Congratulations. You Failed!

I don’t care how great Banting or Keto are for weight loss or diabetes. I am yet to meet someone (even these peeps from our success stories) who started their journey and just sailed on through to the finish line without a crisis.

One of the Mindset Workshops I host on the Real Meal Revolution Online Course is called ‘The Personal Diet Manifesto’. I use the workshop to build a list of all the diets people have tried and failed at. If you feel bad about how many things you’ve tried and failed at, you would find yourself in good company.

When I start the round of questioning, I get some pushback from the room. Everyone feels a little ashamed of how many things they have tried and failed at. I encourage them to share anyway, and we push through to build the list.

We usually build a list of about 30 different eating programs people have tried. Then we discuss what works and doesn’t work with each one.

At this point in the workshop there is an uneasy laughter coming through the screen. Looking at the list, it is easy to self-flagellate for having failed so many times.

If you’ve tried 30 diets and failed, then you must be a failure, right?


Let’s take it out of context for a sec. Imagine you are talking about a child of yours (or a niece or nephew, or someone young and innocent) to a friend. The child is desperate to get accepted into a school, club or team. They’re so desperate that they try 30 times, and each time they try, they use a different method to get in.

How would you describe that kid?

Would you say, ‘This kid’s a total failure!’ or would you say, ‘This kid has grit. She won’t quit until she’s in and she won’t take no for an answer’?

If you have tried 30 diets and failed, you are tough as nails, in my opinion. You are a badass in relentless pursuit of the body and/or health that you want. You have tried and failed so many times, but you just won’t quit.

If you quit rating yourself on your results, and rated yourself on your ability to get up and try again, how would your opinion of yourself change?

It is easy to think that because you have failed 30 times, your odds on succeeding are getting lower every time. But academically, that doesn’t make sense.

If getting it right is inevitable (which is something you will have to decide), then each time you attempt and fail, you are simply moving closer and closer to that time when you do in fact succeed.

But, there is a catch. And, without getting this right, you will continue to fail.

You absolutely have to reframe what failure is. You must decide that there is no such thing as failure. You must decide that the only true failure is the failure to learn from your mistakes.

Thomas Edison (who invented the lightbulb) famously said,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Imagine if he quit at attempt failure No.30? We’d still be using kerosene lamps.

Michael Jordan (arguably the greatest sportsman of all time) must have about a hundred quotes about failure, but this one stands out for me:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and miss. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeed.”

I want to repeat that last bit.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeed.”

Personal trainers, bodybuilders and sport scientists have a very casual relationship with the word ‘failure’. In the context of weight lifting, ‘Go till failure’ means ‘do as many reps as you can until you fail’. That means, you have to do as many arm curls as you can, and you’re not allowed to stop until your body gives up on you. It is deliberate failure with the aim of strengthening your muscles.

There is also a catch-phrase in Start-up culture of ‘Fail Fast’. What it means is that teams and individuals should try everything and anything as fast as they can so they can see for sure what works and what doesn’t, so they can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

If you keep trimming what doesn’t work, then you will eventually be left with only things that work.

To bring this back to your food transformation, your keto or Banting efforts, and your numerous attempts at sticking to a new lifestyle, we need to re-evaluate how we respond to failures.

There are some questions you can ask yourself to put this all in perspective:

If Thomas Edison quit, we wouldn’t have light bulbs. What would I be depriving the world of if I just quit now? Maybe it won’t be a light bulb, but what joy would my family or my childhood miss out on if I fail at this undertaking? How might the world be worse off from having a lesser version of myself?

If failure means pushing myself until I cannot go anymore, what are ways that will allow me to push further? What if I use lighter weights (start slow, maybe not go all in with Banting or Keto. Maybe I should start small, and just quit chips and coke for now). If I am strengthening a muscle by pushing to failure, all I need is some rest and I should be able to come back stronger – right? Yes. Failure is just feedback. It is letting you know where your current level of strength or skill can get you. Which leads into the next point…

If I have failed consistently, and fast, what are the lessons that I have already learned that, if acted upon, could catapult my skills and strength to a new dimension? And, what if I take that attitude into future failures? How much faster could I get at learning, and what results could I generate if I became a Fail-Fast-Machine?

It is hard to fail if you know you’re going to get a bollocking from yourself about what a failure you are. But as hard as it is, we still fail, and we still tell ourselves what we think we need to hear. And this is where a language distinction is critical.

If you look at everything as right or wrong, and failing or succeeding, there will always be anxiety or emotion attached to the outcome.

But, if you shift the focus right/wrong/fail/succeed to what is workable or unworkable, the emotion is sapped out of it. But even more interesting, the culprit changes.

If something is good or bad, it is usually the person who is doing it who gets labeled with ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’. But, if something is workable or unworkable, the culprit is the situation.

In diet, it is much more productive to observe a failed attempt through the lens of what was ‘unworkable’ than it is to look at it in terms of success or failure. Workability refers to the people you hang out with, the environment you find yourself in, the way you spend your money and the way you schedule your time.

A person can’t be unworkable, but situations can be.

If you can think in terms of workability when you’re evaluating a pizza binge or a champagne and cupcake orgy, you look outside of yourself and focus on the other factors that made sticking to your guns unworkable. And, that is when learning from your failures becomes easy.

The most important question to ask yourself about a failure is, ‘What didn’t work?’. If you ask ‘why didn’t that work?’ you may be tempted to say, ‘because I’m a failure’. But ‘What didn’t work’ forces you to look at the environment – the people, the places, the things – and to narrow down what tripped you up, or what pushed you to failure.

As Winston Churchill says,

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”

In conclusion:

Consider what the world, and the people in your life, might miss out on if you don’t achieve what you are after.

Remember that pushing yourself to failure is a way of strengthening a muscle. 

Workability is more important than failing or succeeding. 

Failing as fast as possible is a goal to aspire to, as long as you bank what works and what doesn’t

I pity the fool who tries something and gets it right the first time. They will be unwise when the going gets tough, because they have learned less. They will have less grit and less appreciation for what they have achieved.

Someone who fails over and over, continuously tweaking their approach, until they win. That is who I want on my team. They will know the value of what they have, and they will never want lose it.

So congrats to you if you failed today, this week, this month or this year. You’ve shortened the distance between where you were and your finish line.

Now dust yourself off and take another shot, because you’re guaranteed to miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

And, if you want to join one of those workshops, or take another shot with some help from us, check out our online course.