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5 Ways to Rethink Failure

May 9, 2016

Last week I wrote about Reframing Failure, specifically about why you might want to change your thinking and beliefs around failure. In a nutshell: to make your life easier, more enjoyable, and more successful.

 

Now that the "why" is covered, I'm going to address the "how." Without further ado, the following are five key points that will help you reframe and rethink your outlook on failure:

 

1. Failing Doesn't Mean You're A Failure

 

So you failed at something, so what? Big deal. People fail all the time. They pick themselves up, try again, or move on, and so can you. Failure is a result, it's not who you are. Just because you've "failed" at something, doesn't mean you're a failure as a person. Far from it, in fact. Failing at something means that you were initially willing to try something that didn't come with a guarantee, that you were willing to take on a challenge or a risk. And that takes balls.

 

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

 

 

2. Failure is a Speed Bump on the Road to Success

 

Pretty much every successful person you can name will have failed at some point in their lives, it's inevitable. And many of them have probably failed more than you can even imagine. For example: Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, was denied by 242 banks before one finally gave him the funds he needed. 242! 

 

Imagine, if you will, what our lives would have been like if Mr. Shultz had let failure stop him. A world without Starbucks. And possibly other coffee shop chains that emulated Starbucks. We might still be brewing instant at home! 

 

Back to Mr. Shultz: it wasn't that he never failed that made him a success, it was that he kept trying after each failure until he succeeded. Each denied bank loan was one appointment closer to a loan approval. And imagine how much he must have learned along the way.

 

 “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.” - Denis Waitley

 

 

3. What Other People Think of Your Failure is Irrelevant

 

Are you going to let someone's opinion of one of your failures stop you, and therefore prevent you from achieving success? People are going to have multitudes of thoughts, opinions, and judgments, and there is nothing we can do about that. Getting caught up in worrying about what other people think of you can be paralyzing and prevent you from taking the next step or trying again.

 

If you notice others are judging your failures, take this as an opportunity to exercise compassion. Imagine how they must feel about themselves taking risks and possibly failing. There's a good chance they are more distressed about it than you are.

 

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” - Eloise Ristad

 

4. Some Failures are Out of Your Control

 

Sometimes you can't prevent a failure, no matter what you do. For example, you lose the bidding war for the house you wanted, or the plants you were growing for your experiment died because there was a power failure while you were away. We could make endless lists of scenarios where "failure", so to speak, is out of your control. What matters most, however, is your attitude towards these events.

 

Don't beat yourself up for something that happened or didn't happen that was out of your control. Don't stress over it or dwell on it for long. There was nothing you could have done to change the outcome. Let go of the things you can't control, and know that even if you failed, you did your best. And that's all you can do.

 

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

 

 

5. Failure Helps Build Resilience, Which Makes You Stronger. 

 

Resilience: according to Wikipedia, resilience is defined as an individual's ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity. 

 

Imagine someone (Guy #1) who doesn't try new things, take on challenges or risks, and as a result doesn't ever experience failure. Now let's say Guy #1 is faced with a traumatic event, perhaps he gets laid off at work. How well do you think Guy #1 is going to be equipped to face this, compared to Guy #2, who regularly takes risks, tries new things, fails at some and succeeds at others. My money is on Guy #2 to come out of this with fewer scratches.

 

The more practice you get bouncing back from defeat, the more successful you are likely to become, because failure becomes less and less scary the more often you are able to prove to yourself that you can recover from it. Failures also force you to rethink, reconsider, be creative, and find new resources and means to achieve your goals.

 

"It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” - J.K. Rowling

 

 

How are you feeling about failure now? 

 

Failure is a necessary part of a successful life, and the less you are afraid of it, the more you will flourish. So go forth and flourish away!

 

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