In this podcast episode, Zander Sprague and Aurora Winter discuss Zander’s journey in the third week of his quest to become a successful speaker. They cover topics such as the challenges faced, technological discoveries, and the importance of embracing failure as part of the journey. Zander shares insights into his use of the Descript tool for creating transcripts and editing podcasts. The conversation takes an interesting turn towards the end, highlighting the significance of failure in personal and historical contexts, drawing parallels with figures like Abraham Lincoln, and exploring the value of learning from setbacks.

Listen to the podcast here


Embracing Failure As Part Of The Journey, Part 1

We get to see what progress this amazing speaker has made in three weeks since he started on his quest. Never mind the fact that there’s a pandemic. He’s going to go for it and achieve his dreams of being the speaker that he knows his full potential. How is it for you, Zander? What worked well? What didn’t work so well? What tips do you have?

Things are working well. I’m expanding on the tech-discovered light that I will be using, which will hopefully light me a little better from the front. That was cool to find something that’s going to attach to my monitor. I’ll have the light right in front of me, which is good. I’m excited about that. I have further discovered the Descript tool to create the transcripts and edit these fabulous podcasts and vodcasts. I’m not sure what they are. That’s been good.

I was successful at the beginning of the week but not so much on Monday and Tuesday. The motivation wasn’t there and it didn’t happen. The learning lesson there is to be gentle with yourself. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. This was exciting, I wasn’t excited that I was awake at 4:30 in the morning. However, Aurora was laughing because she was like, “4:30 in the morning is such a creative time.” It was. I came up with a great idea and it will be our next episode. I’m going to tease it. We’ll talk about what that episode is but it was this awesome epiphany.

Embracing Failure

You texted me not at 4:30 but it’s such a great idea. You’re in motion. I’m so excited about this episode’s topic. You got me thinking, Zander. I’m super stoked to hear what you have to say because the topic for this episode is Failure is Part of the Journey. It’s a very juicy meaningful thing for me to think about so I want to hear why you chose this as a topic. What meaning does it have for you? What meaning do you think it has for others?

I chose it because it’s an essential part of any journey that we’re on or any adventure that we’re starting. It doesn’t all go perfectly. The question is, what do you do when you run up against these things and stuff is a failure?


EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Embracing Failure


What do you do when you fail as opposed to if? That’s such a great mindset shift even there to expect it.

No one is 100% successful. When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re trying or creating something new like we are, Aurora, we aren’t going to hit it out of the park every single time. Even if you’re like, “This is taking off and it’s great,” we all need to have what I like to call puritanical skepticism. I grew up in New England. Pilgrims came and settled in Massachusetts. They have this mindset, which permeates a lot of people from New England. In some sick way, we are never happier than when we are suffering greatly. They believe that you need to not have pleasures in life to make it to heaven. You had to work hard and have a pious life.

No one is 100% successful. When you’re an entrepreneur trying or creating something new, you aren’t going to hit it out of the park every single time.

You’re fully engaged when you’re trying to solve a meaningful problem. Before you’ve solved it, you’re fully engaged. You’re like, “How can I solve this?” Honestly, when I was thinking about this topic, I thought about my life. The biggest regret that I have is sometimes not doing something because I wasn’t sure if I would succeed. I confess I had a fixed mindset at certain points in my life. Things were pretty easy for me so I was happy or content to play at a certain level that was great but what if I tried like 100 shots at a goal that I didn’t think I could make? Who knows where I could have gone?

I had that skepticism about getting something I wanted and hated that. I moved to California because I hate this pure tentacle belief system that permeates my life, which is I’m not supposed to get nervous when good things happen to me. A perfect example was in 2004 when my beloved Red Sox finally won the World Series. I was sitting on the couch. My wife came in at the time and said, “I thought you would be so excited.” I was sitting quietly and said, “I don’t know what to do with this.”

It’s something I would want in my entire life. I have the Red Sox as World Champions. I’m like, “Something cataclysmic tragedy has to happen to offset this good feeling.” I’m telling you Aurora, if you talk to any diehard Red Sox fan, they will each tell you what they did that caused the Red Sox to lose in 1987. We are so powerful in New England, those of us from the Puritans.

It was not Bill Buckner missing. I did something and went down to watch that final. “Here it is. We’re one strike away. I got to see this on TV.” The ball rolled through Bill Buckner’s legs and the match went on to win the series. It was heartbreaking. However, my point here is collectively, New England said that our fate in life is to get so close to what we want but not have it.

I’m so sorry for you to have that. You got it and then you didn’t get the joy of it.

I did honestly enjoy it. I’m going to be successful but I’m also aware that along the way, stuff isn’t necessarily going to work the way I thought it did. The whole point of what we’re going to talk about is, what do you do? I’ve got some good examples of failure to help give some perspective.

I want to hear your examples. I can relate to that feeling of, “Something bad is going to happen next.” What will be an example of a failure in your life that you think led to success?

I worked in the early 2000s at quite a few startups.

How does that go in Silicon Valley?

I did all my research on these companies. They’re solid. They had and stuff. I was doing training as always last hired, first fired. With the euphemism of being fired, I was outsourced, downsized, and reassigned. The fact of the matter was I lost a lot of jobs and then got another job and stuff. The last one was like, “Why am I teaching someone else’s stuff when I know in my heart I want to be teaching my stuff?” I have a good knack for going in and learning new software and then turning around and teaching it. It’s a unique skillset. It’s awesome. Why am I learning someone else’s stuff when I have all this awesome stuff that I want to teach?

The struggle or failures, if you want to call them that, of getting laid off led to your epiphany of, “Wait a minute. Why don’t I teach my stuff?”

It let me to grad school and all of that.

Do you have another example of a failure that led to success you’d like to share?

It’s not mine but I want to quickly share with you a litany of failure. This is a historical figure. I’ll share who it is after I get done. This is not the complete list but here’s some of it. 1832, lost the job and defeated for the state legislature. 1835, sweetheart died. 1836, had a nervous breakdown. 1843, defeated for nomination for congress. 1848, lost renomination. 1854, defeated for US senator. 1858, defeated for US senator again. In 1860, elected president of the United States. Who did I just describe? Abraham Lincoln. Here is someone who for many people in the United States thinks of as one of our greater presidents, if not the greatest. It all depends on your perspective but he certainly was a great president. He also went bankrupt between 1830 and 1860.

That’s from depression. He had four kids.

His sweetheart died and got elected but didn’t get reelected. He didn’t give up. Any one of those things could be overwhelmingly devastating and cause you to say, “I give up.”

Look at Churchill. He had lots of failures and then he was arguably Britain’s most influential and valuable Prime Minister. He changed the course of history, thank goodness.

I wanted to not just talk about myself. Some major historical figures had a laundry list of failures.

It helps to normalize it. The main thing is it’s not so much whether you fail or not because that’s not an if. That’s a win, at least if you’re playing full-out. If you never fail, are you racing against three-year-olds or something?

Here’s another thing. I was talking about the World Champion, Boston Red Sox. I got thinking about some common failures. In baseball, you were considered highly successful if you had a lifetime batting average that is over 300. It’s 1/3 of the time you do your job at the plate and you get ahead. If you have a lifetime average of over 300, you’re in the Hall of Fame and considered great.

We want to keep on up at the plate rather than agonizing over the right and the wrong.

The 97/3 Rule

Remember when I talked about my 97-3 rule? 97% of your day is good and up to 3% is not so good. What do you focus on? Imagine if you were happy that 33% of your day went okay.

I have to change my thinking. I like this approach that you have here, Zander. You had me thinking about failure. I was thinking what’s the biggest failure in my life? It’s hard to choose between all the choices I have. One of them would be the film business in the sense that I had a rising star and I was featured in this 100 Canadians to Watch in Macleans Magazine and then raised $5 million with my then business partner/boyfriend. We didn’t get married so I walked away.

Eventually, I thought, “In the film business, you have to raise $10 billion to make a movie. Forget it. I’m going to be an author.” I don’t need $10 billion with so much trouble and get into development hell. While at the time it seemed the right pivot, I’m glad I did it but maybe if I had gone further in the film business and got married to that guy, I’d be making films and that wouldn’t be a happy thing for me because I love helping people with their books. I wouldn’t help people with books if I didn’t write some books myself.

I was reading Louise Hay who founded Hay House. For her first book, she photocopied 5,000 copies and sold them to friends, family, and at the church where she spoke, which took about seven years for those 5,000 copies. She wrote You Can Heal Your Life, which sold about 50 million copies. A couple of years later, she started Hay House Publishing because she wanted to also publish her friend’s books. That’s a failure. We have friends like that. Moving those first 5,000 copies takes forever. I don’t get boxes of books. We learn. I’d be glad to have a little bit of Louise Hay’s next move. Hay House is a $100 million-a-year company.

It’s all in our perspective of how we approach what doesn’t go as right. Is it that 3% of your day that may not go right? “It’s terrible.” I like to use a picnic analogy. It’s a beautiful sunny day. You’re going to picnic and it rains for three minutes. Then your whole thing is, “It rained while we were picnicking,” ignoring the fact that on either side, it was beautiful and sunny, and you had a great time. Sure, your sandwich got a little wet.

I grew up in Vancouver, BC, which is very rainy. Only three minutes of rain is a good picnic. This is very interesting. I found this article and I wanted to share it. I was thinking about what makes the difference between success and failure. Is it the growth mindset, which I haven’t tried hard enough or need to learn more, versus the fixed mindset that we both know from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset? They’ve done some research and it was published.

Dashun Wang is a Professor of Management & Organizations. He published this study. It was very interesting. They studied three groups of people, entrepreneurs, crooks, and one other group so they had a very discontinuous group. They wanted to see how many trials and attempts they had, whether it was about learning. He said that you can detect people who are eventually going to be successful because they respond differently.

It’s not that they necessarily succeed right away. They learn and change course based on what they’ve learned. There was another factor which is that you need to increase the tempo. When you increase the tempo, go faster, and implement what you’ve learned, then success is inevitable. Surprisingly, learning a little bit is the same as not learning at all. The longer the time is between attempts, the more likely you’ll degrade what you learned. There is a little bit of something to the Silicon Valley’s fail first, fail fast.

You can detect people who are eventually going to be successful because they respond differently. It’s not that they necessarily succeed right away. It’s that they learn and change courses based on what they’ve learned.

Hopefully, we are observing history so that we aren’t doomed to repeat it. As entrepreneurs and stuff, we have to at times be patient because there’s the stuff that we want but it is like a snowball. It does build on itself. For example, getting YouTube subscribers. There are millions of YouTube channels. “How do I get people? I know my audience is out there. People want to hear this but how do I get that?”

Some of it is plotting along, doing what you need to do, and realizing that you’re going to get there. In any of this, there is a sweet spot. Once you get to 1,000 subscribers or something, it does get exponentially easier because your videos are going to show up more often and other people are going to start to hear and stuff. Unless you’re a celebrity or something, you are going to instantly have all these followers.

Also, the fake followers. Maybe you could give us a little update on your YouTube channel because, down the road, it’ll be different.

I’ve got 36 subscribers. I’m happy for my subscribers. I’m still working to get more.

90% Of Success Is Showing Up

Ninety percent of success is showing up, doing the work, and continuing to show up day after day as you are. Many people can agonize about, “Let me get the video. Maybe I need to do this or that.” That turns into not doing the work. As you shoot more videos and share more messages, naturally, people will stumble across your YouTube channel, podcasts, books, and various things like that.

90% of success is showing up, doing the work, and continuing to show up day after day.

You’re going to find your stride in making the videos and how you want to do the videos. I’ll go back, look at some of those videos that I started my channel with, and go, “It was terrible.” We also tend to be our worst critics. What we see is catastrophic failures and the rest of the world goes, “That’s not that bad.”

The other thing that I want to highlight is you’re in action. We’re having these calls and I’m going to be asking you questions. You have been preparing for the show but you also had an epiphany. It’s something out of the blue that wasn’t on the agenda and some new flash of insight. I bet my money that those would not happen unless you were fully engaged in this process of working on it.

I was open to all the crazy 4:30 AM thoughts that go through. Some of them seemed like a brilliant idea at 4:30 but then at 8:00 AM when you have a little sunshine and a cup of coffee, you think about it like, “That wasn’t bad but that’s something.” Creativity is the process, at least for me, of thinking about all this stuff, being open to it, and filtering out the stuff. It’s not catching on with me. It isn’t juicy or moving. It’s okay.

Another key point about creativity is a whole different kind of thing. We need to have a different yardstick for success because creative people like you and I feel our way into it. We need to give ourselves permission to play with the sand in the sandbox, finger paints, or whatever it may be. We get the feeling of what works.

It’s not like a prescribed job that’s all known, like being a good waitress at a five-star restaurant and very specific things to do. No. Creativity is when we get to play and make connections that we didn’t think of before. With some of those connections, we go, “That’s weird.” In others, we go, “That’s brilliant.” It’s like when I texted you back.

It’s so much fun when you have those ideas to immediately go share it and be like, “Isn’t this great?” Aurora, you and I had that relationship where most of the time, you’re like, “That’s great,” but you’re maybe like, “What?” That’s okay. That’s exactly the failure where maybe you think something’s great but it turns out the rest of the world is not as excited about it as you are and not getting more enthusiastic about it.

I like what Howard Stern said about this. I’ve got it on my fridge. Some callers called in for The Howard Stern Show and gave him feedback on his show. Howard Stern had cut them off repeatedly and then said to his caller, “Your feedback is irrelevant.” I love that because I am way too sensitive to feedback so I thought, “No, Howard Stern is right.” If he watered his brand down to fit everybody’s feedback, it would be bland in the middle. What creative people like you and I want to do is play around the edges and do something unexpected.

Honesty Is Magnetic

It’s like, “This is live reality TV that we’re doing in real-time.” You are seeking to achieve your goal of becoming a speaker in front of thousands of audiences during the pandemic in 2020 when every event has been canceled. It couldn’t be a more difficult time. You’re going for it and I’m supporting you. Worse comes to worse. At least, you’ll have the content for your book and videos for your YouTube channel. You’re being brave, authentic, and transparent, revealing your hero’s journey to the audience. I hope it will inspire some people. I’m sure that it will because honesty is magnetic.

Putting the successes and failures out there on the internet forever makes it more relatable. When you learn about me, I’ve got it all dialed in. I’ve got all the catchphrases. It’s all smooth and polished. People go, “I can’t do that. That’s impossible.”

They also go, “I don’t trust him because he’s too polished.” The press is the most important thing that people can get a chance to know and trust you. When people are speaking, intention matters a lot more than the ums, errs, and little things that Toastmasters should be all over about. What matters is your intention to contribute to the audience’s mind as well, be honest, and add some value every time.

Especially with the way that the world is, people need some enthusiasm. Folks, you need someone like myself and Aurora who are contagiously enthusiastic about what we’re doing. It is contagious when you get around someone who’s super excited about what they’re doing. You can’t help but be like, “That’s great. I want to do that.”

You’ll probably give me a hard time but I want to confess. I called Zander the God of Enthusiasm at our last live event before the Coronavirus shut everything down. He’s so enthusiastic. His energy is so big. Like a god, he lifts the whole room with energy.

I am contagiously enthusiastic. I get excited about what I’m doing. To quote Cat Stevens, “I can’t keep it in. I’m going to let it out. The world’s got to know.”

I like that. The world does got to know.


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