The Key to Success: A Lesson on Failure

When we fail, we feel discouraged. We feel no urge to try again to succeed and achieve the goal we initially intended, and we feel uncertain of our abilities moving forward. Why is this so, when we are aware of the learning experience these failures provide? Why do we not appreciate the knowledge of what we need to work on, what we need to improve, and what we need to focus on?

Failure is nothing but a stepping-stone. Seldom do we accomplish our goals in a single leap. Whether it’s riding a bicycle, writing a novel, or getting hired for a particular job – we are likely not to succeed at first. Upon the initial blow, we consider our failures to be inabilities that cannot be fixed. We feel we have wounds that cannot be healed. But do we not, in fact, feel more knowledgeable and experienced than when we initially began? Did this so-called failure provide us with the understanding of how to succeed?

Accept the Journey

Failure is not as it seems.  So-called failure cannot be avoided – as it is not as much a failure as a part of a greater journey.  To backpack through an entire country, you must encounter many cities and a variety of terrain.  All challenges are similar to this.  You must encounter different places and different terrains as you travel through, as each challenge involves various steps and levels of difficulty.  Much needs to be overcome.

Another way to think about failure is like so:

While climbing a thousand steps, you stumble down 2.  After, you have the choice to continue back up while avoiding the cause of your fall, or you can retreat back to the bottom.

Failure is a minor set back; it does not need to change the direction of your course. The end goal can remain the same – failure just makes you aware of the ways in which you must achieve this goal.  In order to succeed in your travels, you must accept all of the aspects of your journey.  You cannot fear what you have done incorrectly, you must merely acquire knowledge from this set back, and carry forward once again.

Do Not Perceive Failure as a Problem

Failure is not an issue; without failure, you would not understand success – just as you would not understand joy if there were no strife.

If you were unable to complete a task assigned to you due to a lack of time, think of the ways you can better manage time in the future.  Do not feel it is a problem if this causes issues with your boss – for now you understand how to avoid this issue in the future.  Now, you are more able to gauge your necessary time frames, and you can think of the moments where time became lost and avoid that going forward.

If you were unable to make the final mile of a marathon, think of the moments in which you thrived, and analyze the moments where you began to feel week.  Strengthen these weaknesses.  This failure is not a problem – it is instead a method of learning what parts of your training require more of your time.  Sometimes there is no other method of learning but that of trial and error.

Stay Positive

To believe you have failed is a state of mind.  By allowing negative emotions to overtake your mind, you will find yourself feeling as though you fail more often – whether you truly do or not.  Maintaining a positive attitude allows more positive experiences.  What appears as a failure, with a positive attitude, may no longer seem like such.  The experiences you perceive as failures with a negative attitude can end up being seen as small triumphs and small steps towards success.

Think of every action as an accomplishment.  Something as simple as waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth is an accomplishment – as you are not forced to do these things.  If you wanted to stay in bed all day, you really could have.  But you took initiative; you got out of bed, you brushed your hair, you cleaned yourself, you brushed your teeth, and you’re heading to work – that’s huge!

Learn and Analyze

When you feel you have failed, think about the choices you have made.  What aspect of the occurrence has caused you to feel that you have failed?  Why do you feel this way?  How can this choice or action be corrected?  If it can be corrected, can you consider this action or choice a failure?

By taking the time to analyze your choices through failure, you are able to learn from yourself.  Your mistakes no longer need to feel like mistakes.  Every failure is learning lesson.

If You Failed, You Tried

If you have failed, that means you tried.  To try something is an incredible accomplishment!  If you are trying something that you have never done before, feel pride in your attempt, be it successful or not!Many times, we do not give ourselves enough credit for the attempts we make.  Having the ambition and drive to try something new is something deserving of personal reward.

If you are struggling with your failures, think of what you would have done had you not even tried.  You would have been curious of the outcome regardless.  By trying, you know where you stand, and what requires correction in order to ensure success.  Or, if there is not an opportunity to try again, you are able to think about the incredible experience of trying, despite the fact that you have failed.

Intrinsic Reward

Something we forget is that we do not need extrinsic reward.  While you may want to finish the race, get the job, or get a novel published, you should ensure you reward yourself no matter the outcome.  Without intrinsic reward, we do not allow ourselves to feel satisfied in even the smallest of our accomplishments.

Extrinsic reward is the physical; it involves receiving a certificate, having a medal for your achievements, or receiving a contract to sign for a new job.  We often receive these intrinsic rewards for the completion of an accomplishment.  Failure unfortunately blocks us from these extrinsic rewards.

However, we should never require extrinsic rewards, as intrinsic rewards should do the trick.  You should reward yourself for all of the things you do.  There are positives in everything, and you should be your own personal cheerleader.  Cheer yourself on through every step of the way.  Whether or not you succeed or fail at the end of something is not what matters –the positive emotions and experiences you have provided for yourself along the way should fulfill you.  Even in your failures, you must feel a sense of pride and worth in all you do.  Intrinsic reward should feel just as satisfying extrinsic.

Failures Aren’t the End

It is important to remember that failing is not the end of your experience.  Success is born from many failures.  If failure was the end, there would be very few successes in life.  Imagine if a student applying to colleges gave up on their first rejection, or if they dropped out of college after their first failing grade.  Imagine the president of the United States had done that while he was in college.  What would have happened if NASA decided that each failure meant it was time to give up?  What if after the first airplane didn’t work perfectly, the idea had been abandoned all together?

Don’t Deny Mistakes

Making a mistake is perfectly acceptable – you just have to accept your mistakes.  If you accept and acknowledge your mistakes, you are able to learn from them.  Denial causes you to try things repeatedly, while making the same mistake over again, causing discouraging feelings.  Accept a mistake, analyze the reasons why it was a mistake, and learn ways to correct the mistake.  That is the only way to ensure a positive, reasonable learning experience from a “failure” or a mistake.

Remove your emotions from the mistake – do not feel saddened by your failures.  Take yourself out of the situation and look at it as a passerby.  Is this mistake something easily correctable?  How would you fix it?  What is involved in improving your skills?  Can you try this over again?  When will you be prepared to try again?

If you waste time denying your mistakes and believing yourself to be right, you will think you can never succeed at the things you have failed at.  It’s all about accepting what you have done, and not feeling the need to be self-righteous.  Being self-righteous does not lead to success. Self-righteousness leads to continual failure and mistake making.

An aspect of denial that is popular is to place the blame on things other than yourself. There are plenty of actions that are affected by other people, however it is often excessive to place the entirety of blame on something other than yourself.  By blaming something other than yourself, you are unable to improve your skills.  If you shut the door on a learning experience, you can never develop and improve.  Blame merely leaves you stuck.  Accept the blame, and welcome the blame. It is acceptable to take the blame, as it makes you aware of the improvements you can make.

Failure Makes You Stronger

Just as hands callous as you play guitar, you strengthen and prepare yourself through practice.  If you have failed at something, remember that you can practice until you have perfected your skill.  Some things just require time and effort beyond what you originally had believed.  It many times takes a failure to see what needs more practice and attention.

Failure also makes your mind stronger.  Failing can make you step back and say “aha, I get it now”.  Failure makes you intelligent in the sense that you are able to learn from your actions.  You learn to analyze mistakes in general and because of this, you are able to more rapidly correct mistakes as they arise.

Do Not Rush Success

If you find yourself rushing success, you may also find yourself feeling like a failure more often.  Time is on your side!  Feel comfortable with the process leading up to success, and understand that it is acceptable to experience failure along your learning experience.  While it may be a challenge to not rush success, remember that the less time you provide yourself to practice and experience the necessary elements of the journey may cause a greater rate of seeming failure.  Accept these failures and keep paddling forward, even in the moments where the current feels as though it is rushing against you.  Failure is just a large chunk of the experience called life, and it cannot be avoided.  While it is never good to shoot for failure, we cannot find deep pain and sadness in the failures we experience.

In Conclusion

Essentially, failure is an inevitable experience.  It needs to be accepted, and thus learned from.  Skills need to be strengthened and improved before success can occur.  All in all, failure is merely a stepping-stone to success.  Failure is a sign of progress and trying.  It is better to fail at first than to never try at all!  Failure does not need to be a negative aspect of life, for it is simply  key to success!  Maintain a positive mindset and allow yourself to embrace all that life brings.

 

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