Failing Your Way to Success

Commenting to a friend recently how much I was struggling with the issue of failing in relation to certain business goals, she replied “well…no one likes failing do they?”

And I don’t believe anyone does, but what about those who manage to see a failed attempt as education, as necessary feedback to see if a chosen approach works?

Isn’t the real issue how quickly we can put a failure in context, learn what we need to learn from a failure and move on.

Given we know that failing is typically necessary on the path to success, what if we could find a faster way to deal with this process?

In this blog I’ll consider why it is we don’t find it easy to fail, and propose a 3-step process you can use whenever you want to deal with failure in a more productive way.

When Did Failure Become Bad?

Failing to achieve goals or live up to standards we set for ourselves can deplete our energy and make us doubt our abilities. It can send us into black moods and take away our desire to tackle anything difficult. When we look back, however, we often see that our failures have contributed to subsequent success, so why can’t we make this connection earlier?

I have often heard the comment “If toddlers treated failure as a reason to stop trying, they’d never walk” And the vast majority of us are living proof we pushed through that challenge! What changed?
When we’re toddlers taking our first steps our environment is one of support and encouragement. No one comments “you’ve probably given that enough of a go why don’t you stop that and try something else?” Toddlers are also sponges for what is going on around them. They will see people walking and see no reason why they shouldn’t do the same.

As we grow older there’s no doubt that the expectation of others and ourselves start to colour our view of failure. When others achieve higher scores, complete things in shorter times or develop skills more easily we start to questions. Maybe I’m not meant to be good at that, maybe I should try something else.

Inspiration from “Eddie the Eagle”

But not everybody, the movie Eddie the Eagle is based on the real-life story of a boy who was absolutely convinced from an early age that he was destined to be an Olympian. He goes through some unbelievable hurdles and enlists support from unlikely places to finally achieve his dream. It’s inspiring, Eddie held onto his belief and saw every set back or failure as challenges to overcome.

While we find the end result inspiring, as is typically the case Eddie was viewed as crazy by almost everyone. Why couldn’t he accept ‘reality’ and stop pursuing what seemed impossible. The answer was that what drove him was much stronger than short term failure or other people’s views.

Turning Failure into Success

So I think the questions you ideally ask yourself are

How long should I reflect on a failure so you can learn what you need and let the rest go?

Is what I’m doing helping me learn what I need to get to where I want to go?

The next time you’re doubting your ability, or dwelling a lot on what’s not working out for you or your business, consider trying the following approach:

  • What is the truth? What actually happened, or what’s actually happening right now?
  • If you were to learn from this. What would the lesson be? What would you do differently? What else would you try?
  • Make a choice, and congratulate yourself for having the courage to try and risk failure.
    Rinse and repeat.

I’m very interested in hearing how you view and deal with failure. Let me know in the comments section below!