This is the second segment of a 4-part manifesto about the product I’m building.
I’m sharing it here because the fundamental principles are relevant to anyone interested in crafting an intentional life.
You can read the other parts here:
Failure Is Inevitable
On the path to success, you are bound to experience setbacks. It’s part of the process; nobody is immune. Failure is inevitable.
Think you’re the only one who sets goals and misses them? Think again. Self-help gurus like to perpetuate the myth of the perfect individual, one who hits all their goals without fail. But it’s just that - a myth. They don’t exist. Everyone fails from time to time, whether it’s skipping the gym to sleep in or doomscrolling as a form of procrastination.
At first glance, “failure is inevitable” seems like a cynical perspective. It’s not. It’s simply a reality to be accepted. If you embrace it, you become empowered to execute. If you don’t, you surrender before the war has even begun. This is what separates the people who succeed from the ones who don’t.
Successful people embody the understanding that failure can’t be avoided; it has to be persevered through. They don’t shy away from challenge. They don’t get dejected and give up. Instead, they persist. If they fall down 7 times, they get up 8.
Though resilience is necessary, it’s not sufficient. It’s only part of the equation - it won’t take you the whole way. It’s not enough to just try again. You have to adapt your strategy. As Einstein said: “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Failure Is An Opportunity
Failure is the opportunity to learn how to adapt. By exposing your weaknesses, it provides a blueprint for action. Only when you understand what went wrong can you put a plan in place to address it. The obstacle is the way - your mistake reveals its respective intervention.
This translates to a simple formula: identify your triggers and modify your environment to remove them. Repeat as new problems arise in place of the ones you fixed.
For example, I stay up past my bedtime when I browse my phone. To fix that, I put it in my bedside drawer before going to sleep. Problem solved? If only it were that simple. On particularly restless nights, I allow myself to use it for “only” 5 minutes. You can guess how that plays out: before I know it, an hour has passed. So, on to the next iteration - leave the phone on the other side of the room and repeat.
Progress is two steps forward, one step back. It’s slow, but certain - you eventually converge to a solution over many attempts.
When you internalize that failure is an opportunity rather than a setback, you begin to exercise self-compassion. This is essential. Otherwise, you get trapped in a vicious cycle - you fail, you lose motivation and escape to your vices, you stop trying, you fail again… and repeat. You never fight through the problem. When you are compassionate towards yourself, you nip this cycle in the bud.
Self-compassion also instills equanimity. You remain balanced in the face of challenges. As a result, you can analyze your setbacks objectively and learn from them. You understand why they happened and adapt accordingly. Instead of dwelling on what you could have done, you look forward and decide what you will do. After all, you can’t change the past, but the future is in your hands - why not use the opportunity?
Building It Into The Product
I incorporate the ‘Failure is an Opportunity’ principle in my product by enabling guided self-reflections for participants. They are urged to acknowledge their failures and identify interventions for next time. Importantly, these are done through writing because writing is thinking. By articulating your experience, you extract valuable lessons and actionable advice for the next iteration.
Sound vague or simplistic? Stay tuned - it all comes together with the remaining segments of the series!
This post took redacted minutes to write.
P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.