I am hard pressed to find a successful individual in any
field without any examples of failures along their journey. One common theme with successful people is
that they were able to overcome their failures and grow from them. Whether it is Abraham Lincoln losing
elections, Donald Trump’s companies going bankrupt or Michael Jordan’s Chicago
Bulls losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA playoffs, history is full of
great examples of failures ultimately leading to success.
”Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement” - C.S. Lewis
This is one of my favorite quotes. I have made seemingly endless mistakes over
the years in life and my career. My hope
is that my mistakes are leading me to greater success and the achievement of my
Overcoming the obstacle of one’s failures can be daunting
and at times overwhelming. Deep thought
and an introspective view are necessary ingredients to moving forward. Although I continue to struggle with some of
my past failures, I work hard to turn them into positives. There are four strategies I utilize to
- Have the courage to fail – build confidence from
the understanding that failures happen, but they won’t define you unless you
- Identify failures and breakdown core causes –
prevent repeat mistakes by understanding steps that led to the failure and how
to avoid them in the future.
- Learn from the mistakes of others – increase your
wisdom by studying and understanding what your peers have failed at. You don’t need to re-create the wheel, but it
is great to see if someone else has built it wrong.
- Focus on small wins instead of large failures –
create momentum through small wins that lead to larger success. Understand why you fail when you do, but put
the energy into creating small wins that overshadow failures.
Try these four simple exercises that encompass all four
- Create a "Success through Failure”
statement. My example is, "I will not be
afraid to fail because through my failure I will succeed!”
- Look at a recent project or life event where you
have failed. Maybe it is a missed
project deadline or a financial issue.
Come up with the top 3 to 5 things that caused you to fail. Write them down and repeat them. You have identified the core causes of your
failure here, now you can work hard to not repeat them on the next project or
- Talk to your peers in your field or company
about the things you are working on or planning to do. Having a peer group is a powerful way to
prevent your own mistakes because often times, someone has already made
mistakes that you can learn from. Trust
is critical. Be ready and willing to share your own stories.
- Make a list of incremental goals for a large
project or large goal. Too often people
get bogged down concentrating on their and can’t regain focus on moving forward
with the next project. By breaking down
the project or goal, you can start working on smaller successes that can happen
more quickly. This allows you to start building wins on top of each other and
makes it easier to avoid a larger failure.
Failing isn’t a bad thing when you understand why it
happened and how it can positively move you forward. Don’t be afraid of it as it can be a powerful
tool for your success.
"Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better!” – Samuel