The Best Advice I Ever Got (but was probably a lie) by Anthony Cowan

The best advice I ever got was probably a lie, but I use it every day anyway.

It is our beliefs that drive our actions; free will is an illusion for the most part. We only have the free will to do whatever we have been programmed to do. Sure, we have choices, but only after deciding or (killing off all other options) can we make our choice. So what has trained us to kill off the alternatives? It is our life experiences, and that is what makes us predisposed to act in predictable ways. I am not condemning this machinery of the human being, it goes a long way towards keeping us alive. However, there are those times where risk is avoided, when the loss from taking the risk would have been minimal and the reward great. Those are the times we show up in the world ready for life but instead stay on the bench.

I was 16-years-old and eavesdropping on another person’s conversation when I first heard the best advice I ever got. A man was saying to a younger man more my age at the time, “People who do not take risks in life only end up really failing about two times a year. People who take risks all the time on the other hand, they fail about two times a year.”

I sat stunned as this magical algorithm for life sank into my body, mind, and spirit. I tried to imagine a life so free from fear that I could dare to take every road less traveled. I have many examples in my live where using this program, I did things and achieved results thought of as bold or audacious, where I have been described as having tenacity or fearlessness. They are not the point of this story however. The point of this is actually that at 47 years of age, it only just occurred to me that this magical algorithm for life is far more of a theoretical hypothesis than fact. In my life, I have far more stories of failure than success, if I am honest, a magnitude more. When I realized this, I spent some time and did a lot of reading to evaluate my life’s “theoretical hypothesis”. Here are some points that left me empowered:

“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions--as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” ― Robert F. Kennedy

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless.” ― Neal Shusterman, Unwind

“If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.”

― Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” ― Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad

“Never feel shame for trying and failing for he who has never failed is he who has never tried.” ― Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman In The World

“When I thought about why I was sometimes reluctant to push myself, I realized that it was because I was afraid of failure - but in order to have more success, I needed to be willing to accept more failure.” ― Gretchen Rubin

“No human ever became interesting by not failing. The more you fail and recover and improve, the better you are as a person. Ever meet someone who’s ALWAYS had EVERYTHING work out for them with ZERO struggle? They usually have the depth of a puddle. Or they don’t exist.” ― Chris Hardwick

So with these ratifying statements, I proudly and with great enthusiasm share that which inspired my youth. The most valuable advice I ever heard:

“People who do not take risks in life only end up really failing about two times a year. People who take risks all the time on the other hand, they fail about two times a year.”

Dude I Overheard


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