Welcome to my new look. I hope you like it. Clear and Open is leveling up! And it wouldn’t have happened without some significant failures. That’s what this week’s article is about.
Guilty confession time: during my first year of college I was heavily addicted to role-playing games. There were some days where I played over eight hours a day. I got over it, but you may be stuck in the same loop I was in. It’s incredibly common, and the cause of a great deal of suffering in our world. I’ll explain.
The hook for me in the game was leveling up. You kill monsters, you get gold, their possessions, but most importantly, you get “experience points.”
When you collect enough of those, you level up: that means you become a better version of yourself. If you’re a wizard, you learn more powerful spells. If you’re a warrior, you get tougher. Often in these games, if you get killed, you lose all your experience points and have to start that level over. That’s a bummer.
Now let’s compare this to life. The reason people love these games is that leveling up happens in predictable, quantifiable ways. You get to know exactly what you need to do to grow, and exactly where you are on your journey…unlike life.
In real life, growth is something you can set the conditions for, but not cause directly. You can increase skill and knowledge in direct ways sometimes–but who you are, the qualities of your being, how you show up in the world–these are things we have limited control over. That’s why we say, “Some things you have to learn through experience.”
Part of the reason for this is because we learn and grow from things happening that we don’t exactly choose. Can you imagine a game that flashed this on your screen:
You’re getting divorced.
You lose half your gold and possessions.
You earn 9,987 experience points.
You’ve gained a level!
But the fact is that we learn our greatest lessons through what is often called “failure.”
But we don’t like that one bit. This is why our ideas of “success” and most of the people in my industry who market success-help focus on all the good-feeling stuff. They want you to think you can make your life or business like a role-playing game, despite that we all know it’s not how life works.
I’ve made a handful of choices in my life that caused me to lose well over a half million dollars. And if I could go back, change the choices and have the money instead, I wouldn’t do it.
Because the experience was worth every penny.
But the reason it was worth it was because I’ve learned how to use “failure” to my advantage.
This is a skill you can learn. This you can control. It takes practice and time, but it perhaps the most important thing you’ll ever learn: how to squeeze every lesson you can out of any mistake. That’s how, in real-life, you get the experience points. You earn them by productively relating to your experience. Or you lose them by not.
Failure is just life holding you accountable, and if you learn the lesson quickly, it pays off tenfold. If you play the victim and hide from what life is teaching you, you draw more of what feels like a failure, but actually isn’t.
This way of relating to life, accountability, and learning is part of every conversation in the Clear and Open community. Sound interesting? Find out more about becoming a dojo member.