On The Pursuit of Success, Focus on the Upside

Silhouette of hiking man in mountain

Dr. Purushothaman
December 11, 2013

Two strikeout leaders in baseball are Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth. Neither player is remembered as a strikeout leader. People hear stories like this of great success coming only after great struggle, and still this is not enough to encourage them to go after their dreams. The potential downside of failure often greatly outweighs the potential upside from success. Here are some tips to stay focused on the upside, especially when an anxious economic market may reinforce your habit of playing it safe:

Confront the downside. What are the specific consequences of failure to meet this goal? How much money will you lose? How much time will you have invested? How much notoriety will this bring? Really visualize for yourself the worst possible downside, and make specific plans on how to mitigate the consequences.

Confront the upside. What are the tangible effects of success at this goal? Express it in pictures that you hang on your wall. Write it down in a journal that you read regularly. Tell friends what it means to you. Keep your upside in your sight, your mind, and your words, and it will seem more reachable.

Replace the fear of failure with the fear of regret. At some point, we need to just take our shot. You may never get over your fear of failure, but you could replace it with a greater fear of regret. Think about what it would mean for you to never know what happened if you tried. The prospect of living with a what-if is not very appealing. Focus on the regret, remorse, disappointment, shame, sadness of not even trying, and you may find these feelings worse than any downside from failure.

Reggie Jackson wouldn't be a Hall of Famer, baseball icon, and candy bar, without also being a strikeout leader. Putting himself in the game meant downside, but also great upside. If you never take your shot, nothing will change. Is the life you have now exactly the way that you want it to be? If not, take aim.

As Wayne Gretzky, hockey icon, noted "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

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