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Failing Upwards has been born and grown very organically. I originally set out to reinforce my writing habit and create a new habit of creative production and publication through these posts. My original intention was to produce fiction works. I was hoping to use this blog as a sounding board for anyone interested in reading and providing feedback on my works. I have not produced, let alone posted one fiction work since. Instead my inspiration has been drawn from the self-discovery journey I have embarked on.

I have a desire to be successful. That success is not defined as narrowly as it once was as monetary accumulation. All too often in our modern culture success is viewed as making the most money or having the most and best things. Thankfully I have made a habit of looking for other ways of defining success in my life. After all I know if I make one hundred thousand dollars, but have to work eighty hours per week I do not win.

A first step to redefine success is to look at the math. If I make one hundred thousand dollars a week and work eighty hours each week with two weeks of unpaid vacation per year I will work four thousand hours per year at an average of twenty-five dollars per hour.

There are one hundred and sixty-eight hours in each week (assuming there are twenty four hours in each day). Removing eighty hours to work leaves us only eighty-eight hours of non-working time. If I want to get a full eight hours of sleep per night another fifty-six more hours are gone. That leaves me with only thirty-two hours per week awake and not at work.

I need to eat and that takes time. I need three meals per day for seven days each week. If I conservatively only need thirty minutes to eat and prepare each meal I will lose another ten and one half hours per week. This leaves a remainder of twenty-one and one half hours of my own personal time.

That’s only three hours and four minutes per day to do what I want and need. I would need to fit in all the things I need to do first. This will include travel time to and from work as well as the time to fill the car with gas. It also accounts for going to the grocery store or grabbing take out. I will need to fit in getting ready for work. This includes such time consuming things as brushing my teeth, showering, and doing laundry. I still need to find time to clean my house and mow my lawn. After doing all this I still have not made any time for fun and interpersonal connections outside of work.

I need time to spend with my family, exercise, create, and relax my brain and my body. My family needs me as much as I need them. Three hours and four minutes is a drop in the bucket of the time I need to adequately take care of all the above-mentioned personal needs.

I may be able to reduce the sleep to six hours a night. That would buy me an extra fourteen hours per week or two hours per day. I really need my sleep though, so something has to give. I’m still not certain five hours and four minutes per day would be adequate.

In this example of me being monetarily successful I feel that I stand doomed to failure. I envision many failures. I see my family growing distant. I see many tasks getting skipped, rushed through, and half-assed. I foretell health deterioration due to sacrificing exercise and personal growth time.

I also see what many in our culture do in frivolous spending to justify the time invested and money earned. I will most likely buy an unnecessarily expensive car and toys I will not have time to use. I would buy a jet ski and a very large and expensive television. I would probably spend so much money trying to justify this losing lifestyle that I will continue to need more money despite having earned so much through toil and hours. I will find myself in a cycle that will consume my entire being.

If I work half as much and subsequently earn half as much I will have an additional forty hours per week of “me” time. I will then have seventy two hours of awake personal time each week. That’s over ten hours and seventeen minutes per day if I worked seven days per week. It’s eight hours per working day and sixteen hours on days off of time for me to do whatever I want.

Seventy two hours of non-working time sounds infinitely better than thirty two hours per week. I’d buy that time for fifty-thousand dollars per year and know I got an excellent deal. I’d be time rich. This would make me emotionally, physically and hopefully socially much healthier than the hundred thousand dollar income alternative. Fifty thousand dollars is not a terrible income. It should be enough to cover my bills. Through actions like these I will find activities to fill my time that cost little to no money. A good example is writing on Failing Upwards. It has not cost me one cent. I have gained so much from it.

I know no one told you there would be math here, but the example shows how changing one’s work habit from a negative one, workaholism, to a positive one, reducing workload to an adequate amount, can have a huge impact on our day to day and ourselves. My self-discovery journey has had many examples of similar habit adjustments. They have propelled me towards a feeling of success in my personal life. I have never come close to achieving like that regardless of how much money I have made in my career up until this point in my life.

The following are a few examples of my own personal failure habits that were flipped into success habits:

I stopped binging on unhealthy snacks, sweets, and soda. I replaced this habit with consuming whole grains, fresh food, and organic ingredients. I went from craving the former to craving the latter. The junk looks much less appetizing to me now. Now I weigh less, like how I look, and feel overall much healthier.

Another example of a habit adjustment I have made is in the types of books I have been consuming. I started reading for fun in adulthood. Up until this year I have always consumed science fiction and teen fiction. Although these books were entertaining they had no substantive value aside from improving my reading speed, comprehensive, and imagination skills. Harry Potter and Hunger Games were excellent series, but they did not unlock pathways to personal growth in my life.

Recently I picked up The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Feriss. This book helped me understand the long-winded math equation I presented earlier. When I was attempting to grow within my company I read The Best Team Wins by Adam Robinson. This reinforced a number of managerial concepts that I had learned earlier and will need as I grow in business. I just started Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell just yesterday. I hope to gain perspective of behaviors of the ultra-successful.

I have not entirely given up fiction, but the decision of which book I will read next now seems much more constructive and based in my own personal betterment. More examples of my previous habit flips can be found in my previous article The Dichotomy of Habits.

It should be abundantly obvious that one of my new success habits is evaluating my bad habits and eliminating them. Another is creating success habits to fill that void. I had the idea to make a list of my current worst habits. Here it is:

  1. Not following through on my commitments
  2. Being prideful
  3. Talking too much
  4. Being a know-it-all
  5. Spending too little time with my wife
  6. Spending too little time with my daughter
  7. Shaking my head or rolling my eyes when in disagreement
  8. Being content at my job
  9. Not taking breaks at work
  10. Staying at work late and saying I will get off on time and not doing it
  11. Eating too fast
  12. Talking while I’m chewing
  13. Eating out often
  14. Eating dessert everyday
  15. Drinking (too much) coffee
  16. Piles of stuff
  17. Not checking and responding to voicemails and emails
  18. Using my cell phone before bed
  19. Not volunteering
  20. Not driving relaxed/speeding/driving unsafely

After creating this bad habit list I created its mirror image. I took all twenty failure habits and rewrote them as success habits. Please keep in mind that success as defined by me today is not monetary. However I truly believe that monetary gain coincides with successful habits and the elimination of failure habits. Here is the list of habits I will strive for.

  1. Follow through on my commitments
  2. Be humble
  3. Be a good listener
  4. Don’t give advice when I am not asked for it
  5. Spend more time with my wife
  6. Spend more time with my daughter
  7. Be aware of my body language/exhibit positive body language
  8. Be happy at my job or find a job that makes me happy
  9. Take lunch and fifteen minute breaks everyday
  10. Get off on time, especially when I have made the commitment to
  11. Eat at a relaxed pace, chewing thoroughly
  12. Waiting until I am done chewing and swallowing until I talk
  13. Cook more meals
  14. Skip my sweet item of the day
  15. Drink water or tea instead of coffee
  16. Reduce clutter, get rid of stuff, and limit buying things
  17. Check and respond to voicemails and emails/unsubscribe to unneeded lists
  18. Read, write, or talk to my wife before bed
  19. Volunteer (locally or organized)
  20. Drive relaxed and within the legal limits

Just having done this exercise over the past two days had been eye-opening. Yesterday I only accomplished spending more time with my daughter and wife. I could only complete two of my twenty desired habits. Two is better than zero. I will go for many more today.

It has to start somewhere. Acknowledging and having the desire to improve is as good a place as any. If I look at how far I’ve come before making the lists I have no doubt I can accomplish many, if not all of the twenty desired habits.

Anyone can read a book by Warren Buffet or Barack Obama or Tim Feriss. They may even pick up tips to guide them in correct direction towards success. The irony of reading the recounting of a success journey from people who are already successful is that you can only get their post-journey perspective. That’s not to say it isn’t valuable, but hindsight is twenty/twenty.

We often gloss over our misses and embellish or exaggerate what we perceive to have made us successful because we just thought it did. There may be no proof and our opinions may not be based in reality. Through Failing Upwards I am making an honest effort to communicate my journey toward success. I hope to share both what has and is working as well as what definitely does not. I hope you will be both entertained and touched. I am at the bottom of the stairs looking upward. I would like to stand with Buffet, Obama, and Feriss one day, but for now I will continue to share both my newfound keys to success as well as my epic failures{1}. Thanks for reading.

{1} See the previous post Failure Makes for Progress


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