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Food For Thought: Redefining Failure

Let’s play a game. I’ll state a word and your job is to think of the opposite word.




Chances are, the first three “opposite” words that came to mind were “Bad, Down, and Failure.” It’s amazing how programmed we’ve become to view failure as the opposite of success. In actuality, failed attempts often serve as precursors to triumph. Many of the world’s greatest inventions were conceived through failure.

When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he did so after many failed attempts. He’s famously quoted as saying: “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.” In a more recent example, Instagram didn’t start out as Instagram. Touting itself as an app that gave users a platform to check in at particular locations, earn points for hanging out with friends, make future plans at future locations, and post pictures of hangouts, “Burbn” was a colossal failure. The app tried to do too much at once, tried to be too many things, had too many features, and because of that, was confusing for users. It felt cluttered, clunky, and lacked clarity.

Instead of throwing in the towel and accepting their fate as the newest addition to the two-thirds of apps that fail within their first year of launch, the co-founders of Burbn used data to figure out exactly how the customers it had were using it. They identified two key findings: people were posting and sharing photos very frequently, and they were applying Burbn’s filters to enhance those photos. They went back to the drawing board and scrapped all of Burbn’s other features, embracing the concept that “simple is better.” After spending a few months revamping Burbn, the co-founders launched a simple photo-sharing app they named Instagram.

There are a couple lessons we can learn from these scenarios and apply to healthy living.

1. Failure isn’t the end of the road, it’s a step in the journey.

Rather than viewing failure as the be-all-end-all indicator of your self-worth or perceiving the possibility of failure as a reason to never even try, choose to view it as one step closer to finding a solution. As Thomas Edison demonstrated: sometimes big accomplishments take 1,000 steps.

Instagram’s Kevin Systrom stated at a conference in 2012: “It’s about going through false starts, and, yep, Burbn was a false start.” The same could be said for changing behaviors: we are all constantly evolving, figuring out what works for us at this given time in life and choosing to move through our “false starts.” So often, it’s the self-limiting beliefs we create after encountering “false starts” that limit our potential and hold us hostage in inaction.

2. Simple is Better

How often do we stand in our own way by overcomplicating change? In large part, Burbn bit the dust because it did so many things, but none of them particularly well. When it comes to creating sustainable change, a small change approach attempts to identify small habits you would like to create that are not leaps and bounds from your current situation, but that would move you in the direction you want to go.

For example, if you’re currently consuming zero vegetables, a small change to make would be trying one bite of vegetables, or even walking to the vegetable section of the grocery store and finding out more information. While these may not seem like huge leaps, they are small things you can do that create a ripple effect and serve as catalysts in propelling you forward toward making more changes and changes that last.

What are the “Burbn’s” of your past that led you to your Profile journey? What have you learned from your previous attempts at weight management that you can apply to the here and now? Every mistake we’ve made is an opportunity to learn and grow on our journey. Through this process, little by little we can make big changes in our lives and drastically transform who we are. No change is insignificant, no matter how small. You can do this! Always remember: every little step you take gets you closer to where you want to be.

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