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Thoughts on failure

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Mark Laszczuk, 19th Jun, 2008.

  1. Mark Laszczuk

    Mark Laszczuk Well-Known Member

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    I've been noticing lately, both on here and Somersoft some very hostile reactions to so called 'doom and gloom' types who have become more prominent, more so on SS than here. Some of you probably saw the thread posted on SS in the last few days asking for so called 'trolls' to raise their hand so people can more easily put them on ignore.

    This thread really pushed to the fore the idea of speculators (I don't consider such people investors) sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to issues such as a possible house price crash or a fall in distributions or whatever. Investing is all about riding both the highs and lows and learning from your mistakes and embracing views opposing your own because you just *might* obtain an extra weapon to add to the arsenal.

    Now, I'm fully aware that there are plenty of people who see these D&G posts as an opportunity to learn and get a different perspective, particularly here (I think due mostly to there being more 'investment minded' people and perspectives on this site, in my opinion), hence the relatively minimal reaction to such posts over here. In my opinion InvestEd is really proving itself to be a place where serious, intelligent discussion regarding investing and all it encompasses can be had. There are a number of fantastic posters on here who provide really excellent advice and perspectives, for which we should all be grateful.

    Anyway, back to the point. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I see this sort of view as being, best case scenario, very dangerous, akin to sticking one's fingers in their ears and yelling 'LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA'. To me there is a big difference between Chicken Littles and people expressing a view that isn't upbeat and presenting some good arguments to support that view or asking questions that many people don't want to be asked. It also shows the character of people as to how they react to such views. Looking at the responses over the last six months or so, it seems that those with the ability to assess views they may not like are in the minority, which doesn't really surprise me as human nature dictates that no one likes bad news.

    So you might be wondering what this has to do with failure. Let me explain. To me, success goes hand in hand with failure. There's no escaping it. Not one single 'successful' person I've ever met or spoken to hasn't failed, often failing in a BIG way. As humans, we have an enormous fear of failure and most of us try to avoid failure like the plague. We hate it so much that even when we do fail, we immediately go into denial and pretend it didn't happen, subjecting ourselves to the burden of repeating our failures over and over.

    As investors (or potential investors) this aversion to failure is akin to cancer. It's not failure that lets people down, it's their refusal to accept and embrace failure as a learning tool that does the damage. Most people don't or won't accept that we must fail in order to learn. So what is it about failure that makes people so fearful? Is it the idea that if they fail they have no value? I don't really understand the idea, as although I was brought up in a fairly sheltered household, I consider myself fairly inquisitive and will give almost anything a red hot go, knowing full well there is a good chance I'll fall flat on my face, but that no one is perfect and humans make mistakes and that's okay. I'm also naturally introspective and spend a great deal of time thinking about myself, my life, my goals and where I'm heading, where I've been, the decisions I've made, etc etc. So I think that helps me a lot.

    I've had plenty of failures in my lifetime - a business, some investment decisions, choice of girlfriends (that's a particularly terrible area, lol), goodness knows what else. But eh, life goes on and I've learnt a lot from falling flat on my face. I like it actually because it gives me a chance to learn from the experience.

    So anyway, what is it about failure that stops you from acknowledging it?

    This post was inspired by the following blog: Feld Thoughts: Failure

    Mark
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 20th Jun, 2008
  2. TryHard

    TryHard Well-Known Member

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    Personally I think a lot of how we define failure, let alone deal with it, relates to NLP style personality, astrology, upbringing, or something similar which is hard to define.

    The moments in my working life I am most proud of were resorting to (very poorly paid) labouring to tide things over till I could get my business on it's feet again. Regardless of how well our investing or business activities now go, the good times are enjoyable but I don't look back on any of them with as much pride as the times I busted my a*** to try not to lose the house and put food on the table, when I pretty much drove to work with tears in my eyes every day (I claim new age guy status for that one :p)

    But then, I wonder whether that is a time to think I was a failure, considering everything worked out, or if it was all simply part of a number of steps to success.

    I think largely people put too much stock in 'everything' needing to be perfect, and also to "look" the way successful people are expected to. Who says we need a ton of cash, umpteen properties, a hot partner (and equally hot mistress set up in a riverside penthouse), black late model sports car or 2, thriving businesses, respect of others etc to be called successful ? But a lot of people see others boasting about that sort of stuff and think if they can't get it, they have failed. I think our world is now so materialistic very few people know what it means to have true inner happiness. I look at all the motivational speakers on the circuit and while I always take away something useful, these people make boastful mention of their Ferrari or 100 Investment Properties and I immediately move them from the "guru" spot on the ladder to "shallow".

    The mass enthusiasm generated by recent boom markets makes people think they can log on to forums and get a shot in the arm everyday, but by human nature there are going to be trolls and people having trouble dealing with stress etc. who equally want someone to share some misery.

    Take TeenMillionaire's recent thread on here - he has a dream to make a million bucks and a lot of people wanted to remind him how outlandish and ignorant his dream is. Who are we to tell him he can't do something ? If he has that dream and money is his particular passion, what's to stop him. And if he gets to 21 and hasn't made a million bucks, does that make him a failure ? As I pointed out, there are people (often scumbags) like Alan Bond who I am sure by Alan Bond's own estimation is a a great success. I wouldn't swap my life for his for any amount of money, but he is obviusly happily wallowing around in his little vat of cash paying people to love him. Works for him, so you wonder whether his time in jail should be seen as a failure or just another stepping stone to immense wealth ?

    I think we are fortunate to be able to get generally balanced discussion on here (I gave up on any substantial use of other forums long ago, because with or without trolls there was a bunch of plonkers who felt they were intellectually superior to the great unwashed like myself, who make it very difficult to ask a question let alone state an opinion).

    Anyway, to stop my rambling, and answer the question :
    "what is it about failure that stops you from acknowledging it?"
    - for me it's the fact I question whether there is any such thing as "failure".
    Most events are just steps on the road to the next enjoyable thing to happen to us. If failure means the planned outcomes don't eventuate from a decision I make, then I possibly 'fail' every day, but then I usually adapt and do something to get a positive outcome, so maybe that then makes me an instant success ;-) At this stage in my life the only thing I would rate as an unforgiveable and unsurvivable failure would be loss of my family, so I fail to acknowledge that also, as I could never conceive it happening.

    That's my 0.05 cents :)
    Carl
     
  3. Mark Laszczuk

    Mark Laszczuk Well-Known Member

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    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for your reply!

    I believe there are big differences between failing and failure. Failing is positive in that it allows us to learn from our experience, by getting back up and continuing to move forward with a new perspective. Failure is when someone falls over, gives up and doesn't get back up.

    So true. I've never been a materialistic person, so my wants aren't very expensive. This benefits me in that I will be able attain financial independence much earlier than most people simply because the amount of income I need is so much lower. I value my time far more than material possessions and it is worth much more to me than a house that is way too big for my needs and a fancy car. These things can be bought. Time however, once it's gone is gone forever, you can never get it back. So to me, financial independence is about being able to buy back my time, which is priceless.

    I call this sort of thinking the 'crab mentality'. Notice how crabs are always kept in shallow buckets? This is because if one of the crabs tries to escape, the other crabs, instead of all working together to escape, will drag the individual crab back down into the bucket. I didn't read TeenMillionaire's thread, but I say if that's what he wants to achieve, then I wish him all the best. He's already successful simply because he's giving it a go and if he doesn't make it, then so what? Maybe it takes him another year or two (or ten!) to reach his goal, big deal! At least he tried. With an attitude like that, he will go far.

    As I stated, the concept of failure to me is when people simply give up. Failing is an integral part of success. Life doesn't come with an instruction manual, how can we possibly learn without experimenting?

    Mark
     
  4. Billv

    Billv Getting there

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    Mark,

    I don't have a problem acknowledging a failure but then I am a down to earth guy
    and if I did fail in something I will pick up my pieces and start again.

    I also get annoyed by the Doom & Gloom threads on SS, but not because
    I am afraid that my investments will fail but because it seems like it's the same people
    starting up those threads logging in with multiple names.
    At the same time, the moderators aren't blocking them and the most important, repetition is boring.

    Finally, I believe that we are fortunate not to have attracted those individuals here
    and I also don't miss the intellectually Superior guys either.;)

    Cheers
     
  5. Mark Laszczuk

    Mark Laszczuk Well-Known Member

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    Bill,

    I'm currently reading 'Never Give Up' by Donald Trump. I really like it and think Donald Trump is a fantastic man. He's certainly someone who doesn't do anything by halves - even failing! He really knows how to take care of business. But his experience is a great lesson for us all I think, in that if one really focusses on their end goal and keeps moving forward, they will get there eventually.

    I know that sounds a bit pie in the sky and it is, a bit of an empty cliche if you will. But from personal experience, I've tripped and stumbled and done lots of stuff wrong, but I took a step back a couple of months ago and looked at where I was and came to the realisation that I'm on track to meet my goals. Don't really know how that happened, to be honest.

    I've never written my goals down on paper and I don't study them and all that gaff. I just keep them in my head and kinda try to keep the ship steered in the generally correct direction and that's it, really. My experience has been to just quietly plug away, try things out, just have a go and see what works and what doesn't. Then taking those experiences and using them to fine tune the whole process.

    Like Donald Trump says - Never Give Up. It's been damn hard at some points in time and let me tell you, I've wanted so badly to give up on occasion but I just shook off the feelings and kept on going. Things are almost on auto-cruise these days, the result of working hard and not being afraid of failing.

    Mark
     
  6. Billv

    Billv Getting there

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    Mark

    It's good to hear that you are doing ok now.
    I agree we should never give up.
    I believe time fixes everything and success will come with time.
    I've read somewhere that success is not our accomplishments.
    Success is the person we became achieving it.

    Cheers mate
     
  7. ilori

    ilori Well-Known Member

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    Hi, a great discussion... I once heard someone say...

    "the third rate mind thinks with the majority;
    the second rate mind thinks with the minority;
    the first rate mind thinks by itself."

    If there is some truth to that... the corollary/upshot is that achievement can be a lonely thing :)

    Some say that to 'do nothing' is a legitimate position... and indeed it is... as long as it is a properly reasoned position based on what is known. I feel that many people simply decide to 'do nothing' upfront, then try to find arguments to support that, and belittle others who talk about acting.

    Some of the most frustrating people I've encountered are very intelligent well-educated people... they can formulate very clever arguments to support whatever is comfortable for them .

    I once knew a guy who was amazingly well informed about the Victorian property market... he could cite average prices, rental figures, demographic information, good buys that were on the market, areas that had great potential... off the top of his head... he knew it all... but... he never bought a property... there was ALWAYS a reason to 'just sit for a while'... and he would make anyone seem like a fool who didn't see it his way. But, at end of the day... for all he knew... he couldn't take action. (Ironically, I'm sure some of the people he made fun of did buy properties, and would have got more out of property than he did, eventhough he was the one who had the most knowledge.)

    Hmmmmmm... lots could be written on all of this... won't drone on :)

    Thanks, Ilori :)
     
  8. Alwayslooking

    Alwayslooking Well-Known Member

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    Hi
    Its been a long time since I read a doom and gloom thread, I choose not to view them as I don't see any value in these kinds of posts.

    Back to failure, I do have an issue accepting failure.

    For me it is the fear of not being viewed as successful by family members. However on the flip side I believe this in part has also helped me stay focused.

    Cheers, AL
     
  9. Jacque

    Jacque Team InvestEd

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    Thought provoking stuff here Mark, and my initial first automatic reply to this question was a one word answer: pride. After all, few of us are ready to admit that we have failed at something we set out to achieve in- human nature, I suppose. To admit to oneself is one thing, but to do so publicly (or even to friends/family) is quite another.
    As AL also alludes to, the FEAR of not being accepted by others is what drives so many of us as mere humans to despair, anxiety and inaction. Being seen as too "different" from the pack or expressing a radically alternative opinion from the acceptable "norm" is not behaviour that everyone is able to engage in, due to their inate makeup. Some of us are quieter than others, less confident, less self-assured.... it's all nature and nuture really :)
     
  10. Mark Laszczuk

    Mark Laszczuk Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jacque,

    Yeah that's my line of thinking as well - I guess the fear of failing is greater than the desire to succeed for most people. It has it's good and bad points, obviously not everyone can be 'successful' because then no one would be successful. As investors, we rely on people not wanting to become financially free so that we have people who rent to help us hold our wealth creating assets.

    Mark
     
  11. Glebe

    Glebe Well-Known Member

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    Hi Mark,

    Do you have a link to the particular thread/s at Somersoft? I don't read forums as much as I used to so I've missed them.

    Cheers.
     
  12. Mark Laszczuk

    Mark Laszczuk Well-Known Member

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    Hi Glebe,

    I don't have any links either. I do remember one thread in particular, I think it was posted by Snowman (or something like that) which was called Why buy in a downward market? (or something along those lines). I thought it was quite a pertinent and valid question, others viewed it as trolling.

    Maybe try looking for something like what I've described.

    Mark
     
  13. Tulip

    Tulip Member

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    I don't think fear of failure is the only reason there are increasing hostile responses to the doom and gloomers at the moment. I think it is more to do with the delivery style of many of the more recent posters, and that so many threads end up having a similar discussion.

    Many of the more bearish comments are thought prevoking and useful in the context of ecominic discussions. But when the question is "what colour should I paint my fence"? Answer "It doesn't matter as the price of the house will drop 30% and the bank will take it off you" is is frustration at the gloomer for spoiling yet another topic. I agree the whole situation then escalates and innocent posters get caught in the cross-fire.

    I do understand what you mean about people sticking their heads in the sand regarding mistakes and failure. For the first half of my life I made no mistakes, my parents raised me to blame everyone else when things went wrong. It can be hard to learn to focus on the benefits of mistakes. You don't see many teachers, public figures or peers stand up and say "whoops, I did it again". But by the same token, you don't want to replay your mistakes every day for the rest of your life either, you have to work out what you did wrong as early as possible, how to avoid repeating it, and move on.
     
  14. Alwayslooking

    Alwayslooking Well-Known Member

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    Hi Tulip
    Interesting comments.

    I have a few people in my life who play the "blame game", whenever they make a mistake they will never ever take responsibility.

    The major problem with this as I see it is that they have no hope of growing and they just proceed to continually repeat the same mistakes.

    How do you help someone with this issue? I have tried, but nothing seems to work. Its just a treadmill to nowhere.

    Cheers, AL
     
  15. Tulip

    Tulip Member

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    Hi AL,

    First, does the person actually realise that the problem exists? If not, they have to see this first. You may be able to assist by holding up a non-judgemental mirror, at least once. But you need to get the timing right.

    I think also most people are more open to reviewing themselves and making changes during a major life event or change. For blaming others, I had actually made it a life goal to be as happy as possible, and I realised I had to work on the letting go of all baggage to do this. I needed to change how I approached mistakes, but it took several years to reprogram my thinking.

    But some people will never change, they don't want to or can't get in the zone. That is their life, and their choice. We can only change ourselves, not others, but we can change how we react to that person when the issue in question comes up.