Flail, Fail, Succeed
A flail is a medieval weapon with a weight, sometimes with spikes, on the end of a chain that is attached to a stick or a pole. A similar form of such an implement was also used as an agricultural tool to cut things like wheat.
It can also refer to doing something without grace, coordination or skill, eg, “to flail about.”
Often, before we can even fail, we first must flail. That is, sometimes to do something to the point of failure, we first have to do it so terribly that it barely resembles the activity we are trying to accomplish or master.
Oh, the humility.
I remember the first time I played ice hockey. I was 26, hadn’t had my skates on since I was 14, and they were covered with rust. Even if I could skate, doing it on rusty skates would still have made it pretty much impossible. Everyone at the drop in session at the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail was howling at the way I was pumping my legs like crazy, yet going nowhere fast. Well, I was going one direction…directly down on to my face.
Yes, I was flailing. I wasn’t even elevated to the point of failing at ice hockey. I was just flailing, and it wasn’t pretty. If my skates had been sharp, it may not have been so bad.
Looking back on it, I’m actually glad that my skates were totally rusty. As I think of that time, it’s one that I can point to when I am encouraging people to try something new and not worry about how stupid they think they look. No matter how dumb I felt as I fell on my face again and again, there was a whole group of people that I knew should feel dumber than me–the people who were too scared or too unmotivated to try hockey that day. The guy who was on the couch watching other people play hockey on TV. The girl who always wanted to try it, but couldn’t garner the nerve, or found excuse after excuse to not get out on the ice. Yeah, I was flailing, not even yet failing, but at least I was in the game. And guess what? After getting my skates sharpened, and a few more drop in sessions I was scoring goals, chalking up assists, and laying shoulders into the people who laughed at me that first day.
The point is that when we are afraid to flail and afraid to fail, it keeps us from acting, growing, learning, and finally succeeding. As a failure, (or a flailure), at least we are participants. At least we are in the game. And when we starting flailing, and start failing, it won’t be long before success is on the way.
One of the best decisions I ever made was to stop caring what people thought about me. It freed me to fail, even flail, and therefore have a chance at growth, success and a chance at achieving the things I wan to achieve in my life.
I’m a big fan of Marie Forleo. Here is an article of hers that echoes this sentiment, and she’s bringing it from things she’s heard from some of our world’s biggest successes. Yeah, they failed A LOT. It’s a part of success.
So get to flailing, start failing, and I’ll see you at success!