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April 8, 2019

Why failure is good for you

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett


Coping with failure is one of the most useful skills they should teach us from preschool. Yet for some reason, they don’t. Quite the opposite. Our education system teaches us that there are no compromises. Either you get good grades, a good degree from a good college, a good job and a good life or you don’t. Because you are a loser. You are an F. They teach you to pass exams with flying colors, and if you fail… Well, it’s not their fault. You must be the problem.

This mindset is proving to be more and more harmful as our life picks up the pace. In the age of innovation and “fail fast” principle, we must be adapting constantly and search for solutions to the problems that didn’t exist yesterday. How can we find them if we are not allowed to fail?

Change your attitude

To cope with failure, the first step you should take is adopting a new point of view on the concept of failure. Think about how you treat a person who has failed. You try to console them, right? To cheer them up, make them feel better. You assume that something bad has happened.

What we must do instead is to try to see failure as a positive experience. If you failed, it means that you are one step closer to your goal. You know what doesn’t work. If you look at any story of success in the history of humankind, you will see it’s paved with many failures. Failure shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s mundane and unavoidable.

Divorce yourself from failure

If you are to learn from your mistakes, you must stop internalizing them. We are taught that failure means some fault on our part. It means that we weren’t attentive enough, we were lazy, weak, stupid, not good at calculating risks. Something is wrong with us. This is ingrained in our upbringing. However, this is an unhealthy attitude.

We must learn to separate our identity from our failures, otherwise, each fail will destroy our self-esteem bit by bit. If you won’t let your failures define who you are and will believe in yourself, your failures will become nothing but stepping stones towards your success.

Stop caring what others think

This is very difficult as we are social animals and even the most introverted of us sometimes needs the approval of someone else to feel good about themselves. We are easily influenced by people whom we see as experts in their field.

It is very hard to ignore the publisher who rejects your first book and keep trying, but almost every great author had to do it. It is hard to ignore the public that boos you from the stage, but almost every successful comedian had to go through that. Do not assume that in the short instance that anyone, even an expert judges your work they can see all the truth about yourself and all your capabilities.

Learn from failures

If you have learned not to take your failures personally and learn to see them positively, you can learn from them. This is only possible if you put on hold all the emotions that are associated with failure in our culture – frustration, regret, anger, blame.

Study your failure analytically. Why did it occur? Was it beyond your control? Could you get a better result? What did it teach you?

Failure is an experience and there is nothing more valuable for innovations. Ideas and out-of-box thinking are undeniably good, but they must be tested and some of them are bound to fail. The good news? They will make you wiser and more likely to succeed the next time.

Failure is good. It’s not an opposite of success. It’s a building block of success. The only thing that transforms one into another is our attitude and I hope I’ve changed yours.

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