Think Like A Magician: It’s not “Feedback”….you’ve failed!

You can’t pick up a self-help book nowadays without reading the phrase “there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback…”.

Ahhhh, lovely, isn’t it?

The idea is to help people overcome their fears and anxieties about tackling new ideas or actions, by lessening the impact of negative results (you are no longer failing, you’re just getting feedback). It’s nice…but it’s never worked for me and I think I know why.

“Failure” is really nothing to be afraid of. By giving it a new label (“feedback”, “results” etc.), I think we increase the power and fear that the word “failure” has over us. It just makes it more intimidating and something we want to avoid.

So don’t give the word ‘failure’ any more power. Or any power in fact. See it for what it is; a necessary step to greatness.

And because it’s necessary, don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to fail.

Any magician who has performed for any length of time will have been messed up a trick when performing, will have tried a joke that died on it’s backside or created a trick that doesn’t go over well.

I’ve done all three this week.

Ok, ok….every week. 🙂

As a close up magician, there are very clearly moments where you could fail: you REALLY saw through your assistant, your Panoramic Shift (don’t ask!) goes askew, or your audience catch you fingering a lemon in your pocket. These are pivotal moments in magic and, if they go wrong, there is no going back: you’ve blown the trick.

Magic is about accomplishing the impossible; giving the audience something that they cannot explain. If they spot you, the magic is gone. Destroyed. It’s not ‘feedback’, it’s ‘failure’; but it’s not so terrible.

So, what do you do when YOU experience failure in a goal you’ve set yourself?

IMMEDIATELY take a second to think WHY you failed; glean 1,2 or 25 things that went wrong that caused you to fail and adjust your plan accordingly.

Immediately realise that failure has given you 1, 2 or 25 things that you know could improve your act, presentation, life or bring you closer to your goal. It can be a big thing or a little thing. But it’s SOMETHING, and that counts…

You are one step closer to achieving your goal.

Remind yourself that you’ve learned something about yourself or your act, that you wouldn’t have learned without failing. Next time, you’ll be better, faster, smarter or efficient…and ONLY because you failed.

A joke fails to get a laugh – I need to make it shorter.

Someone spots the secret magic move – I need to come up with a joke or some misdirection.

You REALLY did saw through your assistant – when I get out of prison, I need to find sturdier assistants!

The only way to really fail would be to quit before you’ve achieved your goal.

When you experience failure, give yourself a treat (perhaps a small Italian decaffeinated beverage or a packet of Werther’s Originals for example), and reward yourself for recognising failure as a helpful, rather than malevolent, beast.

Edison…Dyson…Sanders; they all took many attempts to get to where they wanted to be (though I don’t suppose Edison treated himself to 10,000 packs of Werther’s Originals – that would be gluttonous), but they all experienced failure. They didn’t quit, they didn’t feel ashamed. They had passion for what they were doing and wouldn’t let anyone stop them. And why should they?

Edison attempted 10,000 designs before he found the right filament for his bulb. The man was a noted genius and a respected scientist. He knew that there was no shame in discovering 9,999 different ways that a light bulb WOULDN’T work. He wasn’t embarrassed; he knew that, to get to the final solution, he needed to go on the journey of 9,999 steps.

And he would’ve gone 9,999 more.

If you accept failure (and learn the lessons it teaches), success has to be inevitable!

So, next time you fail at something, come up with one reason why you failed and make the necessary change before you go out and fail again.

Celebrate being one step closer to your goal!

If you have any failure feedback on this post, feel free to add it below.

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