“There Is Only One Thing That Makes A Dream Impossible To Achieve: The Fear Of Failure.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
How many times have you had events and situations where you failed in the last couple of years?
Did you fail several times? How did you deal with the crushing blow of failure?
Did you not fail at all? Listen up. You may have been sailing in the safe harbors and unwilling to take risks to practice and perform at the edge of your skill levels.
Regardless of where you are at, the understanding and management of failure benefits everyone.
Failure is a greatly misinterpreted word.
Failure scares us.
Failure demotivates us and drives us crazy with desperation.
Failure can wreak havoc on our peace of mind and make us anxious and stressed out.
Failure is generally perceived as a completely undesirable aspect of life that you would rather avoid.
Why has failure attained this massive reputation as being completely undesirable that can bring even the most level headed of people to their knees and hoping that it never embraced their life?
Somewhere along the way in the process of growing up, we may have forgotten that we were all right with repeatedly failing and brushing ourselves off and retrying.
That is precisely how we learned anything at all. We learned to crawl by repeatedly trying and failing and then trying again. We learnt to walk by failing and falling countless times.
If we tell a child to stop trying and stop failing they will probably look at us like we are crazy and they will probably be right.
Children intuitively knows that trying, failing, and doing what works like learning how to walk and talk is natural and comes as second nature to them.
But somewhere along the way, we picked up:
Fear after failing…
Anxiety to fail and look bad…
Guilt and shame for attempting and failing and trying again…
The accumulation of beliefs that made it impossible to gracefully fail and learn and still look up proudly like a child does…
Erroneous expectations around words like “dreams” and “success” and having expectations that made failing the worst possible thing in the universe…
A collective judgment and criticism of people who try and fail and fail again…
I think that we need to redefine the negative charge and energy that we have around the thought, feeling and the act of failure and reframe it in the positive and powerful light that it can really be in our life.
Here are a few ideas on the incredible power of failure:
1. Failure is An Event And Events Can Change
“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” – Zig Ziglar
You get crushed by failure because you attribute the reasons for failing to be you.
However, change the way you look at failure by recognizing that failure is just an event, just an occurrence.
Do not allow negative thinking to define you as a failure.
You may fail at times but you can succeed too and the negativity and shame wrapped around failure should not be allowed to define you, your worth, and who you truly are.
Refuse to think that you are a failure, and instead think that your life is open slate, a masterpiece, a painting that you are creating, a journey and an adventure that you are actively crafting.
“You make mistakes, mistakes don’t make you” ― Maxwell Maltz
2. The Experimenter
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
The magic of science works wonders when it comes to failure as the famous quote from Edison demonstrates.
Scientists know that failure is just another experiment that will shine some much-needed light on the problem and further their understanding of life and science.
What a liberating thought and feeling to be able to treat every thing that did not work and every failure as an experiment towards your hypotheses.
You are merely making observations and drawing conclusions to move forward on the next experiment when you confront failure.
You are the complete scientist in your own life asking questions, making astute observations, elucidating things that are difficult to understand and above all taking action to move forward.
“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
3. The Secret Of Success
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Every successful person knows that success is very hard earned.
Even more importantly they know that success is not a pinnacle to achieve.
In order to remain at a level of excellence, they understand that they still need to miss shots as Michael Jordan did.
Great success is punctuated with great failure. Period.
There are no or very few shortcuts to success. The roads are paved with failure and decorated with setbacks.
4. The Yin And Yang Of Failure and Of Success
“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres
The important thing to remember is that success and failure are like the different sides of a coin.
Success and failure are like the sacred eastern symbols of life-The Yin and Yang.
One cannot and should not be expected to exist without the other.
Just like the day arises and the night falls and another day peeks at you, success and failure are the Yin and Yang on the journey of life.
This realization gives you the hope and the permission to take a few risks as Ellen suggests in the quote above and that both success and failure are equally important.
5. Enthusiasm, the Key Ingredient
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”― Winston Churchill
Do you lose your enthusiasm after failure?
Do you find it difficult to motivate yourself and move ahead in the event of setbacks and crushing failure?
The key is to find something that you are greatly enthusiastic towards, something that even if you fail repeatedly, you do not lose enthusiasm and hope.
For this to happen, you need to understand very clearly your reasons and your “why” for doing something. Uncover the real reasons behind your goals and actions and reiterate them often.
Find commonalities in your skills and passions that enhance enthusiasm and build them up and make them so strong that you do not anymore run away from failure but you embrace it as it comes along.
6. Failure is Essential To Become The Person You Want To Become
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”― Maya Angelou
Do you rise after your failures or do you remain crushed and depressed?
This is a very important question that the amazing Maya Angelou asks you and encourages you to never get defeated.
In fact, failure defines and makes you realize your true capacities and how resilient you can be in the face of change and setbacks. Once you understand this, you cannot un-understand this much like unlearning balancing the bicycle.
You may lose practice of riding a bicycle but you never usually lose the sense of balance. Going through trials and tribulations and coming through the other end is similar to that.
It molds you and makes you realize how amazing and resilient you are and how you can brush of the dirt and still keep walking. It is an experience and cannot be intellectualized.
“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” -Tony Robbins
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”- Confucius
7. Learning To Fail Better And Learning From The Process
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”― Samuel Beckett
You have been repeatedly shown how to succeed better and model success.
But what if an essential component were left out of that idea? What if we needed to learn how to fail better and learn and fail even better as Beckett wisely observes?
When you try again and again and instead of spinning your wheels, you attempt something new and try something different and in essence you allow yourself to fail better.
Surely you will be moving ahead in the realization of where you need to be if you successively fail better.
Finally you will fail so well that you will have learnt all the secrets there are to succeed in your skill.
“Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker.”― Zig Ziglar
8. Are You Taking The Shots, Are You Moving Forward?
“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -Wayne Gretzky
The question is if you are continually taking the shots in your life or are you assuming that you will fail and passing up on them?
Are you moving forward or are you allowing the thought monster of failure to stop you?
Are you saying: Not me, not now and so on or are you just going for it and making an attempt?
We need to remember that repeated attempts in something make us a lot better.
It is all about the practice and taking as many shots as you can.
How many shots are you allowing yourself to take?
9. Unlocking the Mysteries and Lessons of Failure
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” ― Henry David Thoreau
I love Thoreau’s quote because it is simple and very profound at the same time.
The idea that we will be rewarded by our setbacks and our failures may be a foreign one to you but if you dig deeper, you will always find some lesson or some new approach from your failures.
Failure is a wonderful teacher and often we forget that we need to keep learning and moving towards excellence after we attain a certain success.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés advises us in wise and no uncertain words that failure is a great teacher and can be more effective than success.
Because failure can spark you to great action.
Failure can unlock parts of you that you knew never existed.
Failure can show and tell you loopholes that you may not observe when you gain success.
“Failure is a greater teacher than success”― Clarissa Pinkola Estés
10. Did you think that Failure Is Unique To Your Journey?
“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”― J.M. Barrie
Every single one of us has repeatedly failed in our journeys. Let that sink in to your consciousness.
As I write this, I need to allow this wisdom to sink into my understanding too.
The idea that every great success comes after and beyond great failures is a wonderfully liberating one. Now you have the permission to try your best, fail if that is the outcome and then do something else with that knowledge.
This understanding that everyone fails gives you the framework to place failure in an essential light and not run away from it since that would be highly detrimental to the success that you seek.
11. Radical Creativity Involves Repeatedly Failing And Taking Missteps
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”― Ken Robinson
We are all highly creative beings.
If you have been made to believe anything less than that, let us clear the air right now.
You are more creative than you give yourself credit for.
But as with other aspects of life, creativity is also deeply intertwined with the idea of attempting things and doing something wrong or making mistakes in order to get something original.
Stories abound of how creative people have tried and tried till they have come up with something original.
Charles Schultz, the writer and illustrator of Peanuts comic strip wrote it almost every day for 50 years and published almost Seventeen thousand nine hundred strips in total.
However, not all the strips were great and not all of them received the same acclaim.
12. The Transformation Through Failure
“The phoenix must burn to emerge.”― Janet Fitch
Failure transforms the person and seasons them to accomplish their next challenge with greater ease.
Ask anyone who has gone through great challenges and has emerged successful and they will tell you the efficacy of setbacks.
You may hear words like:
Spark to succeed…
Transformation and Change…
What does failure spark in you?
13. Beyond The Fear Of Failure
“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”― Beverly Sills
Failure is scary but the final effect of not trying is the idea that we must all be really afraid of.
The idea that we had the time to sing our song but were afraid of failure.
The thought that we could have made a difference but took the road much travelled.
The lack of action because we were afraid of hypothetical failure.
It may not be a bad idea to distinguish between the fear of failure and the act of failure.
Often you may be afraid of the idea of failure and when you actually go ahead and do something and fail, it does not seem like such a big deal.
“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” Bill Cosby
“Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure.”― Jack Lemmon
14. Living Out Your True Story
“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” -Buddha
Live out your true story. Your best version of you. You are not trying to improve yourself.
You are just trying to uncover your true capacities and your true passions.
If you truly live your your authentic story, every failure along the way will be as or more sweet than a great success that is lived in inauthenticity.
15. On Improvising and Trying a New Approach
“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”― Roger Von Oech
This is truly the reason why you need to invite failure into your stead and do a dance with it.
Failure gives you the chance to do something different, change a few things, and to tweak the status quo a little to have greater impact.
As Innovation expert Roger Von Oech says, failure can be highly beneficial and allow you to know what works and what doesn’t work in your life while allowing you to improvise.
“The person who failed often knows how to avoid future failures. The person who knows only success can be more oblivious to all the pitfalls.”― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
16. Perhaps Avoiding Failure Is Preventing Great Success
“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
This may be the great truth of success that avoiding failure and the lessons locked up inside prevent us from seeing the complete picture.
Much like the holes in Swiss cheese analogy from Salman Khan of Khan Academy about filling our gaps in understanding, what if failure allows us to fill those holes in the journey to success.
What if failure and the subsequent filling of holes of perception from that understanding are vital to the whole story of success?
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”― Napoleon Hill
17. The Error In Judgment
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
We often make the mistake of assigning too much importance to one event, one failure, one person who criticizes us and so on and so forth.
When a single defeat consumes your life, you are inclined to just give up and give in.
But is a single defeat the final defeat?
18. The Sweet Feeling Of Trying And Great Action
“There are defeats more triumphant than victories.” -Michel de Montaigne
I remember the wise words of Jim Rohn that he considered the journey of becoming a millionaire, and the experiences along the way to be the relevant part of making that sum of money and not the sum itself.
It is the journey and what you learn along the way that is significant.
When you make a great attempt at something and learn a great deal, often even if you lose, the defeat is very sweet.
Even though it probably hurts, you are still very pleased by your attempts and your relentless hard work.
If you enjoy your journey thoroughly and you are having a lot of fun, how can you ever be considered a failure?
“No man is a failure who is enjoying life.” -William Feather
19. Change Your Focus And Your Energy And Dwell On Hope
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping-stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash
Hope is a very powerful word. The important question to ask is where is your focus?
Are you focusing on how you failed and how you cannot do anything?
Or are you focusing on the lessons of failure and how you can use them to your advantage and do something awesome, or make a small and meaningful impact in the universe?
It is all about the direction, the hope and the focus.
“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.” – Mia Hamm
20. Cast The Shame Aside
“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
Yes, do it now. Cast the shame aside for good.
You can learn from setbacks if you are not shameful of failure and if you embrace it as something that happens to humans.
When you try your best and make repeated efforts towards excellence, you have nothing to be shameful about.
You need to be proud and happy about your limitless courage and perseverance.
“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”― Thomas A. Edison
21. Reframe Failure As An Essential Tool Of Transformation In Your Journey
“I wasn’t afraid to fail. Something good always comes out of failure.” – Anne Baxter
Finally, reframe failure and remember that something good can come out of it.
Even if you are just learning how to cope with difficult moments, that skill may be an invaluable lesson that we all need to learn in our lives.
Failure can be a great blessing in disguise.
Just as a diamond undergoes great pressure to become its current form, so might failure put us to trials and impose demands on us, finally making us sparkle and release our brilliance to the world.
Now over to you, my WONDERFUL readers! Let me know in the comments below if you have any great strategies to get beyond failure and how you deal with setbacks in your life.