How to Improve Anything by Failing Brilliantly

I want to become a better writer.

In today’s world, written expression is becoming more and more important each day.  From resumes to professional emails to essays to proposals to online dating profiles, society is demanding you learn how to write well.  Unfortunately we live in a culture obsessed with instant perfection and highly critical of any first fledgling attempts at skill building.

“I wasn’t born with it”

“I just don’t have that talent”

“I don’t have a knack for it”

“I’m not lucky to have a natural flair like you”

We’ve all heard these sayings a million times, whether it’s about writing, starting a business, singing, teaching, sports, or any other field where excellence is rewarded (hint: every field)

This is categorically UNTRUE

In reality, no one became amazing at what they do overnight, and no one has done it without hard work and practice and (here’s the shocker) PLENTY of the F word.

No, not that, this F word is much more scary: Failure.

Even the stereotypical example: Mozart, the born prodigy, the child genius, put in thousands of hours of hard work and practice before writing his first real lasting work.  His early compositions are mostly transcriptions and arrangements of other composers works, and in fact, his first well known composition wasn’t written until his early 20’s.  Considering how often he practiced (his father enforced this strictly) and that he was writing music from such a young age, it actually took him far LONGER to become a success than most composers!

So what does this have to do with you, and how can you improve your skills?

Do it.  Every day.  And fail brilliantly.

When I last sent out a round of job applications I didn’t do so with the goal of getting a job.  Odd, yes?  My goal was to get rejections.  I can hear you now: “who WANTS to get rejected?” Allow me to explain.

When my goal was to ‘get a job’ I spent days crafting the perfect resume, writing and rewriting and editing and changing templates.  At the end of two weeks of “job hunting” I had sent out one application.  One BEAUTIFUL application, mind you, though not beautiful enough for them to fire the guy they hired 4 days prior and give me an interview.

So why the goal of getting rejections (specifically, 10 rejections in one week)?

It’s harder than you think to achieve.

I had to put out at least 10 applications, and I had to do it quick.  Once i found a lot of places weren’t responding at all, I had to put out even more applications, and call back, and email, and show up in person, until I had a solid rejection.
I had 6 or 7 solid rejections pretty quickly, but then an amazing thing started to happen, I got interviews.
And I got second interviews.

And I got job offers.

Over half a dozen of them in a span of 2 weeks.  The SAME amount of time it had taken to send out ONE application and receive ONE rejection when the goal was “get a job”.

In the end I failed BRILLIANTLY.  I have a label in my gmail inbox called “Failures” and as of this check, there are over 30 rejection notices from that round of applications, not counting the phone and in person rejections.  While you can choose to focus on the pain of those rejections, I choose to focus on the beauty of having my pick of several fantastic competing offers in different areas of the world.

So how do I intend to improve my writing?

Do It.  Every Day.  And Fail Brilliantly.

Think this post was a brilliant failure?  Let me know in the comments below:

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~ by Christopher G Keene on August 14, 2012.

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