Willpower

I just finished my sushi lunch today, and was heading home for the afternoon.  Aside from drumming as hard as I can on the steering wheel, my favorite thing to do while driving is listen to an audiobook.  The audiobook of the day was The Power of Habit.

In it, the author (Charles Duhigg) was explaning various research studies.  The topic: willpower.

Study Number One was the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, in which kids were given a marshmallow, and told if they didn’t eat it yet, they would be rewarded with two marshmallows later.  Some ate it right away, some waited for their reward.  Of the kids who waited, only one third were able to wait long enough to win the reward of an additional marshmallow.

Here’s the cool part.  Sixteen years later, the kids who exhibited willpower and waited for their reward were smarter, had better self-control, harder to tempt, and less likely to be distracted.  Their SAT scores were over 200 points higher.  This is my dumbed down explanation.  The real test is explained here.

Study Number Two was the cookie & radish experiment.  Sorry, I don’t have a cool Wikipedia link for that one.  Here’s the main idea: people were seated in front of radishes and cookies and told (lied to) that they were part of a taste-testing experiment.  Half the group was told to eat the cookies, and the other half was told to eat radishes.  The room smelled like a batch of freshly baked cookies, so just imagine the agony tha the radish-eaters had to endure.  On that note, I’ll be right back, I’m getting a glass of milk and some Chips Ahoy.

After they had eaten their required food, they were given a puzzle, to “pass the time”.  What they didn’t know is that the puzzle was impossible.  Here’s the punchline: the radish eaters spent less than half the time working on the puzzle before giving up.  Again, this is my dumbed-down version, but the moral is that self-control can be used up.  It becomes weaker as it’s used throughout the day.

Bear with me.  So far, we know that more willpower leads to more success.  And also that it’s exhaustible.

So the question that needs to be answered is this: How can we get more willpower?  Is there a pill?  (If any pharmacists are reading this, I’d like to suggest you develop that pill and call it “pillpower”)

No, there’s no pill.

But the good news is that willpower operates just like a muscle.  On the downside, it can be used up.  But working in your favor is the fact that it can be built – like a muscle – in both strength and endurance.

And how do you build it?  Just like a muscle, you can build strength by pushing beyond your limits, then resting to recover.  For endurance, you just need to exercise it more often.

In willpower, that means making the extremely hard decisions to do the right thing you otherwise wouldn’t do.  It’s hard to make the decision to order a salad when the triple bacon cheeseburger is on the next page of the menu.  But doing so will build the strength of your willpower (which is transferable to other decisions), and make other, equally difficult choices much easier.

Make sure you aren’t constantly challenging your willpower, though.  For as it is exhaustive, you will likely watch yourself go from making great choices to making terrible ones.  Quite a yo-yo effect.  I’m sure you’ve seen that before.

As for endurance, all you need to do is find opportunities to make small changes.  I can’t overemphasize small.  It probably won’t feel like your willpower is being used, and you’d be embarrassed to take credit for it.  But those little exercises will make sure you can weather the long storm.  And permanently be viewed by your peers as someone who exercises self-control, is well centered, and comes off as a leader.

Stick with your problems just a little longer.  Try a little harder.  And find yourself growing exponentially.

 

It’s not that I’m so smart.  It’s just that I stay with problems longer.

~Albert Einstein



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Someday

Driving back home after a weekend of adventure in Chattanooga, my friends and I passed a boat with the name It’s Someday.

I’m not sure if it’s my change in thinking over the last couple years that made this name ring so true to me.  Or the fact that our weekend included a two night stay at a haunted riverboat hotel, 145-feet high underground waterfalls, and hang gliding.

This trip wasn’t a once-a-year trip, although the main attraction (hang gliding) was a long time coming.

Nor was it done with big bravado.  There was no time off work taken, no retirement necessary, and no savings accounts depleted for these adventures.  We left Friday after work, returned Sunday night, and used bargain-hunting services like Groupon.com to do it all without breaking the bank.

Too many times in the past, I’ve dismissed the possibility of doing things I really wanted to do.  “I’ll get to it someday”, I’d say.  And I know several people who have deferred any enjoyment of their life until retirement.

I’m not trying to make the case that everyone should travel often.  I’m also not suggesting everyone go hang gliding.  Because those may not appeal to you as they do to me.  You will have to sacrifice doing some things in order to make room for others.  My point is simply this:

Intentionally choose what you do today and also what you put off until tomorrow

Make a list (I use 43things.com) to help you choose and complete.  Once you choose the next one thing you must do, then you will start to notice two things:

  • Roadblocks to doing that thing
  • Helpful tools to doing that thing

Leverage the helpful tools to eliminate the roadblocks.

For example, with hang gliding…

Roadblock: full time jobs
Elimination: leave Friday immediately after work and return Sunday night

Roadblock: money
Helpful Tool: Groupon.com
Elimination: Travel with friends to share costs

Roadblock: fear of heights
Helpful Tool: psychology
Elimination: while I wasn’t able to get rid of my fear of heights, I was able to eliminate it as a roadblock.  I was certainly scared, and uncomfortable… but the experience was worth ignoring that fear for 10 or 15 minutes.

I know it’s corny, but there’s a lot of truth to the saying “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Adopt the mindframe that you can constantly adventure, and you will find roadblocks disappear more easily, and helpful tools present themselves.

Don’t defer your dreams.  Someday never comes.

Or, if you want to get technical, every day is someday.



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Sales – The New Style

When was the last time you answered the phone and heard a telemarketer on the other end?  Of the last 100 times you got a call like that, how many times did you listen to their sales pitch, gather information on their product, and ultimately decide to purchase?

Same question – with a sales letter in the mail.

How about e-mail?

Have you ever walked into a car dealership without the intention to buy a car, and after listening to the sales person’s pitch, decided to buy?

Sales have changed.

People (consumers) expect more from companies before they do business.

The old way looked like this:

  1. Build a product
  2. Convince someone to buy that product

People do business with those they know, like, and trust.  Historically, good salespeople have been great at building familiarity, likability, and trust (integrity).  Some could do it in ten minutes.  Some manipulated that formula by bullying (or scaring) customers into buying.

The Information Age has changed everything, especially this process.  People tune out telemarketers and cold mail so much that the message does not matter.  Some day, I’m going to run an experiment where the telemarketer calls to offer people $50 for nothing.  And measure the success rate.  I’m guessing a script that goes something like “I’d like to talk to you about a product that can put $50 in your pocket today” will get less than 10% acceptance.  Even a script that starts off “I’m giving away $50 – do you want it?” will likely not break the 50% mark.

It’s not that people now are stupid and impatient.  It’s that our sources of information have changed.  We no longer rely on those sales messages to educate us.  The internet (Google) turned us all into research experts.  And since we know, like, and trust ourselves way more than an average car salesman, we rely on ourselves to fill that need.

The new way looks like this:

  1. Build a product
  2. Give away free, helpful information on problems your niche are trying to solve
  3. Offer a product for sale that helps them solve the problem
  4. Offer a bigger product for sale that solves the problem for them

The real difference is giving away free, helpful information.  Solving problems and upselling based on need has been going on forever.  It’s the giving away of information that helps to build those three elements, familiarity, likability, and trust.

Write articles to build all three.

Make videos to build all three, with more speed and strength.



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

How to Improve the World – Updated

I recently wrote a post on why you should strive to make the world better as a result of your life.  Then I followed up with a post on how to make the world better for other people.

As I let my last two posts settle in, thoughts came at me about things I left out, expansion on some of the ideas, and new ideas I needed to share.

So here it is – How to Improve the World, Part II.

First, I’d like to make one clarification on my original list.  It is not a list that you should check off each item as you do it.  It’s more of a menu than a list.  Pick out the ones that sound good to you, and do those.  If some make you anxious or uneasy, then don’t do them!  I mentioned saying something nice about a friend on Facebook as a way to brighten their day.  I’ve made fewer than one post per year that I’ve been on Facebook.  So that will probably not be one of the “entrees” I select.

Second, I have two additions to the list.  Here they are:

9.  Put your pride aside and live with pure joy.  It’s way more contagious.

10.  Follow the Platinum Rule.  You’ve heard of the Golden Rule, right?  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While it’s exceptional wisdom, I think it leaves out one thing: people want to be treated differently.  It’s requires a little extra effort to learn how someone wants to be treated, but it’s worth it.  So I propose the Platinum Rule:

“Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”

And finally, some other (possibly random) notes…

Heard a great quote in church Sunday – “Fear is lies believed

That got me thinking about another recent post I wrote, suggesting that we all start making up lies to believe.  I left out a very important distinguishing point.  You can believe productive lies and unproductive lies.

One looks like this: speaking in front of a group leaves you open to ridicule, judgment, and rejection.

The other looks like this: this audience is hungry for my message, is going to receive it well, and will be better off as a result.

Can you tell the difference?  Both may be true, and both may be false.  Do you see why it doesn’t matter which is accurate… but does matter which you believe?



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

How to Improve the World

Yesterday I talked about your role in the world.  About why you should affect a positive effect on others.  Today I show you how.  Here are some things you can do regularly which will make other people’s days a bit better.

  1. Smile when you make eye contact or greet someone.
  2. Find people’s hidden talents.  These are the ones they are most proud of, but rarely get good feedback about.
  3. Once you find their talent, show appreciation for it, and take a genuine interest in learning about it.
  4. Hold the door
  5. Help someone with your presence, not with your advice.  That means go lend a hand.  People constantly give feedback, but rarely give themselves.
  6. Tip well
  7. Write something nice about a friend.  Make it concise.  One sentence max.  Then make it even shorter.  All meat.  Now, post it on their facebook wall.
  8. Leave things better than how you found them.  No matter where it is.  Your house, someone else’s house, or Best Buy.  Nobody will mind if you pick something up and put it back in its place.

The common theme here is putting other people before yourself.  These are just tricks to stay conscious of ways to do that.

 

(side note – people pleasers, don’t use this list as a justification to continue to ignore your own needs.  read this book, it’s great)



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

The World

The world exists whether or not you do. It existed without you before you were born, and it will exist long after you die.

You don’t control its existence, but you can influence what it’s like for other people.

You have an impact on other people at work. At home. At the store. When you eat out. When you drive.

That impact on others can be good or bad, and you decide which it will be.

Why not make everyone’s life better by your being in it? Even if you never see that person again. And even, especially, if you have nothing to gain.

Tomorrow’s post will tell you how.



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Lie to Yourself – And Believe the Lies!

I love information.  New information energizes me.  Learning something I didn’t know previously feels really good.  It feels unmistakably like pure growth.

The other side of that spectrum is lack of information (pure fluff), or false information (lies).  Snopes has done a good job of fact-checking urban legends and interesting stories.  The better service they have done for us is to make us more responsible in the information that we share with others.

As we’re going deeper and deeper into the Information Age, the responsible sharing of high quality information becomes more and more information.  Fact checking everything you read will become inefficient, and at the worst, impossible.

This blog post isn’t about making sure everything you read and everything you share is 100% factually accurate.

This blog post is about driving your beliefs based on your goals, and not based on factual evidence.

Yes, you choose what you believe.

Some of us don’t consciously choose what we believe.

“I’m scared of flying – what if we crash?”  That person believes flying is risky; that there’s a chance the plane will crash – a greater chance than they are comfortable with.

Personally, I’m scared of speaking to groups of people.  I believe that I need to say everything perfectly, with a Shakespearean-like prose, in order to avoid the judgment of the audience.

Both of those beliefs are false.  I’m sure you’ve heard that in reality, flying in airplanes is safer than driving in cars.  And people aren’t expecting perfect speeches from me – just that I’m real and they can relate in some way.

The truth of our beliefs don’t matter – we believe them anyway.  Phobias, insecurities, and other negative beliefs can paralyze us.

My recommendation is that we begin to adopt a different set of false beliefs.  And once they are adopted, that you genuinely accept them as truth.

Match your beliefs to your goals.  Then, match your actions to your new beliefs.

(spoiler alert – stop reading here if you don’t want to see behind my Wizard of Oz curtain…)

One of my goals is to write a book.  It’s called “The Upward Spiral”, and it’s about putting your life on a track of constant growth and improvement – with a focus on automating that growth, so as to remove the constant “hard work” feeling.  It doesn’t mean there’s no hard work – it simply means that it doesn’t feel like hard work.

The first problem I encountered – I’m a bad writer.  Not that I can’t write.  But it tends to sound like a textbook.  And I get drained when I write.  And it’s boring.  And I haven’t achieved anything worth talking about.  And I’m negative.  :-)

How does a boring, tired, unimpressive person write a book that’s interesting, energizing, and uplifting?  That question paralyzed me for years.

Then…

I began to believe, with the help of Seth Godin, Michael Masterson, Timothy Ferriss, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, and many others, that I can become a great writer.

As it turns out, practice makes you better.  Yep, that’s the kind of insight you only get here on Bobservation.com.  Never before heard wisdom that practice makes perfect.  Original and mind-blowing.

So I started a blog.  And I started to write posts that relate to the concepts I’d like to cover in my book.

Are you putting together the puzzle yet?  This blog is my training camp for the book.  I told you it was a spoiler.

Anyway, the point is this:

It doesn’t matter that I had never written anything outside of a school assignment.  I chose to believe that I am already a great writer, who just needs practice to perfect it.  Am I a great writer?  No.  Will I ever become one?  Maybe.  But it doesn’t matter what the answer is – it only matters that I believe it.

I’m predicting the biggest objection I’ll get to this line is “What about all those people on American Idol who think they’re good, but are really terrible?  They believe a lie, and look at them!”

Well, it may be hard to hear, but they’re doing it right.

For every one person who is more passionate about their success and cares more about their art than other people judging them, there are a hundred who are paralyzed with self-consciousness.  If those people would put their insecurities aside and go for it, we’d have a lot of people not hiding from fear, but sharing their incredible gifts.

 

-Bob

 

PS, I usually don’t caveat my thoughts, or apologize.  But for this one, I’m going to add a big disclaimer.  This concept of designing your belief system around your goals doesn’t apply to all things.  Specifically, spirituality & religion.  I directly influence my actions and chance of success with a change in my belief system.  That is not the case with my spiritual beliefs.  So I’d recommend seeking truth there, and avoid making a set of personally convenient beliefs.



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! +1
Loading...

Ice Cream vs. Broccoli

What if…

Someone invented a food that tasted just like ice cream (yum), but was as good for you as eating broccoli?  What if it tasted like pizza, but had the health benefits of grass fed beef?

Whoever creates such foods would be rich, no doubt.  Would you buy it?  Personally, I’d live off the stuff.  Of course, the skeptic in all of us tell us that it’s too good to be true, it would probably cause cancer, or have some other bad effects. Just pretend, for a minute, that it’s real.  And that it’s not too good to be true.

Now, let’s talk about associations.  Every day we’re associating our feelings to events, people, and objects.

Dogs are good at associations.  Say the word “treat”, and watch your dog’s tail wag.

I like to pretend the dog has been studying English in its spare time, and now understands every word you say, and is excited at the prospect of receiving a treat – as you just promised.  In actuality, though the dog doesn’t really speak or understand the language, he has a very strong positive association to that particular word.  He knows that in the past, that word has been followed by good things.  So while your dog isn’t genuinely excited about you saying treat – he is excited about what it brings.

We do the same thing.  Could be a survival instinct – we naturally gravitate to things which we have associated with positive feelings, and avoid those things which have brought us pain.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he described groups of people which have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop, best of the best.  Think professional athletes.  While I can’t say it nearly as well as Gladwell did (go buy the book if you haven’t already), here’s my attempt at summarizing one concept from that book:

People who reach the top started with some small successes, developed positive associations to those successes, which in turn, created enjoyment in achievement, and led to more “practice”.  Then it repeated.

Video games are a perfect illustration of this concept.  Why are they so fun, despite the lack of any true productivity, gain, or achievement?  Because they run you through this cycle over and over again, faster than almost anything else we experience.  The attraction to the achievement is multiplied because of how often we get those positive reinforcers.  Our “work” on the video game carries with it incredible positive associations.

Are you still here?  Wow.  As a reward, here’s this picture description of how to rise to the top.

So is that it, we’re just going to be the average of all the influencers on our lives – the best video games decide what and who we are?

Nah, the thing is – we can (to some degree) control the forming of our associations.  In other words, you have the power to create enjoyment in tasks that you previously hated.  Put on your favorite music while you exercise.  If you like eating healthy, but hate cooking, then make it your mission to cook healthy food efficiently.

Reward yourself constantly for good habits.  Just make sure those rewards aren’t counter productive to the goal.  A bad reward for sticking to your diet is to drink a milkshake.  That means you’re just enduring the diet long enough to be free of it.  What I’m suggesting is a new mindset where you enjoy the diet in and of itself.

On the low end of the scale, this looks like menial tasks being bearable.

On the high end of the scale, it turns broccoli into ice cream.

Smokers – re-frame how you think of cigarettes.  They are not a saving grace to stressful situations and a relaxer that makes you feel better about life.  If you believe that, you won’t quit.  They are a damaging habit that pulls you further from your goals.  Short term, yes, they make you feel better.  But for every ounce of relaxation or stress relief you get from smoking a cigarette, you will have ten times that amount of stress piled on you in ways you don’t realize are tied to the cigarettes.  You’ll see them as facts of life, or just chance happenings.  If you could clearly see how bad the cigarettes are impacting you, then you’d quit today.  Associate.  And then quit forever.

Ignore the promise of instant success and fast happiness – especially in the form of pills or “special secret workout routines”.  If you are looking to minimize the amount of effort you need to put in, then you have a loser’s mindset.  If you’re looking to enjoy and appreciate the process of getting what you want out of life, then you’ve already won.

The Upward Spiral is just as hard to stop as a downward spiral.  It can also be just as easy to start.  So let’s go up!

My Health Insurance Gamble

Yesterday, I learned there is likely to be a new tax in the US for people who do not buy health insurance.

Admittedly, I don’t stay current with news, events, and politics.  The “why” behind that is for another blog post.  This topic, however, hit a chord with me.

First – a bit of my background.  My first job out of college was in Human Resources at the Culinary Institute of America.  Got my first taste of insurance benefits.  Then, I left to start selling AFLAC to small businesses.  I learned two things – how the health insurance industry works, and how bad I am at selling.

Six months, and a couple hundred dollars later (my hourly wage was around $0.30 / hour), I left AFLAC to work for a worker’s compensation self insurance company.  That is where I really learned about insurance.  I spent my time there reading insurance regulations to figure out where we could start new self insured programs.  The companies we dealt with felt like they were paying too much for their insurance, and did not receive a comparable benefit for it.  This was the first time I realized insurance wasn’t a given – it wasn’t required.  In 2006, I started my five years with Bank of America in their Insurance Services Group.  Yup, lots more insurance education.  Total just over 8 years.

So while I’m not the top analyst in the field of insurance, I do have a pretty good handle on how it works.  Here are the most important concepts I learned:

  1. All insurance companies are in business to make money.  (also, you can remove “insurance” from that sentence and it’s still true)
  2. Typically, insurance works like this – you pay money on a regular basis, and the insurance company pays you back when an “event” occurs.  An event in health insurance would be going to the doctor.  An event in car insurance is hitting another car.
  3. Actuaries determine how much you should pay, based on your risk.  Someone who never goes to the hospital because they heal themselves like Wolverine would be very low risk, while someone who goes to the hospital when their face turns red is a high risk.  To the insurance company, a risk is how much they expect to pay.  So if they expect to pay you a lot, then they will charge you a lot.  Remember #1 – they are in business to make money.
  4. Rule of thumb for how much they charge vs. how much you pay: it’s a 2-to-1 ratio.  If they expect to pay you $500 this year, they will charge you $1,000.
  5. So who wins and who loses?  The insurance company “bets” that you won’t need a payout.  You, on the other hand, “bet” you will.

If we only look at the financials, then you’re paying a company $1.00 to give you $0.50 back.  That’s it.  Everything else in the system (good driver discounts, loyalty programs, etc.) is just noise.  Also, good marketing.  :-)

Craps and Blackjack are widely known as two games with the best odds for the player.  Craps pays 99.4 cents per dollar wagered.  Blackjack is 99.2 cents per dollar.  The worst odds I could find was on Keno, at 75 cents per dollar.  If we only look at the game of chance, then you’re about half as likely to “win” with insurance as you are with Keno.

Can we agree that it’s a bad financial decision, and a bad bet?  I’m not trying to convince you that you need to drop your insurance immediately, just that it’s not profitable.  Based on the numbers alone, it’s not good.

There’s another part to insurance, however.  Prudential hit it on the head with their old marketing campaign, “Peace of mind – it comes with every piece of the rock.”  You’re not buying an investment or a good gamble.  When you buy insurance, you’re buying peace of mind.  You’re buying security.  You’re buying a fix to the anxiety and fear that come with uncertainty.

I’m not opposed to insurance for everyone.  But as a risk-embracing, logical, number-loving guy, it doesn’t sit well with me.

I’ve had an HSA instead of traditional health insurance since January, 2008.  Here are my numbers:

  • Months: 42
  • Insurance premiums I would have paid under traditional health insurance (this is low because Bank of America paid part of it): $12,600
  • Money I would have in a bank account with traditional health insurance: $0
  • Deposits I’ve made into my HSA: $5,400
  • Current HSA balance: $3,075

So – I’ve spent about $2,325 on healthcare over the same time that my health insurance would have cost me $12,600.  That’s over 80% savings.  I wish I could buy everything at 80% off.

And for a few more bullets… here are my notes on my healthcare over the last few years:

  • Although I am pretty healthy and I rarely use doctors, this does include me having mono in 2008, lasik in 2009, and a somewhat nasty volcano boarding accident (blood warning) in 2012.
  • Doctors charge you less when you’re paying cash.  And they charge you even less when you pay them on the spot.  It’s like they pay me to save money.  Go figure!
  • I had more money deposited into my HSA than just the $5,400 I showed above.  I believe Bank of America contributed to my balance to the tune of $600.
  • Since I can invest HSA dollars, this also includes the investment gains I got.  Although they weren’t huge, they accounted for another couple hundred dollars.
  • Also, Lasik was about $1,800 and that would not have been covered by traditional health insurance either.  So I really spent $525 that I wouldn’t have spent otherwise.  Even better.

OK, summary time.  My point is this: I was able to take a system designed against me, and minimized the negative effects.  With this new tax, it sounds to me like my efforts and success will be penalized.  It is as though I will be paying more because I’m good at math and OK with risk.

I get their intention.  The theory is that if I break a hundred bones and get a $50,000 doctor’s bill, then the government doesn’t want the burden of payment to fall on my fellow citizens.  I don’t want that, either.  I’d pay it.  If it took me several years, I’d pay it back myself.  But that promise doesn’t really resonate with most people.

So, I’ll just learn the rules of the new system, and figure out another way.  Any health insurers selling $5 of coverage for $10?  I’ll take it to avoid the tax.

This is another motivator against growing my life and businesses in the US.  I really like it here, but I don’t like getting beat up.

 

PS – there’s a part of this bill that will make healthcare cost the same for women as men.  Insurance wasn’t designed to be run on equality.  It was designed to be run by the numbers.  It’s fair discrimination – I pay more for car insurance because men are statistically worse risks for insurance companies.  That is, we are expected to have more accidents (or more severe accidents).  Not because someone high up in the insurance company heard a stand-up bit on how bad men are at driving – it’s based on millions of data points.  Let go of your pride, dude, it’s just numbers.



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Lessons from American Idol

Today’s post comes from a friend, Laura Rabell, who recently tried out for American Idol.  She is a member of my mastermind group, and sent the below as an inspirational e-mail to our group.  She’s also an entrepreneur, website designer, and book publisher.  Enjoy her inspirational thoughts.

 

Here is a recap of what I learned from American Idol auditions:

I auditioned for American Idol in Charlotte this year and did not make the cut. Now, when I say “auditioned,” you may be thinking of celebrity judges and the whole nine yards. That’s the magic of TV. The first round of auditions takes place well before some of the celebrity judges are even done negotiating their contracts. They are the “cattle call” arena auditions where lines sprawl for entire city blocks and fans camp out overnight. I heard about 5,000 people attended in Charlotte (which is actually a low turnout by Idol standards), and the producers narrowed the field down to 100 or less. Even out of those 100, more will be cut before the celebrity judges come to town.

Regardless of the herd of people and the hours of waiting, American Idol was an AMAZING & FUN experience. Thankfully, I recorded my album in Nashville just a few weeks prior, which gave me a platform to pursue my passion of singing on, so I didn’t feel like American Idol was the “only shot” I will ever have to pursue this dream. There’s a lot of wisdom in that because I feel like a lot of people who don’t understand that were crying on the sidewalk, thinking that their only chance at pursuing their dreams had vanished (quite frankly that might have been me a few years ago). Intellectually, I’m really owning that and committed to continuing to pursue that dream and passion by all means available. So in that regard, not advancing in the Idol competition is hardly a setback and will in no way impact my life-living, my dream-chasing, or my overall life happiness.

Knowing all of that intellectually, I was surprised at how much the rejection of one person, a total stranger (albeit a television producer) hurt and discouraged me. Even if only for one day, it was an emotional labyrinth.

So that is how I came to learn first-hand that “giving it your best” and committing to “living in the moment” and all of those good things about “failing forward” and “enjoying the journey,” — the many mantras and catchphrases that we self-improvement junkies consume and tell ourselves often — the funny thing is that when you are “fully invested” and “put yourself out there” in an American Idol audition or in anything, it still HURTS LIKE HECK when you don’t succeed. In fact, the more you wanted it, the more it hurts, I guess. Even if you know the odds are against you, and even if you know failure won’t effect your previously planned life trajectory or happiness. It’s the double edged sword of being emotionally invested & going for it.

So for me, the humbling walk down the dubiously named “non-winners” hallway was a huge opportunity to embrace the icky and bitter sting of failure and rejection while simultaneously moving forward to embrace other opportunities which are exciting (yet will also offer the same potential bitter sting of failure). It sounds sad, but there’s power in it. If I can embrace the pain of failure, then no matter what I try to achieve, I will literally have NO LIMITS!!!!! (Self-imposed psychologocial limits, that is. Obviously there is still the will of God and the laws of nature, but I think you know what I mean.) Pretty cool. I know that ALL OF US “can-do” positive thinkers know intellectually that we need to “fail forward,” but there’s no way to learn & perfect how you personally will react to & navigate that painful feeling except for a big fat failure. C’est la vie!

But as the late Randy Pausch would say, “Do you know what the head-fake is?” Did you catch it? If you learn something from a failure — especially something big that will teach you how better to lead your life — then guess what? It wasn’t really a failure. It was a HUGE WIN. A hard-fought and well-earned life lesson to be proud of.

Veni Vidi Vici,

Laura Rabell
www.LauraRabell.com

P.S. – Recommended reading: http://www.thebigleap.net/



This Post is BobjectionableThis is a Great Bobservation! (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...