Do you find yourself thinking about avoiding failure, or do you consistently think about achieving success? The difference between these two perspectives can fundamentally influence your career. Focusing your thinking on dodging failure can lead to devastating outcomes.
In 1978, I watched Karl Wallenda on live TV as he attempted to walk between two hotels on a wire stretched 121 feet above the pavement in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Karl was the founder of The Great Wallendas, an internationally recognized daredevil circus act famous for performing death-defying stunts without a safety net. At age 73 and with winds exceeding 30 miles per hour, Wallenda stepped out to what was soon to become his final act.
Prior to the walk, Wallenda was not his usual confident and positive self. In fact, Wallenda was so concerned about this performance that he had personally inspected all the ropes before the walk, something he had never done before, according to his family.
He climbed to the tower and after taking a few steps Wallenda seemed tentative and appeared to be struggling with his balance. Everyone watching attributed this to the added suspense of the show. However, when he released the balancing pole and he tried to hold on to the cable with his hands, it soon became evident that he was in a precarious situation. Suddenly, he lost his grip on the wire and fell to his death. As everyone was mourning Wallenda, his family declared that the show would go on.
As the international press arrived to interview the Wallendas, his wife Helen recalled, "All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he'd ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope successfully." It was a tragic moment, underscoring the difference between using our efforts to avoid failure and aiming them to attain success.