What we can learn from failure to become more successful.
Hand on heart: What happens when you miss one of the things you set out to achieve?
Do you become sad, demotivated or angry? Do you give up and head to the next best thing?
Really, none of us likes to miss a goal. We might feel inadequate, not good enough, or undeserving of reaching success. All of this is normal and the pain of loss is real. And it stings.
It’s comprehensible if you feel a bit sore after failure. What’s not comprehensible is, if you give up now. It’s surely easier said than done, but this is the point in time that will differentiate you from those who will never catch their dreams. Think about anyone who became insanely successful at what they did. What made them succeed (eventually) was not dwelling in what went wrong but trying over and over again.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
It’s time to re-frame “failure” in our heads and make it a tool that helps you on your journey towards what you really want. Failure can be your best teacher, if you let it teach you.
So let’s look at what it is really good for, and how you can use it as a springboard to your success.
What failure can teach you:
1) What and how to improve
When you fail, something was missing. Look closely at the reasons why something didn’t work out. Failure can reveal what to change to get closer to success. And even if it is not extremely obvious, incremental improvements will help you to become better over time.
2) What you really want and how badly you want it
As mentioned before, failure can be a real downer. You might even want to give up completely. This post is not meant to push you into continuing doing something that actually lost its relevance for you. Failure can give you a little break to reconsider if you’re still chasing the right thing. Simply ask yourself: is this still something I’d love to achieve? If you say no: double-check and ask: am I simply giving up because it seems too difficult? If it’s still no, it’s okay to let go and pursue something new. Any doubts? Try at least one more time!
3) How far you can bend your perceived limitations
We all have a certain image of ourselves in our minds. “I’m a great runner.” “I’m a bad listener.” “I’m a good writer.” “I’m a horrible singer.” These self-beliefs form our identities. They might result from experiences we had in the past or things said to us throughout our life. At the same time, self-beliefs can be limiting. They can serve as a shortcut to telling ourselves why we shouldn’t even try.
However, if you are someone who believes you can learn things and improve if something doesn’t work out, you are more likely to understand that capabilities are not fixed. You can learn to become better, you can succeed and you can overcome your inabilities.
4) It does not discriminate
Everyone fails at something at some point. As much as we’d like to avoid failure, it is inevitable. Think about it: you need to go out and take certain risks. Risks are risks because they involve a potential loss. But what’s the alternative? Not risking anything to avoid any loss? What kind of life is that? Start reading about the lives of successful people and you’ll see there are no exceptions. All of them failed before they became successful. They still fail because success is not a constant but a constant struggle.
5) How to overcome struggles
Life is rarely straightforward and easy. Struggles are normal and plenty. Each failure is making us more familiar with this fact. The more you deal with difficult things the better you become at them. Practice makes perfect. But it’s not only the fact that you’re encountering them often but also that you learn along the way. Your strategic thinking improves with overcoming struggles as you have to find solutions to move ahead.
6) When it’s time to reach out for help
In some cases, it might be time to find someone who is experienced with the things you want to achieve. There’s probably someone you know or heard of who is ahead in the game you’re trying to play. Connect with them, read about what they do and, how they tackle issues.
Don’t feel too proud or insecure to ask someone for help. It can also be a friend or family member. This will require vulnerability, you will let down your guard of: “I can do it all by myself!” Nobody successful does it all by themselves really. Usually, there is a whole team or at least a bunch of people around a single player, musician, artist, successful business owner…
7) Accept feedback and act on it
Along your way to achievement, you’ll receive feedback. Unsolicited feedback, direct and indirect feedback. Feedback at the point of failure can be extra hard to accept as it hits directly when and where it hurts the most. But no matter where it comes from and if you like it or not: take the time and look at it. Try to understand the perspective of those who give you feedback. What can you learn from their way of looking at what you’re trying to do? What are the golden nuggets of advice that might hide in a comment? Look at what it can help you with based on THE THING you want to achieve and not on what you read into it about what it says regarding you as A PERSON.
8) That its detours might teach valuable lessons
Sometimes you want to get somewhere fast. So fast, that anything that gets in the way makes you furious. I had that recently with one of the bureaucratic things we are going through while registering a business in Germany (that’s another long story to be covered soon :)). Let me tell you as much: it made me so angry, I wanted to scream – and I am a very calm person. However, in hindsight of hitting another bureaucratic wall, I realised I’m stronger than I thought. It took me an afternoon to calm down, my problem-solving mode went on, I communicated at different levels with different people and then forgot about it. Mostly, our path to getting what we want is not straight. We like to forget about the fact that we have to make detours all the time. Things that don’t go much “as planned” shape us, they change us and they make us the person we are today. So whenever you get angry that things don’t work at first, try to look at what that way off the path teaches you.
9) You need to invest all your focus and attention
It’s so easy to get distracted nowadays. I don’t have to tell you about the many ways social media tries to get our attention and all the things that shout at us: look at me, spend time with me, buy me!
These distractions can also be a welcome excuse for why something didn’t work out. But let me tell you: you are the owner of your priorities, your time, and how you spend it. Yes, there are certain things that might require your attention – but not 24h a day. So no matter how much time is left to you to invest into your goal, use it. No excuses, no scrolling through Twitter/TikTok/Instagram/Reddit/Facebook or whatever your poison is. Time is what’s needed to practice and to become good at something. So the more of it you spend focusing on your goal the earlier you will reap the fruits of success.
10) That you are the only one who’s responsible
Last but not least, try to stay out of the trap of making excuses. If something doesn’t work it’s not solely due to outside problems, other people, or because the weather was bad. Take what you want to achieve as your personal responsibility. Grab your life and what you want with both hands. Work and improve. Fail, stand up, wipe the dust away and repeat. Your ability to take responsibility for your failures and continuous trials will help you win big!
Learn more on how to change your mindset about failure with our “Be Your Best” course