Resolve: The Fifth Power. How To Embrace Failure & Conquer Your Fears

This blog is part of series of blogs on the 6 Powers, the key insights and action steps to creating the life you dream of.

Resolve is the fifth and final superpower. The other four superpowers: Perception, your ability to perceive the world and your place in it accurately; Ownership (part 1 and part 2, the ability to take full and radical responsibility for all that comes into your sphere of awareness in life; Wisdom, your ability to gather, decipher and interpret information, gain experience, knowledge, and then wisdom; Engagement, the ability to take decisive action in spite of fears, failures, or even lack of direction and Sharing, the practice of leaving something meaningful with the world and others.

Superpower five: Resolve, is about the ability to keep going, to get up after you fall down, to stick it out, to not quit. Resolve is about persistence in the face of failure and fear. Successful people have an uncanny ability to stick to their commitments.

Commitment is the key word when discussing Resolve; it really is all about steadfastness. Dedicated commitment to a course of action is Resolve. People who are most successful in life have this ability, the capability to make things happen in spite of obstacles like fear, in spite of themselves not yet having the know-how. Success comes from continuing to move forward.

To a large degree, all six powers are built upon one another. Perception, Ownership, Wisdom and Engagement when combined, help with the superpower of Resolve.

Fear & Failure

There are two key elements of Resolve that really stand-alone. One is the ability to deal with failure and two is dealing with fear. In order to understand, handle, and overcome failure, we first have to accept that a mindset shift needs to occur. Often, and for many reasons, we adopt wrong ideas and beliefs.  “Wrong” implies those concepts that are not working. Perfection is an example of “wrong” in the belief that it is achievable. This is false. This is a myth and is absolutely wrong. Let me be clear, there is no such thing as perfection.

When attempting the impossible “perfection,” those who approach expertise, success, or get the closest to their ideal, all have the same thing in common: Failures. They build that “perfection” based on failures. Their failures are directly responsible for their success. In other words, the mindset shift is to accept that failure is the path to success.  Obstacles are the stepping-stones to accomplishment, and failing is the only way to develop expertise, and force the realization that “perfection” does not exist.

Most people believe that we fail and take steps backwards, but it really works the other way. By recognizing that failing takes us forward begins the mindset shift.  Failures are actually directly responsible for successes, and people with the Resolve superpower know this. They do not let failure stop them but in fact, use each and every failure as an opportunity to learn.

The 3 Factors MOST Determinant Of Success

Research shows that the belief in yourself, the belief others have in you and the ability to see setbacks as opportunities for growth, are the three best determinants of success.  Believing you, yourself, has what it takes and having friends, families and peers, who are supportive and feel that you can succeed are both factors benefiting your success.  Though perhaps the most important quality is the ability to see your setbacks, failures, losses, and hurts, as growth opportunities. In other words, having a growth mindset.

The other superpowers discussed – Perception, Ownership, Wisdom, and Engagement speak to this to a degree, but Resolve is the ability to endure failure and get back on your feet. Resilience is embedded in Resolve and can be a substitute term for this fifth and final superpower.

The questions then become: How do we learn this skill? How do we learn to fail forward? How do we learn to see failure as a learning opportunity? How do we take those lessons and use them to enhance and develop the skill, the superpower of Resolve?

Don’t Rise To The Occasion, Create The Occasion

One answer is to engineer failures. Seek them out so you fail faster and fail more. The Stoic philosophers, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, referred to this frame of mind as, “the obstacle is the way,” meaning that obstacles are growth opportunities, pointing you in the direction you most need. Failures are learning opportunities and actually help you figure out how to accomplish what you’re after.

To develop Resolve, you want to fail faster and fail more, but in a controlled way. In this regard, the superpower of Engagement is extremely important. Essentially and quite wonderfully, Engagement allows decisive action in any direction; make a choice, any choice, right now, and concede to failures as they occur.

When most people think in terms of success they think it works like this:

Ready —> aim —> fire.

When really it works like this:

Fire —> aim —> aim —> aim —> aim —> ready.

That aiming process is actually a failure and adjustment process. It’s failing and adjusting over and over again. It’s trial and error in a controlled way.

Rigid Stubbornness Is Not Resolve, Open Flexibility Is

Resolve is often thought of as sticking steadfast to an idea and never changing. Yet, a key element of Resolve is the ability to adjust and change mindset, beliefs and approach, while still keeping an eye on the target. It is the idea of following a path, running into a wall, and finding a way around to reconnect with the path on the other side.

Each time you take that diversion, branch off from the path and come back, you gather wisdom, experience and the information needed to further success. This is controlled failing, taking action then adjusting. The control is in the adjusting period, realizing the choice to act, and acting to allow for an adjustment process.

Control also comes from picking a path where the failures will be less painful; things known are easier to handle.  Through this process, resilience to failure is built.  It is the psychological equivalent to putting on knee and elbow guards.  You know spills are probable, and you are mitigating injury.

The right way to fail is to allow leeway and make choices that create potential and various scenarios, versus making irreversible choices. The great news about failure is that choices are rarely unalterable, and even in the unlikely case of irreversibility, the possibility of adjustment, learning, improving, and changing from that point on is always present with the power of Resolve.

The failure component of Resolve is about switching from the detrimental and counterproductive mindset of perfection to success. Perfect is impossible, a myth, and switching to a mindset of growth, of falling or failing forward, using failures as stepping-stones in a learning process is vital.

No longer should you fear failure, but in a sense, embrace it. The faster and more often you fail, the quicker and better you become at thinking laterally. Yet another key concept in understanding Resolve, the ability to think laterally.

The Art Of Lateral Thinking

What does thinking laterally mean? Imagine you have a paper cup. Static thinking maintains a paper cup’s only purpose is to hold a drink. However, thinking laterally allows the possibility of more than just a vessel to hold liquid.

Thinking laterally consents that a paper cup can also be a pencil holder, a flowerpot, a megaphone or a drum if turned upside down. In other words, thinking laterally grants the possibilities in things. This is a skill developed by playing around with such ideas.

James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson vacuum, thought laterally about how to construct a new vacuum. Most people were trying to build a better vacuum by creating more powerful engines or trying to increase suction. They were all approaching the issue from the same direction: “I need more suction,” or, “I need more engine power for this vacuum.”

During a visit to a sawmill factory, Dyson noticed large centrifugal separators were used to handle dust and debris issues. Sawmill plants have huge amounts of dust and particle matter floating in the air. Big cyclone-type fans are used to pull in dust-filled air and propel it outward to be captured and contained on the outer surface of a cylinder.

Dyson used his experience in the sawmill industry and thinking laterally to design an entirely new type of bag-free vacuum: the cyclone vacuum. This is an example of the concept of Resolve and the idea of, “I’m going to solve this problem I have, and use the failures I’ve learned, to think laterally and come up with unique solutions, and eventually a unique success.” To learn to fail forward is to take decisive action; allow yourself to fail and allow yourself to adjust, thus, learning the skill of thinking laterally.

Attack Your Fears

The other part of Resolve is fear. Humans are naturally fearful. We are animals who were not at the top of the food chain for most of our evolution, and therefore we have many, many fears. Fear is inherent in being human and of course failing is one of our major fears, after all, it got us eaten in the past.

Feeling fear and acting in spite of it is courageous. Courage is another key aspect of Resolve. Acting in the face of fear, even when you don’t know the outcome, even with the knowledge of possible and multiple failures, demonstrates Resolve. We tend to think courage is something you either have or don’t have, but courage and resolve can both be learned.

One of the best ways to learn courage is to start with what I call a “fear PR.” In the world of health and fitness, a PR or “personal record,” means a record lift. For example, if my max squat weight is somewhere in the upper 400s and I attempt one squat at 500lbs and achieve it, 500lbs would be my new “PR.”

In physical fitness training, you make slow, incremental weight increases. Gym sessions can become a game with yourself as you try to get your best lifts or “PRs”. The same can be done with your fears, based on what that I’ve coined “the fear PR”. We have many fears, but when it comes to success and chasing dreams, we tend to know the areas that need work. For example, if financial issues are a scary concept for you, then create “fear PRs” around spending and/or investing.

Incremental Fear PRs

Start slow and work your way up. Don’t spend $10,000 on an educational event if your major fear is around finances, rather try spending $100 on an online program to educate or get a key piece of information that enhances your ability to success in your chosen career. This is an example of a “fear PR.”

If you are afraid of being alone, and you always need somebody around, maybe a beginning “fear PR” is to go see a movie alone for the first time. Once you conquer this, maybe the next fear PR would be going to dinner by yourself, where you have to talk to the wait staff rather than being silently entertained in a movie theater.  The next fear PR to conquer may be going away and staying in a hotel by yourself or, the ultimate as it relates to fear of being alone, is flying to another country where you don’t speak the language, by yourself and staying for a week.

See how these “fear PRs” would enhance, grow and build on each other, making you a completely different person? Whether around finances, being alone, approaching people of romantic interest, or career advancement; start with a small “fear PR” and begin slowly whittling away at these fears.

Another example, just to drive it home, is a fear of spiders.  A “fear PR” level one approach may be to watch a documentary about spiders and see them on TV. You get exposure and may learn some interesting facts about spiders.  Some of your fears are degraded because you learn that most spiders don’t bite, and move a particular way due to their build, not because they’re trying to scare you, and most spiders’ venom is harmless to people. These facts might allay some your fears.

Maybe your level two “fear PR” is to go to a place where you can actually look at spiders through glass and then get a plastic spider that you touch and become accustomed to handling. A final “fear PR” is to hold a tarantula. Approaching “fear PRs” gradually, around spiders may indeed help rid you of a fear of spiders.

Courage Is A Skill?

Courage works exactly the same. Courage is specific to certain areas and, along with confidence, can be developed based on these “fear PRs.” Most successful people have developed the skill of Resolve and are constantly confronting their fears. They don’t run away from them. One core piece of knowledge to understand is that fears have an interesting energetic magnetism. When we avoid our fears, they tend to seek and find us. However, when we turn and confront them, fear has an interesting way of beginning to dissolve.

The best way to confront fear is exactly the same way you confront failures. It’s the same way we talk about obstacles. When we say, “the obstacle is the way,” we also hear, “the failure and the fear is the way.”  All of a sudden, we become someone with Resolve; no longer avoiding failures and fears, but actually seeking them out. This is the superpower of Resolve, and when you master it, you attack and win in life.

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