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It’s Easier To Quit Than Fail

One of our volunteer instructors gave a personality test to our residents a while back.  One of the residents was astounded that he came out as a “perfectionist”.  He came to me and asked if I could believe that he was a “perfectionist”.  I was more puzzled that he was surprised than that he was a perfectionist.   It seemed pretty obvious to me.

Most addicts, at the very least, have perfectionistic qualities if they are not full blooded perfectionists.  They have high expectations, a great fear of failure, and a very strict, even harsh judgment of their failures.  They tend to be their own worst critic.

That’s why in the treatment of addiction the transformation of one’s identity is the critical key to success.

One of our residents in class the other day astonished me with the bold proclamation that, “It’s easier to quit than fail.”  I have pondered that thought constantly since he revealed it.  I think about students who quickly withdraw from classes in college to avoid a failing grade.  I consider all the employees, whether celebrities or just ordinary folks, who choose to resign a position before they are fired…or break off a relationship before the other breaks  it off with them.  We call it a preemptive strike, but isn’t it just quitting before one has to face failure and rejection?

In John Maxwell’s 2006 book, Failing Forward, he quotes H. Stanley Judd, “Don’t be afraid to fail.  Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure.  Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge.  It’s ok to fail.  If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”  There is a lot in that quote, but what strikes me most is that growth comes through failure.  I have observed that most addicts are stuck at the maturity of their initial entry into addiction, typically around 13 to 15 years old.  At that point, the next challenge of maturity becomes to interact with the opposite gender and overcome one’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  Sadly, for many addicts, their fear of failure here drives them into the security-masking behavior of drug and alcohol use, what some commonly call, “Liquid Courage”.  Tragically, this dependence on a false security stifles one’s growth and keeps them stuck in a self-destructive quitter pattern always deathly afraid of failing.  Like a pilot who remains in a constant holding pattern for fear of the judgment of landing.  Eventually they just crash.  Addicts quit before the result, in fear that the conclusion will be failure.  Though they may be only one step away from success, they quit.  Thus, they never come to know real success.

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and first female billionaire, shares that her father challenged her and her brother to fail.  In fact, she says that the question around the evening dinner table every night was, “What did you fail at today?”  Her father believed that not being afraid to fail was the key to success…that failure is the building block of success.  Thomas Edison, famously said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  And thus came the light bulb!

The winningest golfer in the world, Jack Nicklaus, lost 81% of the time.  The best hitters in baseball fail over 2/3 of the time.  Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time stated, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

I have heard it said that “Winners never quit and that quitters never win.”  But remember all winners fail.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Land your plane!

Ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?”

Tom Reynolds