Kevin Biggar on The Mindset of Failure

Last updated on June 10, 2020

Interview: Kevin Biggar on his life as an adventurer, author, speaker and business coach with particular insights on the mindset surrounding failure.

 Kevin was a strategy consultant with The Boston Consulting Group when he decided to take part in the world’s toughest endurance event – the Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race. 

Throughout the preparations and the journey he learned valuable lessons about goal setting, determination, teamwork under pressure, persevering through adversity and maximising performance.

The incredible story of his transformation from couch potato to world record holder is told in ‘The Oarsome Adventures of a Fat Boy Rower’ and was awarded the Sunday Star Times ‘Sports Book of the Year 2008′.

He then took on an even more ridiculous challenge – the first ever unsupported trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

Pulling loads that started at 160kg and temperatures as cold as -40C, Kevin and his co-adventurer Jamie Fitzgerald battled frostbite, injury, whiteouts, crevasses, gear failure and slow starvation. In the 52 days it took to get to the Pole he lost over 20kgs.

Kevin and Jamie then went on to host the TVNZ documentary series ‘First Crossings’ and then ‘Intrepid NZ’. In these shows they recreated some of the hardest parts of pioneering adventure stories in New Zealand.

His professional career has included working in problem solving, consulting and strategy roles at The NZ Treasury and large multinationals like The Boston Consulting Group, as well as small businesses and more recently as the CEO of a software startup. 

As an endurance athlete myself I totally relate to  some of the stories Kevin tells as well as his mindset and thoughts on the types of failure we experience in life and business.

The Temporary Redirect Show Live Kevin Biggar Interview

Watch the replay of the live Interview with Kevin Biggar:


 Kevin’s thought on Failure:

Whenever we consider taking on a challenge, our brain begins computing whether the effort is going to be worth the reward – less the consequences of failure. How we think about failure controls the size of the challenges we take on.

When the consequences of failure are large we tend to take on smaller challenges or just give big challenges a half-hearted attempt, continuing only until we can confirm our poor progress which our lack of effort soon provides!

The way to fix this is by looking at the ‘real’ and the psychological consequences of failure closely.

We tend to think that we get the benefits from a challenge only when we achieve the goal. Winners get everything, losers get nothing. This is only true if you’re in bomb disposal or are juggle chainsaws. Otherwise, for most of the challenges we take on the more effort the more benefit. If we fall a little short, or even a lot short it’s no big deal. You lost 6gs and not 8kgs? You’re still better off. We think that our benefits come in STEPS when mostly they come as RAMPS. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Telling ourselves that we have to reach our target, is great for increasing pressure and motivation. Up to a point. Because if we ever feel like we’re not going to reach our target then motivation can collapse.

If you feel this happening to yourself, then look to see what the underlying situation is, because if it’s a RAMP. See if you can:

  • Set yourself ‘Good, Better, Best’ goals.
  • Just set yourself the target of improving.

    So yes you can start working on cleaning the garage. You don’t have to finish it. Just make it better than it is now!

    On the psychological side of failure. Next time you think you’ve failed then you might want to consider three things before you give your self-esteem a kicking:

  • Success on your goal often depends on things outside your control. Achieving isn’t just about wanting the goal, it’s about having the right method and skills and often luck as well.
  • Sometimes the right decision and actions don’t produce the right outcome (that doesn’t mean you didn’t do the right thing.)
  • Sometimes you can’t logic your way to a solution, you have to iterate your way to success. Like comedians testing their material in the suburbs before the big tv special.

If you would like to follow Kevin on LinkedIn you can do so here.

For more information about Kevin’s coaching and speaking you can visit his website here.


About the Author

Glenn is the founder of Konnector and has an incredibly strong background in digital strategy as well as achieving and managing growth.

He has grown a business from scratch to a $5mill+ turnover in a little over 3yrs. Worked in both SMB and corporate environments and understands what is needed to get things done in both environments.

Glenn Marvin