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.

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Embracing Failure As Part Of The Journey, Part 2

This is going to be so exciting because we’re talking about what must be one of the biggest topics and the topic is that failure is part of the journey. We’re going to be talking about epic, which is one step forward, and learning all about failure and how it may not be as bad as you think. This is so interesting to learn about failure. I was thinking about growth mindset versus fixed mindset, but it’s far more complicated than that.

I was reading this article on this new study from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management with this very management-ish title called Quantifying Dynamics of Failure Across Science, Startups and Security. It’s by Dashun Wang. This article is in Fast Company in November of 2019. They explored the data with three distinct data sets, grant-seeking researchers, entrepreneurs, and terrorists. They found that it’s much more complicated than looking at it as the growth versus the fixed mindset model. It depends on learning and implementing what you’re learning faster and faster. That was a cool study to add to this conversation.

I probably want to take this conversation in an unexpected direction. I watched the film The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, which is about Elizabeth Holmes and her company. She was the youngest self-made female billionaire for a nanosecond, but her company was all about the idea that you could test blood from a droplet.

The device that she put it in was called Edison because she wanted to acknowledge all the thousand failures he had before he invented the light bulb. She raised $900 million, but Edison never worked. She’s a actually awaiting trial. It’s been pushed back from July to October 2020 due to COVID and maybe pushed back again to 2021. I would love your comments on when failure is fraud and when failure is part of the journey of success and learning. That’d be a big question.

A curve ball on that one.


EPIC Begins With 1 Step Forward | Embracing Failure


I got to see if you’re on your toes.

When Failure Is Fraud

A little knuckleball on that one. I think failure is fraud when we don’t actually admit that we failed. If I fail at something and I know that it didn’t quite work the way I expected, people might not be happy about that. Investors may not be happy about that. I think we all go into things. We all support things, understanding that it might not be successful. We want it to be successful, but it may not be. I think there was a lot of obviously secrecy with Elizabeth Holmes. I’ve seen documentaries on this. I’ve seen news stories where they were talking about how they wouldn’t show Edison actually doing the tasks. They were using other companies’ machines to do it. I love the idea that she had.

I love the idea that she had, too. I was cheering for her.

If you look at Elizabeth Holmes, there was stuff that she did that, obviously, hindsight’s 2020, I looked at that and said, “There should have been some big signs that something wasn’t quite right.” One of those, and it sounds weird, was she changed the way that she talked when she was being interviewed. She lowered her voice.

She dressed like Steve Jobs.

Okay, I get it. That’s fine. The lowering of the voice to me was, when I heard that, I was like, “That is calculated in terms of what she’s doing.” I don’t know.

That part doesn’t bother me because it comes from Hollywood, and lots of people have voice coaches and accent coaches. I think you nailed it before, and I like this reframing, that failure is not about failure. What is failure is secrecy, lies and deceit. That’s failure. If you say, “That didn’t work. What can I learn? How can we do better next time?” You don’t take people’s money investing without saying, “We haven’t solved this yet.” I think that’s a clean way to distinguish because I think she did fail in a terrible way.

Honestly, it is unfortunate because that was a great idea.

It still is a great idea. Somebody got carried away because they were trying to do 200 different tests in that little shoebox-size thing. She’s facing 9 counts of wire fraud and potentially 20 years in jail. For each, $250,000 plus restitution. She went from a billionaire to bankrupt. That sucks. How do you manage your own feelings of fear or concern if you’re doing something like you’re doing right now that could potentially fail, depending on how you use the word failure? Do you have a specific way that you manage to be so enthusiastic all the time?

There are a couple of things. I believe in myself, unfailingly. I am my number one fan. We all have to be our number one fan, our number one cheerleader. We need to say things to ourselves. The meanest person in your life, Aurora, is Aurora.

We all have to be our number one fan or cheerleader.

That’s true, unfortunately.

Honestly, I think it’s true for everyone. Maybe not the Dalai Lama, but he’s never commented on whether he feels he is mean to himself. I found in the work I was doing in my internship in high school that the meanest things my clients were saying, they were saying to themselves. “I’m not smart. I’m a failure. I am not pretty. My nose is too big,” whatever. I certainly know that there are times when if one of my friends said 1/1000th of the mean things that I think in my head about myself, I’d be devastated.

I think that as a good measure, would you say this to a friend? No. Don’t say it.

I say, “What if your best friend said that to you?” My clients would be like, “It would destroy me.” I’m like, “Why are you saying it to yourself?”

I’ve learned to cut myself some slack because I noticed that there actually is quite a shift over the course of the day in my capacity to manage things. I’m a very cheerful and optimistic person. Maybe not as enthusiastic as the God of Enthusiasm, but I’m very optimistic. I wake up happy and excited about my day. I love everything that I do, even though it’s work. I am engaged. It’s very interesting. I notice that if something happens, I can be fragile, and I’ve learned to let it go. It’s late afternoon. You got up at 4:00. You’ve been up for twelve hours or so. That’s been so helpful that I can accept my feelings. I don’t try to solve the problem at that moment when I’m tired.

I think part of what you’re talking about is, and we can all do this, when you notice there’s that time of day or a particular week, maybe something’s coming up that’s triggering you, like someone in your life died or some anniversary of something not so good, that feeling of overwhelm and what you’re talking about is check in with your somatic system. How am I feeling? If we think about a baby, your somatic is like your nerves. Check-in to see where in your body I am feeling anxious. We all have different places. Some people feel it more in their gut. “I have butterflies in my tummy,” or you feel it in your chest. “My chest feels tight. I feel it in my throat.” Almost that feeling when you are sad and you don’t want to cry, it’s all in your throat.

Maybe you feel it in your jaw or behind your eyes or whatever. I think if we check in with our somatic system and say, “What’s going on,” babies oftentimes are overstimulated. All of a sudden, a baby gets fussy because maybe they’re being passed around, “Let me come see your beautiful baby and here, can I hold him?” “Sure.” All of a sudden, he starts to fuss.

That’s because the baby doesn’t have any other way there. Their somatic system is overwhelmed. They’re overstimulated. Check-in and say, “I am noticing this feeling,” and that’s the hard part. Let me notice that I’m feeling sensitive to criticism right now at 5:00. Maybe it’s because you’ve been up since four. You’ve had busy days and you’re done.

I like what you said, and that was very helpful for tuning into our bodies. It’s so simple, but we can bring mindfulness to it. That was extremely helpful. Different people get fueled differently or knocked differently so we can be kind with ourselves. What else do you want to say about this topic of failure being part of a journey?

I have three things that I want to share with people. The first is to think about what failure points look like to you. How are you defining failure?

In general, or would one apply that to a specific goal?

Failure Points

I think if we’re taking on something new or trying something new, have an understanding of what you think. Oftentimes, what we think is a failure point actually never comes to fruition because it’s so unrealistic. For example, if I said as I’m launching myself here, a failure point is not getting an Academy Award in 2021. I don’t know if that’s a failure point for me because I honestly don’t think that it’s going to happen. I didn’t get nominated for the Academy Award, but I didn’t act in a movie. It’s not a failure point.

I think this is helpful. I give a simple example. Sometimes I have financial goals and so then I can feel like a failure if I don’t make those achievements, but I notice I didn’t make any phone calls. I reframed it to, I haven’t done this for a little while, like putting stars on the calendar. If I make a certain number of phone calls, I look at the calendar. I got my stars and I reframe. Failure is not picking up the phone. It doesn’t matter whether it’s yes or no or maybe.

Another area is what are the areas that could be failure points, and what can you do to mitigate them? Think ahead about where I have a failure point and what I might do? That may help for that failure point never to happen because you’ve thought ahead of what might go wrong there.

That is actually helpful, and it increases people’s success in anticipating a problem and thinking through, “How can I handle that?” That’s a good one.

We can’t anticipate everything, but we can prepare. The last one is to embrace that failure is part of the journey. It is an opportunity to learn, and it’s got to do with the fact that reframing failure is part of what’s going to happen. Imagine if baseball players got horribly upset every time they didn’t get a hit. They probably wouldn’t continue to play. Success is one third of the time.

We can’t anticipate everything, but we can prepare.

People might want to consider increasing the velocity of speed, which makes a difference, according to this study.

It does. One of the things that you mentioned, Aurora, is if you don’t give yourself space to quit, you won’t. “I’ve got to do this. I’m fully committed. I have stepped off the cliff. Whether I want to be hurdling through the air right now or not, I can’t do anything to stop it. I better make the best of this whole thing.

This whole discussion shows that the only failure is dishonesty. If you’re dishonest with others, you’re probably dishonest with yourself. If you’re dishonest with yourself, you won’t be learning. The whole point of failure is to learn. You can be like Thomas Edison and actually succeed. What you said a minute ago reminded me of when I took my MBA in 2015. When something goes terribly wrong, a plane or company crashes, we often do a postmortem to analyze what went wrong.

We were taught in my MBA to do a pre-mortem, which I was hearing in your suggestion there, which is actually, if you get some smart people together and they’re about to do something, before they even do it, have them write down, “It’s 3 years from now or 1 year from now, everything went terribly wrong. This is what caused the problem and this is what happened.”

Have them do another thing. “Everything went well. This is why it went well. This is what we leveraged into. This is who is responsible.” Actually, people already know the breaking points and the weak points in the plan. They generally have a pretty good sense of what could be leveraged. There’s a lot of value of thinking is so that you can do it in your mind rather than have to die on the field. You can die in your mind and go, “Maybe I’ll adjust course a little bit.”

The Seven P’s

Some prior proper planning will prevent piss poor performance. The seven Ps. That’s from the military. There’s something to be said for that. Maybe piss poor isn’t the right thing to say. The sentiment there is to think ahead, do some prior planning, and do a pre-mortem to think about what might go wrong because then, when it happens, it’s not as bad.

I want to slide in this little point. We’ll get into it on another time in more depth. The way that people grow is by struggle. When you struggle with difficult tasks, you are actually rewiring your brain. You are laying down myelin. I listened to another one of his books, The Culture Code. I love him. He’s one of my favorite authors.

Myelin will go down the neurons at two miles an hour. With practice, where you’re struggling and you lay down more myelin, the speed can go up to 200 miles an hour. Faster or even more. That comes with physical activity like playing tennis, mental activity, problem-solving, or being a pilot. The value is not quitting. Stay with the struggle, and you will actually rewire your brain and get better.

I love The Talent Code. I was like, “That’s great.” It’s funny. I was reading it, and I was taking guitar lessons at the time. It shifted how I was doing my guitar lessons because as I struggled to find the cord and have my fingers right, it shifted for me that it wasn’t failure but learning. I think that is the key point here: if we shift our mindset that it’s not a failure but an opportunity to learn, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad.

If we shift our mindset so that it’s not a failure but an opportunity to learn, it doesn’t seem nearly as bad.

It’s changed my mindset, knowing that. I’m laying down more myelin. This is good.

We are not perfect. I am going to make mistakes here. Hopefully, not too big, but I will. There will be things that I go, “Let me try this,” and it’s not going to work, but that’s okay.

It’s more than okay. That’s the path to success. I would say, yeah, let the failures be bigger rather than smaller as long as they’re not catastrophic. If they’re creative attempts, then you’re on the edge of something new. You tell us what we’re going to talk about in the next episode. Was there anything further you wanted to add to this episode?

No. We went on an epic journey about failure here.

We did. It was very interesting. I still have five pages of notes we didn’t cover for the next show.

I know. It’s so much fun. One thing I want the audience to know is Aurora and I are having a blast. I’ve got a few brain ticklers. I want to make sure I mention this or whatever. However, this is a conversation between two people, and you get to read it.

It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s live. It’s not rehearsed, but it comes to you with full intention to contribute. Also, as we’re doing this content, we will go into Zander’s next book because he’s already a published author, but he’s working on book number two. I’m super stoked about this because while it is lovely to listen to an audiobook, it’s dead. This is alive, and it’s speeding up the creation of your book. You get the videos in between.

In a moment, Zander Sprague is going to tell us what’s coming up in the next episode, which he was teasing us all about at the beginning. For more value, don’t forget to go to zandersprague.com and be sure you can download some goodies there, including some epic sayings that you can put on your fridge. They’ll keep you encouraged. Go to his YouTube channel. Also, you can go to one of my websites, which is ThoughtLeaderLaunch.com and you can get your Thought Leader Starter Kit. What are we going to be talking about next time?

This is so juicy. Epic unexpected.

I love this, as I said in the text.

You and I were texting back and forth about this. I know you wanted to do it in this episode, but I’m like, “No, we’re going to talk about this.” Epic unexpected. Super quick, both Aurora and I have been on unexpected epic journeys, and those journeys have directly brought the two of us to work together and power the work that Aurora and I do. In the next episode, I am super stoked to have this discussion with Aurora. It may end up being a mammoth. It may be like our longest conversation yet because there’s clearly a lot to say. The two of us have quite a lot to say about epic unexpected.

Who knows? That might be a two-parter, but we’ll see. I love this topic, epic unexpected, especially now because we’ve got the pandemic and people are dealing with so many unexpected things. Be sure to check out the next episode. You’ll get some tips about how you may be able to turn it to your benefit. The other thing is be sure to observe how Zander progresses through his journey to become a bestselling author and a speaker who’s addressing audiences of thousands.

I so admire you, Zander, because your enthusiasm is not painted on. It’s all the way through and through you. The way that you show up as the God of Enthusiasm is contagious. As you move forward, it’s so exciting to watch you and support you. I hope that the audience is taking action inspired because they won’t be afraid of failure anymore. Thanks to this. That’s a wrap. We’ll see you on the next show.

You bet. Have a good one.


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