walk the Appalachian Trail, but I will be the first person to walk the entire 2160 miles backwards so that I can become famous! You’ll be famous. In your own mind, because before you get to the first camp shelter you will have fallen, hit your head on a rock and hopefully knocked some sense into you.  Or your Appalachian Trail goal could be a little more realistic: Hike the entire length but setting a new speed record (hiking it in less than 46 ½ days. Is that doable? Maybe. But I’ll explain more in…

Number 5 Skip the Legwork

So you want to hike the AT fast? If you don’t practice, hiking in all conditions, in all terrains, and have huge mental, physical and emotional stamina, you won’t succeed. You will burn out and fail. And you will realize that everyone who said “It can’t be done” was right all along.

Legwork is all the preparation needed for any endeavor. If you want to start a podcast, you should listen to many different shows for examples of what works and what doesn’t. Then find someone to help you learn the secrets. (Meron Bareket was my teacher with his Podcast Starter Kit.) Can you do it on whim, and completely alone. Yes, certainly. And iTunes has hundreds or thousands of shows where the creator made a couple shows and then quit. They worked themselves into failure.

If you want to lose weight, you actually need literal leg work—get off your butt and move! You can count all the calories you want, and eat all the gluten-free, GMO-free, fat-free food you want, but if you are not burning more calories than you eat—because you are moving more than you used to move—you will do nothing but fail at weight loss.

If your goal is to become CEO of your company and you currently work in the mail room, you need a plan on how to move up. It won’t just happen because you carry the mail to someone in a corner office. You can read all the self-help books you can find, you can combine The Secret with Think and Grow Rich and How to Win Friends and Influence People, but if you don’t actually implement any of those strategies, you might as well have simply continued to read your Spiderman comic books. (Maybe a magic spider will bite you and transform you!)

No, without a plan followed by action, you will certainly succeed in finding fast failure. This is very similar to…

Number 4 No Skin in the Game

Part of planning and preparing usually requires a buy-in. A commitment. You may need to take some classes to learn needed skills, which is a commitment of time and effort. And you still have no guarantee of succeeding even if you graduate at the top of your class!

If you want to create podcast, you will need some basic tools and while some are free, some have one time or recurring fees. A website host may want payment for twelve or more months up front. And you still need to build a website. Can you do that on your own? Maybe, if you have the skill to create a good website. But you may need to hire someone to do it for you.

Maybe your goal is to fund your retirement by winning the lottery. You need to buy the ticket first, and you know that almost certainly, you will not win. That money will be gone. Forever.

But you need to have emotional skin in the game, too. You need to be mentally ready for the project, and be prepared for the inevitable assault of negative thinking from friends, relatives, coworkers and yourself. When you make a commitment, you need to tell people about it so that you have some external accountability. And that can be risky and intimidating. I mean, what if you fail? Then that person, or those people, will know that you failed. That will crush you, right?

But you know the old saying “No pain, no gain?” It’s true. Having skin in the game increases your chances of success, but also shows you exactly how much you have to lose when that failure happens.  And when will that failure happen?

Number 3 Never Set a Deadline

This is a really powerful idea. You should give it a try.

Create a goal. Make some plans. But very carefully never commit yourself to a deadline. See, when you do that, you avoid absolute and definitive failure because you can always tell your accountability partners that you are “working on it.” And as long as you are still working on it, there is still a chance—however slim—that you will finish as planned.

Deadlines increase the pressure for you. That pressure can be destructive. We are all trying to have a less complicated life, trying to reduce our stress. Why purposely add self-imposed stress in the form of an artificial deadline? It seems to be counter-productive because we all know that focus and creativity stem from an inner calm, right?

And besides, if the project is based on your idea and goals, it should not matter if you reach your goal in a week or a year or a decade. It is all under your control. When you reach the finish line should not matter. Finishing is more important than meeting an artificial deadline, so why worry about it? It will happen when it happens.

Of course, the much greater likelihood is that without the stress that is induced by a deadline, you will stop working on your project and will never achieve the desired outcome. But that’s okay, with this technique you can still have a crushing defeat and still save face. You are “working on it.” But you could also…

Number 2 Let Someone Else Define Your Success

This is when you let someone—anyone—tell you what success looks like. Maybe you let magazines tell you what success should look like. You compare your body shape to that of the models in those magazines on sale at the grocery store checkouts (because we all know those photos are never photoshopped.) See? Now you know exactly how you must look to be successful in weight loss. Or you can go to your local gym and compare your outrageously absent washboard abs with that guy working on those free weights. You know, that guy who looks like he could bench press your car? Yes. He is showing you what you need to do to be successful.

When you sign up for a marathon, you can research to find the record times posted in the past. You can see who is running in the elite pack. You know that they will set the definition of success. And not only set it, but set it with an objective measurement: time!

If you are starting a blog or podcast, site visits and downloads are the measurement of success. Make sure you know who the leaders in your niche are, and how many people are on their email list and of course, make sure you know their monthly income. Those are objective data points that will help you know when you are successful, because if they can do it, everyone can, right?

When you let other people define your success, you are making it easy to move down the path to failure. So grab those magazines! Look at those models! And get working (but don’t set a deadline).

Or you could…

Number 1 Don’t Even Start

This is by far the easiest technique to guarantee not reaching your life’s goals, and making your dreams into your reality. It is the easiest and most efficient step to take to making your life so much simpler.

Just ignore your dreams. Live the life you have. It is easier. Safer. You will not lose anything. There is no risk. You will not lose face in front of family and friends. You will not miss any deadlines.

If you do not try, you cannot lose! It is the perfect “no lose” situation, and if you really want to make your life simpler and less stressful, just keep everything the way it is. Make “Living the Status Quo Life” your life’s motto.

You can achieve total failure before you even start. Now THAT is being efficient!

There we have it. My six essential techniques that you can immediately use, in every part of your life, to help you maximize the speed of your failure, thus giving you more time to try something else.


Of course, if you want to avoid failure, simply do the opposite!


Some links (but not all) within these show notes may be Affiliate Links, meaning that I may receive a small commission when readers click on them and then purchase something. This does not increase your cost at all, but it does help me cover some of the cost associated with this podcast. Thanks!

Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voiceover work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!