An ancient Chinese proverb says, “Failure is the mother of success.” Every time you fail at something, you have an opportunity to learn. It is then your choice whether you dwell on the failure or rise up and grow from the lesson.
I believe there is a thin line between success and failure. One step can steer us in a direction. So we need to watch where we step.
Why is failure something to fear?
Humans make mistakes. No one is exempt from this reality. Still, we’re afraid of failure, and often it comes from how others see us.
Personally and professionally, we can do our best to make the right choices, but we have many obstacles. Lack of experience or knowledge can drive people to choose poorly. Being too headstrong without stopping to consider the consequences is another one that separates success and failure. And lack of experience is a big reason people fail.
But here’s what you really need to think about when you fear failure:
People who are willing to take risks will occasionally fail. People who don’t take risks will stay exactly where they are.
In Major League Baseball, when you swing for the fences, you’re aiming to hit a home run. While swinging so hard, the player often strikes out. But many of those swings hit their targets. Reggie Jackson is the all-time strike-out leader with 2,597 career strike-outs. But although he struck out so many times, Mr. October also hit 563 home runs. Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, David Ortiz, Harmon Killebrew, and Alex Rodriguez are also on the strike-out leaders list. Are they failures because they tried to hit the big one?
Baseball great Babe Ruth scored 714 home runs during his career, but he also struck out 1,330 times. Did that faze him?
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,” he said.
The failure is in your own perception.
Failure is not an end. It’s a start, a signal, and a lesson—as long as you see it that way.
Change the way you see failure. In fact, stop calling it that. It’s a misstep, a setback, a temporary detour from your path to success. It only matters if you allow that short-term situation to fester.
You might feel embarrassed, foolish, or incompetent. You might seek to blame someone to absolve yourself. Or you come up with excuses.
Do any of these responses help your own growth or solve the very simple, very human situation that you failed?
4 steps to turn failure into success
Follow these steps to learn from mistakes.
#1. Own your failures. Start with accountability. Accept your role in the situation. Seeking to assign blame only delays finding the solution. You also lose the respect of the people who know you’re the one responsible.
#2. Think positively. Your perspective allows you to the difference between success and failure. When you maintain a positive mindset, you avoid the negative emotions, like shame, regret, and frustration. You open yourself to possibilities, not limits.
#3. Analyze your actions. When you experience a failure, look at the steps that brought you there. What could you have done differently? In his book, Leading With Your Life Equation: How to Be Indestructible, Indispensable and Unstoppable, my friend, Philip Jalufka talks about the After Action Review, something he learned while serving in Special Ops, where precision and improvement is critical. The After Action Review examines every step in a completed mission and identifies any areas for improvement.
#4. Be strategic about the solution. How can you apply this lesson to your actions in the future? Once you’ve identified how you can do better, create a purposeful plan to put your lessons into action. Think about the red flags that could signal you’re about to repeat a mistake.
Remember, knowledge is always good, but applying it to your life is what matters.
Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom
Slowly, in the School of Life, I’ve learned that obstacles rise up before you, setbacks occur when you least expect them, and failure is a given. I’ve also learned that I will not die from failures. Losing does not make me a loser, unless I believe myself to be one.
And I don’t.
Failure is feedback. Take it. Learn from it. Move on. Success tastes sweet, but failure is food for thought.
Need some positivity in your life? I’m here.