On your journey to awesomeness, you will go through three phases as you learn how to deal with your personal failures. Because true personal growth happens beyond your current skill and understanding, inside of that magical cloud of “I have no fucking clue what I’m doing,” learning requires failure. In fact, if you want to learn faster than everyone else, you need to be comfortable failing more than everyone else. The real trick is to be willing to fail enough to learn, which most people can’t push through the pain of doing. Pushing through that pain is a three-step process: Shame to guilt to learning.
Whether you seek money, women, or power, it’s the exact same process. Everyone starts with shame, a feeling that you as a person are inadequate and that you can’t do anything about it. You then move into guilt, a feeling that you don’t currently have the skills or self-discipline needed but that you could do better. You then move into learning, a place where you can let go of all negative feelings and be grateful for knowing about your blind spots, because to know of them is to put an end to them.
Every man at one point in his life or another has felt shame. It’s the feeling that there is something wrong with who you are. You feel powerless, thinking your problem is unchangeable, and so you do your best to ignore and avoid things that you’re ashamed about. You feel a lack of worth compared to others, and because of this it makes you feel disconnected from everyone else. This is the fat man at the buffet. This is the guy in high school who asks out a cute girl and gets laughed at. This is the letter a man gets from his bank denying him credit. There is only one way out of shame: realize that no matter how bad your situation is, there is in fact something that you can do about it, right now.
You move from shame to guilt the very second you stop feeling hopeless, believe that you can change things, and start taking action. The issue is no longer with who you are, but rather what you’re doing. You use that feeling of guilt, knowing that you can change, to power yourself to change. Where shame disconnected you from others, guilt empowers you to connect with others to help you change yourself. You seek advice from others who have already solved the problem for themselves, and you feel a certain sense of accountability to them. This is the action of searching Google relentlessly. This is the action of finding a mentor. This is the joy you feel as you find the answer that was unknown to you yesterday.
Once you’ve created a pattern over time of taking action to deal with your problems, there is a simple question that will move you from guilt to learning: did I take the best action I possibly could at the time based on the information I had available to me at that time? When you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to that question, you are ready to give up the guilt. You don’t need the negative emotions associated with guilt to power you anymore, so let go of them. You’re now living in a place of true learning; and as the errors become less and less frequent, you’ll get stronger every day.
I encourage you to move from shame to guilt right now. I’ll wait for you with a smile on my face for the day you can give up on guilt.
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