Bill Sparkman, Sales and Marketing Trainer, Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Author

By: Bill Sparkman, The Coach

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Remember when you learned how to ride a bicycle? You probably began with training wheels. Eventually, when they were removed, things became more difficult. You struggled to stay upright, maybe even falling a few times and scraping yourself.

As you practiced, it's likely that one of your parents walked beside you shouting instructions, encouraging you and catching you as you lost your balance. You were scared . . . but excited! You looked forward to the time when you would succeed, when you would at last ride free, on your own. So, you kept at it every day, and eventually mastered the skill of riding a bike.

Let's examine how you now approach the development of new skills. Do you move forward with excitement, willing to perform unsuccessfully until you master the challenge? Do you jump at the chance to try something new or to "prove yourself" in the face of unforeseen obstacles? If you're like most people, the answer is probably "no."

So, what's changed between your "bike riding days" and today? For one thing, I'll bet that you've become a lot more concerned about the opinions of others, often hesitating because of possible criticism or ridicule. Sure, it can be "uncomfortable" to try something new, perhaps even scary. However, if you take your eye off the goal and instead focus your attention on how others may be viewing you, you are doing yourself a grave disservice.

Successful people have learned to "fail" their way to success. While they may not particularly enjoy their "failures," they recognize them as a necessary part of the road to victory. After all, proficiency at any skill requires time, effort and discipline . . . and the willingness to persevere through whatever difficulties may arise.

TV talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael, by her own account, couldn't pay her credit card bills for 26 years. In that period, she moved 25 times looking for work, was fired 18 times, and never earned more than $22,000 a year. Worse yet, there were times when she lived on food stamps and slept in her car. At what point should she have given up?

So, when you get right down to it, there is no such thing as "failure" - there are only results, some more successful than others. Failure means you've reached the end of the line and that success is not possible. The only time that happens is when you quit. Quitting is final. But continued attempts, with commitment and perseverance, can be turned into success.

Key questions
If you aren't getting the results you want or have been discouraged by failures or setbacks, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I have an unrealistic timetable? Maybe you expect to "skip steps" and succeed on a grand scale immediately. Success is usually achieved by climbing one step at a time. So, be patient with yourself - and resist the temptation to compare your progress to that of anyone else. Only compete against yourself.

2. Am I truly committed? Do you have a burning desire to achieve your goal? It's essential that you be willing to do whatever it takes (within legal and ethical bounds, of course!) and that you banish any thought of giving up before you accomplish your objective. Don't give up!

3. Do I have too many discouraging influences? Unsuccessful results can be frustrating. That's why we need to surround ourselves with those who support and believe in us. If you hang around with negative people who are highly critical or who are doing very little in their own lives, your energy and enthusiasm will be drained. Hang out with positive, powerful people.

4. Am I preparing to succeed? Success in any endeavor requires thorough preparation. Are you taking steps to learn everything you can about accomplishing your goal? This means reading books, listening to tapes, taking courses and networking with highly successful people in your field. It might mean finding a mentor or getting a coach to work with you. Successful individuals are always sharpening their skills. Get a little better every day.

5. Am I truly willing to fail? Face it, it's going to happen. You will encounter defeat before you succeed. Look failure squarely in the face and see it as a natural part of the success process. Then, failure will lose its power over you. The truth is, when you are not afraid to fail, you're well on the way to success. Welcome failure as an unavoidable, yet vital component, in the quest to achieve your goals.

Your failures are learning experiences that point out the adjustments you must make. Never try to hide from failure, for that approach guarantees that you will take virtually no risks and will achieve very little - risk more!

No, you won't close every sale. And you won't make money on every investment. Life is a series of wins and losses, even for the most successful. If you make it your business to learn from every defeat and stay focused on the end result you wish to attain, failure will eventually lead you to success, one step at a time!!

Keep your eye on the ball!

Bill Sparkman

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