Dorothea Brande’s “Formula for Success”: The Will to Fail Revisited

At the onset of this Writer’s March Challenge, I wrote about Dorothea Brande and the “Will to Fail,” a concept based on Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” that seeks to name the human propensity towards self sabotage.   As I explained,

Each person has a dream, a goal, an internal sense of what would make their lives better (their own will to power, so to speak), but each person’s will to power [is] usurped by the stronger will to fail.

selfsabotageyoursuccessMany people have watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech, a video I shared and discussed many years ago.  In this speech, Gaiman talks to a group of graduating art students about how to make it as artists in today’s world.  He tells them to always keep in mind what they have at the top of their mountain (their life goal).  Then, when faced with choices on what to do next, he said, keep in mind this mountain and choose options that will take you closer to the top.  And so, put another way, the “Will to Fail” involves all the life choices we make that either take us down or away from our mountains.  It also (perhaps most importantly) asks us to examine all the reasons we stop climbing altogether.

So, what do we do to avoid this “Will to Fail”?  How do we overcome it? In other words, I keep hinting at Brande’s formula for success, but have yet to offer it up.  And so, I offer it now.  As Brande Says,

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail.

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