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The Short and Timeless Guide to Overcoming and Using Failure

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

“No man ever achieved worth-while success who did not, at one time or other, find himself with at least one foot hanging well over the brink of failure.“
Napoleon Hill

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Michael Jordan

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”
C. S. Lewis

Failure can be quite the problem. And the fear of it can be paralyzing.

So what can you do to motivate yourself to take a chance, to overcome possible failure and to use it to your advantage?

Here are a few timeless words of advice.

Redefine failure.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

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

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.”
Charles F. Kettering

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford

Failure is something that may need to be redefined within your mind. It’s not something to attach too much meaning to. But people do though.

If you look at successful people then you see that they have an abundance mentality. They know there are new chances and opportunities if they fail. And that there are lessons to be learned from failures. Those failures are necessary to achieve success. Without them you don’t get the feedback that is essential for your future success. And by making mistakes for yourself you get experience. Reading about someone else’s mistake or knowledge isn’t the same thing as experiencing it for yourself.

Failure is a learning experience. It can help you. But first you have to try. Without trying you aren’t going anywhere.

Accept it.

“A lot of new obstacles are coming, a lot of new feelings are coming, … I’m just taking it for what it is and learning from the mistakes I had this year.”
Michael Phelps

Acceptance is very helpful when you make a mistake or fail. You can resist the failure/mistake and beat yourself up. This creates a lot of inner suffering and new resistance. And that makes it emotionally harder to keep going and trying since you associate mistakes and failure with so much pain.

Acceptance is a more useful approach. It can help you to release yourself from slipping into old, conditioned patterns of self-hurting behaviour when something “negative” happens. You can instead see a situation such as a failure with fresh eyes.

And instead of beating yourself up or feeling sorry for yourself you can see the situation in a more positive and constructive way. Like for instance by looking for the lessons or the positive stuff in your failure. One of the greatest things about acceptance is that it can give you freedom from your old behaviour patterns and “you acting as you have always done”.

Take responsibility.

“A man may fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”
John Burroughs

A very good point. As long as you own your mistakes and failures you can still learn. You can still adapt and find a better course to take.

But when you start blaming everyone or everything else then you don’t just look like a bitter failure. You also give you power away. The power over what you have learned so far and the power take action and do something. When you give that away it’s like you are sitting down on your hands and just giving up. You don’t have any power to move forward anymore.

Build inner strength.

“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities”
Napoleon Hill

Failure and rejection won’t kill you. You may think that it does and it may feel like it almost will just after it has happened. But it won’t. Instead it makes you stronger. It makes you more confident in yourself. Because over time, by piling up the failures you truly understand that this isn’t such a big deal. You have handled it before and if it comes up in the future you know that you can handle it again.

By failing you build inner strength and gain understanding of how things work. This is crucial to be able to handle bigger responsibilities in life and to be able to grow.

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  • Susan Liddy March 19, 2010, 1:31 am

    There was a time in my life when I feared failing so much that it either paralyzed me or put me into overdrive. Funny to have such opposite responses, huh?
    When it paralyzed me, I would decline opportunities and give up on things. When it put me into overdrive, I would take on too much and try to get it all done perfectly.

    The fear of failing actually put me more at risk of doing it.

    So, in addition to redefining it and embracing that it’s a pathway to lessons, it also helps me to understand that when I am in fear, I am more apt to CREATE what I fear than protect myself from it.

  • Clinton Skakun March 19, 2010, 5:48 pm

    Tony Robbins said, “Failure is on the other side of rejection.” Entrepreneurs say for ever “no” you get you get closer to a “yes.”

  • Free self help March 20, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Loved the post, one of your best yet and I totally agree. In my opinion there is no success without failure first

  • Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 22, 2010, 12:50 am

    I love the quote by Henry Ford because I totally believe that what many people call failure is nothing less than an opportunity.

  • personal development guru March 26, 2010, 11:26 pm

    Hey, I’m a personal development coach at burstcreativity.com, and i find that a lot of people claim to be perfectionists as a means of never excelling, or actively pursuing their goals. They hide behind the idea that no matter what they search for it is not possible, as perfection is merely a frame of mind, and thus, have nothing but failure awaiting them.

  • David Rogers March 29, 2010, 6:14 pm

    When you posted about failure two years ago it prompted my own post on the topic, and the same has happened again! This concept of failure as a learning experience is overplayed, and I disagree that failure makes you stronger and more confident. Yes, we should learn from our experiences, good and bad, and we won’t always succeed. But ruminating on failure is never going to feel good or be helpful, in my opinion.

  • Mary March 30, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Hi all

    I happen to agree with David that failure does not always make you stronger and more confident. I had a spectacular business failure two years ago at the beginning of the current recession, and it sapped all my confidence in myself, in how I make decisions, in my gut instincts, how I read people and my self trust.
    I am usually a very positive thinking person, and believe in karma, goodwill, peace, taking responsibility for our own actions and learning from mistakes, but really – I cant for the life of me figure this one out!

    I dont know what I am supposed to learn, except that I lost all my money, my marraige broke up (but thankfully is slowly recovering), my teenage daughter developed some scary psychosomatic problems due to the stress she witnessed in her parents relationship (she is much better now thankfully) and overall it felt like being hit by a huge boulder, and being shattered into a million pieces. I can handle the financial hit, but the hit to relationships was terrifying.

    The whole experience has left me second guessing even the most trivial decisions I make, lots of confusion and a feeling of detachment when I feel the stress levels beginning to rise.

    There probably is a positive lesson in there somewhere, and maybe I just cant see it right now.

  • Mary March 30, 2010, 12:17 pm

    Yes please

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