“There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth.” -Leo Tolstoy
Read Time: 5 Mins
What exactly does it mean to be great? Have you ever wondered that? When I think about what it means to be “great” I can’t help but reflect on lessons learned through failure. It should be no surprise that I’ve failed in some parts of my life. I’m sure you have too. This post will look at some of my biggest lessons learned about greatness through my failures.
Greatness by definition, at least according to Merriam Webster, has to do with exceptionally high quality. Near Antonyms of the word, greatness are averageness, badness, crumminess, inferiority, mediocrity, ordinariness, worthlessness.
Those words are strong, but if I were honest with you, I would tell you ‘yes’ I’ve felt at least one of those feelings about myself at one point or another.
I’ve put together seven things that I’ve learned about greatness through failure. I hope these can shine light into whatever challenge you are currently facing whether it’s in your personal or professional life.
I have to admit; I like people to like me. This hasn’t gotten me any farther in life. It’s held me back. It’s held me back from owning my unique strengths and talents. It has pushed me to conform when I shouldn’t have tried to stand out or up for something.
It doesn’t matter if everyone doesn’t like you. In the end what matters is if you are willing to be comfortable enough with yourself to be who you are no matter the circumstance.
How can you ever reach your potential or what the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow calls “Self-Actualization” which is the peak fulfillment and satisfaction with life if you’re always people pleasing?
It’s human nature to see others at their best and us at our worst when we compare. It’s the what I like to call the Instagram Effect.
Humans are great at comparing ourselves to others. We’re compared to others since the day we are born. From weight to class ran, and even to your credit score.
Measuring what we know about ourselves is okay but these things don’t define you. Never let a number define you whether it was your grades in high school or college or your credit score now.
Numbers can’t represent dreams, and they can almost always be changed or improved!
During high school, I struggled with depression and anxiety. I let these things begin to take over my mind. I spiraled out of control with negative self-talk. I realized this a few years later. That’s when my journey on personal development began.
I learned about the phenomenon of self-talk and realized our minds can be trained.
Once I understood this, I began practicing and understanding how we can change our thoughts to positively impact our life, and it’s improved my life ten-fold.
One book that was life changing for me was The Brain That Changes Itself. It provides the science behind how the brain creates new neural pathways when we do something repeatedly (self-talk) positive or negative.
The core concept of the book is neuroplasticity, meaning only that the brain is like plastic and can change if we put intentional effort into practicing certain things. It’s an awesome concept and one of my all time favorite books. It completely changed how I saw my life and growth.
Some things just take time. From finding the right relationship to improving your finances. There is what I call a Compounding Life Effect on some of these things. Meaning, the hard work that you put in today, compounds over time as you begin making progress.
Sometimes progress is hard to see, which makes it hard to continue. Any great thing that I’ve accomplished, from finding my beautiful wife, to finishing up my graduate degree or starting a business or practicing mindfulness and gratitude, these things just take time.
Don’t give up before you benefit from the compounding effect. Stay the course, even if it’s hard.
To reinforce this, watch this video of David Goggins. David is a Navy Seal and one of the most extreme athletes in the world. He talks about confronting struggle, doing hard things and greatness.
Disclaimer: this video has intense language. I wouldn’t include this if I didn’t think it was appropriate, just beware.
Everyone fails. Sometimes the biggest failures can be our biggest lessons learned. There isn’t a person in the world who has never failed at something. It’s okay to fail.
In business, failure is a part of learning. In life, it should be too. If you fail, take notes and then make a more informed approach towards whatever it was you are trying.
If you failed to keep your budget, find what it was that put you over the edge. Maybe it was not giving yourself the right amount of fun money.
If you consistently fail to lose weight, try to tweak your diet or workout routine, amp up the intensity and don’t be afraid to go hard.
The point is that failing can be one of the greatest springboards for greatness. Great comebacks in life come from big setbacks.
Greatness can’t be achieved without a growth mindset. Shortly after high school one of my mentors (one of the most successful people I know) gave me a printout of a picture that I hung on my wall of the image below.
Carol Dweck, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist often talks about growth and how our mindset impacts our life. There are two types of mindset: Growth and Fixed.
We can have a Fixed Mindset and let failure or even success define who we are, OR we can have a Growth Mindset and see setbacks as a chance to improve our lives.
This is not perseverance. This is pure will. This is Rocky II when he’s knocked down, and his opponent Apollo is getting up but can’t. Rocky does. This is the cheesy quote “get knocked down nine times and get up 10”.
Being destroyed by failure, your mindset, or comparing yourself to others all culminates in this one principle.
There’s no confusing abstract thing to understand here. It’s simple, and that’s why I think it’s the most important.
No matter what it is you’re facing in life, whether it is a tough relationship, a bad month at work, or just fighting to find your place in the world, I think these seven principles that I’ve learned in life will help give you some hope to keep pushing forward.
P.S. If you want to listen to the Alyia song, Pick Yourself Up And Try Agin – here you go <3.
Read More: Why Experiences Are Better Than Things
Zack is one of the co-founders of FreeUp and is in charge of setting the strategy for the blog and managing the day-to-day operations. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome blog content, he likes to geek out about global affairs, ride motorcycles and can probably be found hiking somewhere during his days off.