Facing Failure: The Art of Eating Live Frogs

From Jeff: This is a guest article from Anne Peterson. Anne is a poet, speaker, and author of 42 Bible studies and 25 articles with Christianity Today. Her book, Real Love: Guaranteed to Last is releasing today. Find out more by visiting Anne’s website, blog, or Facebook page.

“I can’t,” I said as a kid, growing up.

“There’s no such word as ‘can’t,'” Mom told me every time. And how right she was.

Frog on face
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Funny how some conversations burrow themselves deep into our brains. There’s no such word as can’t?  I wonder what would happen if we actually believed that — especially when it came to creative pursuits.

Consider the excuses we make every day and how they hold us back:

  • I can’t write.
  • I’m not as good as ____. 
  • I can’t share that (it’s too personal).
  • What would people think? 
  • I’m not ready.

Yes, you can…

The truth is you are already competent and capable. You just need to acknowledge the fact. Remember the children’s story of the little engine that could? When he changed his locomotive mind, he changed his destiny. You can do the same.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” You have to start believing you can do it, whatever “it” is. Here’s an exercise:

  1. Make a list of the things you’re avoiding because of what you “can’t” do. Maybe it’s submitting a piece to a popular publication or joining that local writer’s group. Maybe it’s even writing the story that’s been burning inside you for years.
  2. Now picture yourself doing those things. See yourself pressing the “send” on that pitch to the editor or signing up for that group that intimidates you. Feel the relief that comes with taking the next step. You may wonder why it took so long to start in the first place.
  3. Then imagine yourself doing what you’re afraid of all the time. Can you visualize the kind of person you’d be, constantly sharing ideas without fear of rejection, getting feedback without being defensive, chasing your dream without restraint?

It’s a fun exercise, until you have to do it. When we apply these concepts to our actual lives, it can become altogether scary.

Swallow the frog

So… now what? Start small: Think of one thing you’re avoiding and then do it.

Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” What you need to do is identify your frog — your absolute worst-case scenario — and swallow it whole.

What would happen if your fears were realized? It’s probably not as bad as you think. Go ahead and get it over with now, so you can move on.

Remember the game Red Rover? You can almost hear the children chanting: “Red Rover, Red Rover let Jimmy come over.” And there you stood, shaking, as Jimmy — the biggest kid in third grade — came barreling down the field in your direction.

And what did you do? The only thing you could: You let go. You quit. Didn’t even try. And you probably regretted it for the rest of grade school.

Well, here’s another chance to take a stand — this time, without the threat of bodily harm. Grab hold of the thing you’re afraid of and don’t let go.

Failure isn’t final

At worst, you will fail. You’ll write something sub-par or have your art misunderstood. A critic will come along and tell you he hates your work. You’ll get your feelings hurt.

But failure is not the end. It’s something you encounter on your way to success. So please, stop trying to do things without failing; it isn’t possible. So if you’re going to do this, you might as well learn how to fail.

Doing anything well takes practice. Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” So, what’s holding you back? It certainly isn’t failure, it can’t be.

Believe you can do this, that you can achieve your goal, whatever it is. If you’re stuck, look for the frog and swallow it. If you’ve failed, try again. And remember, there’s no such thing as “can’t.” My mother told me so.

Note: Anne’s book, Real Love, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow only. Check it out!

What tips or tricks do you use for facing the threat of failure? Share in the comments.