It is fashionable for leadership gurus to encourage failure. It is said, and I agree with this, that when we try and risk, failure is an acceptable consequence. As a matter of fact, the principle goes that when we are not failing, we may not be striving to reach our maximum potential, meaning a certain percentage of failure is a barometer of our effort to push ourselves forward. This comes with many truths, but also presents some dangers.
I will mention two quick dangers, then I will focus more on a third. One, the goal is not to fail. The goal is to succeed. But in the journey of success, we have to practice courage and daring and some level of comfort with risk. In this regard, we must be okay with failure when it happens. We must be careful here not to weave failure into our journey just for the sake of failure. Two, we must not relax our standards just because we accept failure as part of the process.
And now, let’s take a moment to focus on a third danger: believing there is a difference between failing and cracking as a person. Yes, I am okay to fail, but I am not so open to failure that I am willing to crack. What I mean by cracking is this: You work yourself to death. You are drained all the time. You ignore important priorities. You don’t sleep well. You don’t exercise. You get sick. You become anxious and have to seek healthcare. You are never present. You are always consumed. You drive yourself to mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. This lifestyle is not okay. This must neither be our goal, nor the side effect of trying.
Sure, sometimes we have to sacrifice, but I encourage you to recognize when you are approaching extreme stages of stress and in danger of cracking, then steer yourself away from that.
Sometimes you have to work hard, very hard. I remember working literally 100 hours a week for about a year. As medical residents, we would have rotations in which we would not sleep every fourth night. Even that level of intense work should not lead to cracking.
Being a workaholic to the level of cracking becomes a mental state of being. It is not the result of a sacrifice, rather a series of sacrifices that jeopardize your wellbeing. Neither is it evidence of growth and dedication, but of a lack of awareness to back off before you mentally and emotionally burn out.