#255: How to Turn Failure into Success
In this episode, we discuss another common request from listeners. I've gathered some of the best advice about coping with frustrations and roadblocks, and -- ultimately -- learning how to turn failure into success.
These conversations are extremely valuable because they show you there is more than one way to achieve your goals. After more than 200 conversations with the world's top performers, you start to spot certain patterns. These are the shared habits, hacks, philosophies, and tools that are the common threads of success, happiness, health, and wealth. Behind each success story is usually a lesson on how to overcome failure. Aside from my own take on the topic, this episode includes conversations with:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Malcolm Gladwell
- Bryan Johnson
- A.J. Jacobs
- Shep Gordon
Show notes and links for this episode can be found at tim.blog/podcast.
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ladies gentlemen welcome to another upset of the timber Show I am Tim Ferris your host and this time around we are offering specifically another edition of the Timbers Radio Hour by popular request this is where I share the theme habits and other patterns that I've seen across more than two hundred guests on the podcast we call them in as it relates to specific topic or specific question and give you the highlights I've made it my job each and every time I do an interview to deconstruct world class performers of different types of keys out habits routines tactics and so on that set the average apart from the extraordinary and these really are episodes focus as I mentioned on one specific thing and bring in tactical advice from several guests this episode is about failure one of the most common attributes in all of the successful people how are you define success I've met interviewed is that they have an ability a cultivated ability oftentimes to move through failure or view it differently this is exactly when many other people simply quit so coming up I talked to for instance determine a tough audience was near about how failure propelled him forward remember my teacher wouldn't want them said in an interview that he missed nine thousand shots then mega bestselling author and one of Time Most influential People Malcolm Gladwell shares his failures and what he learned from them what it was important things about me is that how obsessed I am with those two flaws of mine the next we learn from entrepreneur and investor Brian the founder of Braintree which was bought by eBay for a cool eight hundred million dollars also at this point I have no income I have a child home to make ends meet and self or extraordinary or A J Jacobs then steps in to share a story about his favorite failure to get rejected ninety eight percent I'm gonna keep going the ship Gordon was named one of the one hundred Most influential People by Rolling Stone magazine as the story you won't forget ship is the man the biggest names in entertainment he understands and explains what separates those who get consumed by fame from those who are able to thrive in the moment it's a baby diapers let it show business with the cape is miserable of course I am often asked about my own failures after all I'm no stranger to struggles I'm not immune to conquer in securities and all of tools with the mental crowded shop every morning and hop into bed so I thought that we could give a specific example of one of my failures and if you want to hear about some really dark times that I won't get into you could listen to my new Ted talk from the main stage about if you're set you can find that has at least a million views are not one up teamed up log fort slashed head but here are a business context I thought I would focus on something happen last few years and that this can be very cathartic discussing failure and pragmatic because it helps you to uncover when you do a post game analysis was holding you back ideology is perhaps or mental models that need to evolve or just simple blind spots in this one is related to a TV show I have tried TV several different times and I could give you some of the early failures but I want to give you a more recent one and it is a failure in quotation marks because I was able to trans modify it into something else and I will explain how so that in first experiment was a TV show that was produced when the executives and the host several years back with Turner broadcasting and had very good team on the Turner side a very good team on the production side zero point zero eight who has done all of this farce I know if the board and chess very gritty very cinematic incredible team all the pieces were in place and they did before I got started a number of analysis before signing on the dotted like the deal including descriptions of the worst case scenario and the worst case scenarios this relates back to the future said yes check out so did that but of course it's limited based on number of assumptions that you make about what could go wrong what you think up at the time I also did what's called a SWAT analysis which is fancy sounding but it stands for strengths weaknesses opportunities threats are to identifying strengths I can leverage for the show weaknesses I might want to compensate for by hiring other people or simply avoiding those particular areas opportunities what could come of I want to be prepared for infrastructure for and then threats which relates to the fear setting and the pre minute audio mail or in the pre meditation of evils are bad things that could happen to pull on Seneca a little bit what ends up happening with the show are few things number one for those of you haven't seen it in to search it in various experiments available on iTunes at this point is if you go to iTunes dot com ports last hymn verse to our stresses and scroll to the bottom you'll find the TV show the schedule suicidal there were thirteen episodes on to say filmed in something like this between thirteen fifteen weeks and I suffered some tremendous injuries because the premise of the show was that each episode of tackling new skul start from zero to try to learn as much as possible with experts in the span of say a week which realistically ended up being three or four days and then tested in some type of high stakes final exam and so we tried to park or we did rally racing suffered some tremendous injuries which are caught on cam camera for your enjoyment poker betting in Vegas all sorts of craziness and we filmed the show and then we ran into a couple of issues and they're all related to distribution and regime change so the issue number one was that people had trouble meeting those in my audience actually locating where the show was being broadcast it was on the yes was HLN and In true and it bounced around from here to there in between programming that didn't lend itself to carry over audiences really dependent not an endemic audience but on me driving traffic or the division within Turner up with a time driving traffic somehow would then end up happening is change so does that mean that means that the entire division was shut down and the people replaced the contacts that I had the relationships that developed no worked at Turner and the show along with other shows many other shows were effectively put into the vaults and no one could see it it was really traumatic for me here I am sitting there all these injuries some of which I'm still dealing with today in my knees specifically some in my elbows in forms for a lot of connective tissue and muscles during the thirteen weeks then we have this end product which are really really proud of and then boom the lights go out and no one can see it so I had not thought about distribution challenges for staffing slash regime are problems that could crop up and those were two major major blind spots and does not matter how good your product or service is if people cannot get it or if you can I get to people so I ended up being able to negotiate to lice the program back in and do a launch with iTunes which was fantastic thank you Kevin for listening and it was a huge blockbuster did really and it was the most successful nonfiction TV show to launch on iTunes at the time it was just tremendously successful and financially when all around which was spectacular but it took a long time get that done and it was brutalized and I took my notes from that and then turn around and most recently right now in fact it's being broadcast a new TV show called fearless with Tim Ferris and the less is in parentheses and I used many of the learnings from that show from the tomb first experiment to make this show a lot easier to film to produce and to promote other always challenges in television or publishing of any type and the simple lesson you take away our moral of any story involving say a musician and author or otherwise is that if you want to control distribution you have to pay for the production of the product and have your hand in every possible choke point for distribution so there is one very very very painful for me the time and caused a lot of psychological and emotional downtime for me and that hopefully doesn't bore you hopefully it is an inspiring in some way but de fangs fairness it is not fairness I think that's the word failure in the sense because I'll have to accept furious furious with ten facts because you see people magazine covers that they got it all figured out and they they wake up every just do a front flip out of bed is so stoked to work on everything have to do that day is not the case then that we are going to without further ado dig into some of the stories of our esteemed guests no collateral is the author of five maybe more in your times mega bestsellers you see them everywhere get an entire airport stores these books include The tipping Point blink outliers What the Dog saw And David and Goliath he's been named one of the one hundred Most influential People by Time magazine has explored how ideas spread investigated the root of success and much more he is a very very tactical guy and I started off in our conversation by asking him if he could think of any failure that set him up for later success the I mean it's all kinds I when I was a kid I was a game is one of many but I was a runner British winner and distance leaders and innovators and high peaking distances yes a pie in my third year of running seriously lost races I thought it was going to win a kind of what for me the page was a quite quite a dramatic traumatic fashion and equipment and it was the first I would regard that as the of that the first real failure of my life something I really want to do well at I didn't and I think it was a hugely important both because it may be thinking about what my priorities were what I had place running too high in that list but more than that if I then later in life went back and saw a lot about why I quit and was dissatisfied with my reasons so anything you can this whole notion of circling back I think is so important minutes shows got a vision of history so explicitly about that but you know I I would almost obsessively revisit my reasons for quitting running and scrutinize them and say write what I learned in the intervening five ten fifteen twenty years about who I am what I want what it takes to be good at something so that was a very valuable experience at exactly the right time because that's the age where you know where decisions not decisions matter but where I think you reflect on things you don't reflect on things later in life wages are driven as fifteen fifteen I was I was going to go back at some point be in ninth grade teacher some parade around that's like fourteen to sixteen range seems like they're a lot of very important fortune the road yes I think there is I think you are because so much is everything is plastic that age right so you can mull and so it's the kind of like I think about was how confusing and complicated those years are suspect what is served in e morning routines for sixty minutes of your day look like could be any day the week Lucia say it's a work day I was I try I think one should eat very little in the morning so it was time to wake up to a I have a big thing of tea what type of case I would keep lap saying soo shown below that's great stuff great stuff if you like what is it her friend is getting off of he loved whiskey and felt like the smell him of some type of PD alcoholic beverage that has an amazing smell it's very controversial T had that Mike Malcom what it was a controversial to some people spell it and they just run of the abstraction they think it is theirs they don't think it's t I never seen people have such a kind of business there's a little coffee shop where I go often the morning Deputy and they have it I think of one of the only people who order it to get it because of me and it's like a walk in there like you know make a bee line for it but it's clear that you know I'm in a distinct minority it's smells you can smell it from quite a ways up I might be little bit of oatmeal that's pretty much only the Malays or go to one of your go to zz yeah but not a lot and then I look at three websites guests are in like three OH SO not a lot means sank a couple a couple of spoons I got a couple of Africa to me is enough to then have a reserve something in my stomach and then I will look it three websites the first one is Let's Run dot com The nerdy all serious writers rate that's ride then I read marginal Revolution out of Cohen's column and then I read ESPN dot com to make sure nothing major happened of sports that I start my work how do you and what time is that than when you're starting your work so we're talking now still before nine am and then five writing to do its best to do it in the next two hours the fall so before lunch and what is your routine look like in those few hours when you start your work what does that look like it's a particular music coffee shop getting a coffee shop i'm already know some restaurant or not at home and office and I'm working pretty steadily and not really easy to distract the bull then around eleven thirty or so I kind of have to do other things I mean a little stop working but I stop writing do you listen to music when you write to you just take in the Andean music on in the right almost entirely in public places so whatever I don't listen to music myself but I like the noise because I came in Asian newsrooms so I need that I learned how to write in the middle of when newsrooms are not as you know they used to be quite loud so that's what I need to kind of echoing in the end you is is that when the bulk of your writing is done is that pre lunch period are due right in the afternoon sleep the afternoon I find yet journalists seem to be very adaptable for former journalists or newspapers or had those types of daily deadlines were faster and also reading is not the time consuming part is knowing what to write it's the thinking researching and organizing and that's what takes time you know writing this blissful I wish I could do more it's it's a break from all of the hassle of let's just say end of workday to bed with your wind down routines look like that probably after the end of the afternoon and others are injured now but that's really the highlight of the day of the kind of work k some days it might be with my track club whimsical for long run or go biking all go to CrossFit workout or something physical what is your favorite movement in CrossFit exercise and least well I kind of runners disdain any activity does not I I I I know for so I don't I don't even want to think about favorite in that context it's something I suffer through because is necessary to ward off injury and when it's over I'm very happy but I'm much happier if I can go and run eight miles with some friends got a pre bid anything particular you dear Irene watch sports or tea and you have trouble getting to sleep pretty generally sleep easily I may come from a family of champion sleepers wells are some are the sleepers out there we are it is our defining characteristic that we are and our definition of a bad night of sleep is so hilarious because it's like my father will say he had trouble sleeping with that means is he was up for twenty minutes between I four in four twenty I mean that's bad that's what flaws or weaknesses do you have that have turned out to be strengths in some capacity is like a job interview the guy was going to offer you a position to present the prizes but they will probably God my only job interview in his work too hard exactly well in if any team in dealing with my own impatience and my sloppiness hint of attending to those flaws I think I have done that it's been a really crucial thing in in helping me achieve whatever she says You'll Ever and yeah I mean of sloppy how are you doing what in what sense you know I don't slop in a hurry like clothes all over the floor sloppy about them in a hurry I know I don't always double check something I know or I I'll interview someone for forty five minutes when a shooter for two hours or just kind of like I'm a good enough for Sonata infections if I find this to become so aware of that now compensated and I have taught myself to be a lot more of a perfectionist or force myself to keep asking questions much longer than I would go into Syria that it was his investments of time that had been so that's what I'm talking about that I force myself to invest more time in a lot of activities knowing that if I did my normal way I'd be out the door right now I'd be thinking about what I went to dinner as opposed to that sort of a very it's why I buy by the way I subject to so when you when you observe or measure natural inclinations you haven't got a picture of them because you don't know what they do with those actually a nation's right so it turns out that one of the most important things about me is that how obsessed I am with those two flaws of mine so identifying those as my natural inclinations tells you exactly the opposite about me because you're compensating developing the opposite I am massively comes a day for them all day long rides obsessed with gum thing to have you received of bad advice along as to what you might do professionally or has that not been the case no I mean I do not advice seeker about those kinds of things nor much of an advice giver so I haven't really gotten out of and also my position is you can't know I kind of stumbled into most things have been doing some much prefer to be open to opportunity and plan my path think it's better for me anyway I don't know I mean people are different so sadly the plan I'm not up I don't think at the Lee in the next up is a impressive entrepreneur and investor Brian Johnson and Brian with the why he sold one of his company's Braintree to eBay for eight hundred million then took a hundred million dollars from that sale and launched the O S fund stands for operating system and it is intended to support inventors and scientists who aim to benefit humanity by rewriting the operating systems of life and you can look up less fun to see what he's up to it is quite fascinating and I will blow your mind in terms of scale and scope that he isn't thinking of his investments Brian's story is not only a scrappy rags to riches story but he is someone who succeeded in a technical field without any formal technical training I find it extremely inspiring and potential expanding it shows you that the options you think you have in front of you A or B for instance often neglect the CD any of that are standing right to the side as to describe what happened between his first business in cellphones believe it or not and his massive success with Braintree well the short version is the cell phone company would remark too well but it was not to make enough money to retire by thirty to find something bigger so I started a voice over IP company with three founders and it was just before Skype in bondage and the short of that is we had the wrong team wrong part wrong timing was perfect we did everything wrong we did have a probably actually build something we've got customers this was also unusual yes we had revenue cycle actually built something but in reality like we were not set up to succeed so that felled and then on the heels of that I started I joined in the guide to healthy development and the store that is we felt because of some bad decisions were made and so without income for two years I was dead broke and so I applied for sixty jobs and found a monster to do the job site the time nobody would hire me just I think is so clear I was had no intention of staying a long time I tried to make the resume look like it that just never was the case so nobody would even give there are additional skills loyalty fierce loyalty and a knife I read another newspaper one day had a list of the fifty richest people in Utah I thought being like that's what it is I will write an email to these fifty people all say I'm young I'm smart like I'm trying to not spin or by just need some money aside to become the right hand man on the web you want me to do and no one responded at this point I'm totally desperate I'm sure you sure you get a fair amount of his emails these days I do any lines and pathetic yeah I totally am so at this point I have no income I have a child at home as I need to make ends me as I find this job posting in his monster was selling credit card processing door to door and basically is like a fuse of business to business yes like marching up and honestly walking into a retail or restaurant let me help you set up a merchant account yes or get a point of sale system yes mostly change Evelyn Addison service gotta gotta and so final like if you could fog a mirror I think a mission like what if they don't care bills exceed the rate but to a play on the sell side out go inside to figure out pretty quickly the industry was really messed up the technology was terrible and people were just generally plagued by injury because unscrupulous all this dishonesty in complexity as I figured out that was the hook because my product had zero differentiation it was exactly same as five hundred other providers that walked in the door everyday right side walk in and say I use on the walk in a V like art sales guy are not interested of the stuff to do it when you heard me say critical processes like please leave strike two yeah like leaf so I would say if you give me three minutes of time I'll give you a hundred dollars If You Don't Say Yes to use my service and use it say like okay