Benjamin Franklin was wrong. In 1789, he famously said, “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” While partially true, he forgot to mention another certainty that’s far more common: failure. Okay, so maybe his statement was more incomplete than it was wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact we’ll fall victim to both before we die. Franklin knew this better than most, seeing as two of his early publications, Die Philadelphische Zeitung and The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle, failed within a year.
In today’s world, failure is something many people feel ashamed of. Need proof? Scroll through your social media feed and count the number of posts you find chronicling someone’s failure. This mindset is unhealthy and counterproductive. Yes, Franklin failed, but did history remember him as a failure? Not at all. Instead, he’s revered as an integral part of our nation’s founding and a brilliant inventor, politician, author, and scientist. This is because he understood a fundamental principle that we’ve somehow forgotten over the centuries: Failure is part of our journey to success.
It may sound counterintuitive, but failing doesn’t make you a failure. In fact, the only failures I’ve ever known are those who’ve never tried. They brag about what they’re going to do without ever following through and are always the first to tell you exactly why your idea won’t work. People who are afraid to fail are threatened by the success of others because it highlights their own ineptitude. So, how do you deal with these people? The next time someone tells you that you’re going to fail, tell them they’re probably right. Then add that it’s not failure that you fear, but never pursuing your dreams and having to live with the regret of what might have been.
While Everyday Warriors understand that it’s a natural part of achieving success, nobody likes to fail. When we do, it’s essential to reflect on what went wrong to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. While introspective thought is necessary, be cautious not to get trapped in the cycle of regret, remorse, and self-flagellation. In other words: reflect, learn, recover, and move on.
Here are four simple ways to make failure productive and recovery easier:
1. Change your perspective
So much of success comes down to mindset: how we see ourselves and the world around us. That means you need to redefine your relationship with failure and learn to view it as part of the journey. After all, failures are nothing more than stepping stones on our path to success. When you fall short, remember that everybody fails and it doesn’t make you a victim or a failure, it’s simply a part of life. To change your perspective, surround yourself with driven, motivated, and successful people. American entrepreneur Jim Rohn famously said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The next time you fail or have doubts, remind yourself that unsuccessful people quit when they fail, and successful people fail until they succeed.
2. Fail early and often
We can all agree that the more you do something, the better you get. That’s because practice makes perfect, but so does failure. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” How many unsuccessful ways are you willing to try before quitting? When you fail on attempt 10,001, don’t take it personally and don’t let it make you jaded; fail early, fail often, and be proud that you have the intestinal fortitude to keep trying. You only fail when you quit—otherwise, you’re just finding out what doesn’t work.
3. Deal with the fear of judgment
Why is trying something new so intimidating? It’s because we’re afraid of failing and the judgment that follows. The reality is that we have no idea what others are thinking, nor can we control it. Besides, people are often so preoccupied with their own lives that they give little thought to what others do. Researchers at the University of Sydney found that our brains are hardwired to think people are judging us even if they’re not. Still, if you’re genuinely concerned about what someone thinks, have an honest conversation with them. Chances are you’ll gain a supporter and find they share your fear.
4. Find confidence—even in failure
I saved this one for last because it’s the most important. We all have a little voice in our head that gets vocal before trying something new and after failing. What it says depends on our mindset; some hear positive encouragement telling them they can do it, while others hear a negative loop predicting failure. Believing in yourself and having confidence in your abilities are the secrets to success—and positive self-talk is critical to that. It’s why professional athletes visualize victory before ever climbing in the ring or stepping on the field. Even if you do everything right, there will still be times when you fail, but that doesn’t mean you lose your confidence. Instead, find something you could’ve done better, something that could’ve changed the outcome, and focus on that as you try again.
As Everyday Warriors, we’re determined and focused. We understand that life is a journey and that growth is a continuous process. Each setback we experience builds character, and every failure we endure is a testament to our dedication and resolve. After failing, we get up, brush ourselves off, and push forward one step ATTA time.
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