jeff meyers blog

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Amy Morin’s book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do includes plenty of good, common-sense advice for becoming a mentally strong person.   But of all the good thoughts she shares in her book, one in particular stuck with me, and I find myself reflecting on it frequently.  It’s #10, Don’t Give Up After the First Failure.mentally strong

Nobody likes to fail.  That’s for sure.  But we all respond differently to failure, and how we respond makes all the difference.   Some people fail, brush it off quickly, try again, maybe fail again (sometimes multiple times), and keep at it until they succeed.  They don’t fear failure, and they don’t take it personally.

I’m not one of those people.  My tendency is to take failure hard.  Often failure makes me think twice about trying again.  I tend to take failure personally, which sometimes makes me cautious about trying again.  Given this disposition, I found the chapter on failure both challenging and helpful.  Hopefully, you will too.

Amy Morin shares two terrific stories that provide models for using failure as a springboard for future success.  The first story is about Thomas Edison.  Edison was an incredibly prolific inventor, at one time holding 1093 patents.  But Edison was also famous for viewing every failure as a learning opportunity, and he had plenty of failures.  Once when his assistant commented that it was a shame that they had worked for weeks on a particular project without seeing results, Edison famously replied, “Results?  No results?  Why, man, I’ve gotten lots of results!  I know several thousand things that won’t work.”  Now that’s the response of someone who embraces failure and uses it to drive a future success! 

The second story is about Walt Disney.  Today we see the enormous success of Disney World and Disneyland.  They are cultural icons, and seemingly print money.  However, it didn’t start out that way.  Walt first opened a business called Laugh-O-Gram where he showed seven-minute fairy tales that combined live-action with animation.  Although the cartoons gained some popularity, Walt got deeply in debt and had to declare bankruptcy.  He and his brother then moved to Hollywood.  They cut a deal with a distributor to distribute the cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which Walt had invented.  But the distributor stole the rights to Oswald and several other characters.  Undeterred by this setback, the brothers then produced three of their own cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse but struggled to find distribution for it.  Eventually, their cartoons gained some traction and, as we all know, Walt ultimately had great success in films and in building Disneyland.  But he passed away before Disney Word was completed, never personally experiencing the success that we now associate with his name.

To me, these are inspiring stories.  Amy Morin follows these stories up with several helpful thoughts about how we can become more comfortable with failure.  I’ll share a few that resonated with me:

  • Avoid making your self-worth dependent on high achievement and avoiding failure. I tend to do this. When we do this, we personalize failure and consequently think we are less valuable as a person when we fail.  Unhinging your self-worth from failure is one of the keys to getting comfortable with failure, and ultimately being willing to simply get up and try again.
  • Grit is a better indicator of success than natural intelligence. Morin defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long term goals.” The only way to become a “gritty” person is to get comfortable with failure.  Moving from one failure to the next without letting it get you down is the very essence of grit.
  • Practice self-compassion. Give yourself a break. Of course, we all want to have high standards, but be as compassionate with yourself when you fail as you would be with a good friend.  Taking a compassionate approach to yourself will remind you that there is room for you to grow and improve.

I’m trying to make a habit of being willing to try more things and take the risk of failing more often.  It’s not easy, and it’s a journey, but one that I believe will pay off.  Try embracing failure today.  The faster you fail, the faster you’ll get to the right results.



"In the hardwood lumber industry, we can think of what we do as cutting logs and processing boards, or instead we can see our work as rearranging the raw materials of creation (trees) into useful products (chairs, tables, cabinets, floors) that help people to live better and more productively.

For me, viewing our work as rearrainging creation's raw materials is more motivating and inspiring, and brings dignity and meaning to all kinds of work."

Jeff Meyer

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