Stephen R. Covey, the author of the famous book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” once wrote: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” I like this image, although I tend to favor the visual of Bold Mountain and the path leading to its summit.
If you recall, there are two paths–one leading to a hill composed of ordinary goals, the other leading to a mountain with Bold Goals. For the sake of attaining a Bold Life, I always advocate taking the Bold Path up Bold Mountain. But what happens if, for whatever reason, someone were to trod down the Ordinary Path and up the hill full of ordinary goals? Just like with Covey’s ladder analogy, every step gets you to the wrong place faster. What then?
The world isn’t so simple that the path toward your goals is marked Bold or Ordinary. Sometimes you don’t learn the truth until you’ve gone down the wrong path for a while, and sometimes realizing–and acknowledging–that you’ve gone down the wrong path is tougher than a fall off your horse. It can shake you to your core! The challenge of change can stop you in your tracks, or even stop you from changing direction. But it shouldn’t!
As Barbara Oakley wrote in her book Mindshift, “Many ordinary and extraordinary people have made fantastic changes in their lives by keeping themselves open to learning… Previous expertise in very different subject areas doesn’t need to be a shackle to a past you are trying to escape. Instead, it can serve as a launching pad for creative career pathways in your present and future.”
Oakley was a signal officer in the Army who, by her own account, had no natural inclination for math and engineering. But that didn’t stop her from pivoting to a new career path, leveraging her language skills and ability to become a professor of engineering, author, and major proponent of online learning (you can read Bold Business’ profile on Oakley and Mindshift here, and read more about her MOOC accomplishments here.) She saw following the wrong path as a learning opportunity.
The truth is, there is no failure waiting for you atop that smaller hill. There is only learning–learning from your mistakes, learning from what you accomplished, and learning from what you failed to accomplish. In fact, you actually improved your skills a bit walking that Ordinary Path, with every step you took going up that hill giving you more of the tools you need to climb the mountain.
I’ve known people who have walked down one path for a while, made a change into a different direction, and eventually found success. The common denominator many of them shared was to see learning where others might see failure. Whether you’re ascending Covey’s ladder to the wrong place, or climbing up Ordinary Hill, choosing a new path and reaching your new goals means seeing your previous efforts for what they truly were: an opportunity to learn.
There is no failure, only learning!
P.S. Did you tune into my radio show appearance on “The Inclusive Voice”? In case you missed the great discussion, you can listen to it here.
P.P.S. PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success is a complete system for planning your life to get what you want, and has been a top seller in three categories: “Motivational Growth & Spirituality”, “Personal Success & Spirituality” and “Management Skills”. I hope you check it out if you have not purchased a copy.