We all experience failures, it is an inevitable and very important part of life.
It is however very different how we react to failures.
Even though it may seem like successful people and high achievers have just stumbled straight into success, this is rarely the case. More often than not, they have experienced tons of failures along the way.
What made them successful was how they chose to react to those failures.
“Failures are stepping stones to success.”
― Arianna Huffington
The most important difference between the successful and everybody else is not “talent” or “ability”, it is that they see failure as learning, as active feedback.
“Okay, that didn´t work, I will try something else”, instead of thinking “okay, that didn´t work, I am probably not good enough and should stop trying”.
Have you ever thought like that yourself?
“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
― John Dewey
Unfortunately, we live in an age where appearance and vanity dictate much of our behaviour, and therefore most people abstain from even trying anything they “may” fail at. And if we did venture into something and then failed, most will never dare try again.
So we are more afraid of looking stupid than we are hungry for trying to create new things, learn new skills and achieve success.
There are a few that don´t care how they look, and who capitalises on that the rest do. There are a few who relentlessly work relentlessly towards their goal, taking every success AND failure along the way and turns it into learning on which they IMPROVE their craft and get even better.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
― Richard Branson
And this does not just apply to the Richard Branson´s and Arianna Huffington´s of the world. It applies to everyone.
Imagine having two car salesmen:
Salesman 1 tries to sell a car, fails to convince the client who then leaves the shop.
Salesman 1 then proceeds to think “that was embarrassing, I thought that was a done sale. I hope no one saw it. I am not very good at this. I should probably quit and find something else to do.”
Salesman 2 also tries to sell a car, also fails to convince his client who also leaves the shop. However, our second salesman proceeds to think “that didn´t work, I wonder why? What could I have done differently, was it something with my body language, tone or the technical information I talked about? Maybe the payment plan wasn´t a good deal for them. Had I not read them correctly? I will make sure to correct all of this and do better next time”.
Who is more likely to sell the next car?
“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.”
– Charles F. Kettering
A very important thing to remember when it comes to taking failures happily face on and learn from them is that there is no such thing as “talent”. Except for a few sports where different physical attributes that we are born with (i.e height in basketball), all other skills can be learned. But to learn them, you need to try, work on it and accept failures as very efficient indicators of what works and what doesn´t.
Failures can come in many forms, and you are likely experiencing small failures very often. That´s completely normal! You know that creeping feeling where you feel stupid? Or wish you had done or said something else? Those are the ones I am talking about. Every time this happens, you have a unique opportunity to IMPROVE.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein
Some examples of big failures you may encounter in life:
- Getting fired
- Building a business that fails
- Getting a divorce
- Investing all your money in a stock that fails
All of these provide valuable feedback on where you have gone wrong in the past and can improve in the future. It might seem drastic and horrible at the time, but when you are detached from the situation you may realise it was even for the better. But only if you can overcome the feeling of failure and embarrassment and turn it into learning.
Many even credit later big successes to previous big failures for a number of reasons. Some might have found their dream job only after being fired from another. Others talk of a point of no return moment when they hit rock bottom with personal failures and used that to propel change which made them live much happier and more successful lives.
You will also experience smaller failures daily, like writing an article that on one online likes, suggest something at a company meeting that is turned down, finally admitting to a long time crush that you like them, only for it to not be reciprocated and much more. Common for all of these is that they provide you with interesting feedback which you can use to power your behaviour and decisions in the future.
Go out and fail!