Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major handicap. No one likes to fail.
Whether it’s at work, at home, or in another area of your life, failure is painful – and it can also be costly in terms of time, money or both. “But failing is a part of the game that is life”, says Karl Smith – author and founder of Business Networking South Africa.
Something which cannot be avoided. Surprisingly, most people don’t talk openly about their failures. They’ll tell you about that great new contract they signed … not that deal they worked on for months, only to have it slip through their fingers.
“In dealing with the obstacles that faced me in designing and taking my first business networking training offering to market, I devoted myself to studying the lives of great people. It became my source of inspiration to pull through my darkest hours. I made an astonishing discovery that nothing great ever succeeded the first time,” Smith highlighted in reflecting on his own journey. “It became clear that it was always after repeated failures, falls, frustrations, criticisms and self doubts that most of them arose to achieve greatness.”
“Imagine if ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K Rowling hadn’t pulled through and persisted with her vision. When looking at her success today, we’re talking about 400 million books sold, countless licensing deals, and being I believe the second richest woman in the UK after the Queen, it’s hard to imagine someone on the brink of suicide, but this is the reality of it. Think about Edison who failed 10, 000 times before he made the electric light whilst Jack Canfield author of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’, had 144 rejections before he received a book contract. Meg Cabot, New York Times bestselling author of the book, ‘The Princess Diaries’ was rejected by almost every publishing house in America! We all experience it. We’ve all failed, and guess what, we will continue to fail, because we absolutely need it to succeed.”
Whatever the situation, being proactive is always going to be a better option than sticking your head in the sand and wishing it had never happened. Here are seven steps to take when starting over after a failure:
- Accept responsibility for your own failure. When it comes to failing, our egos are our own worst enemies. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Welcome to the human race! Don’t blame others or circumstances.
- Recognize when you haven’t succeeded. This is the hard part. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. But if you’re truly self-aware and listening closely after a “release” of your idea, you can’t go wrong. Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work.
- Make sure the pieces from your failure have been sufficiently picked up. If you have a reputation to repair, then take care of that immediately, so your future ventures will be taken seriously by those around you.
- Remind yourself of your past successes. Failing doesn’t mean that you’re worthless, or that you’ll never achieve the things you want. Think of all the times in the past when you’ve succeeded. Don’t forget your past failures. You’ve made mistakes before and you’ve survived them. Just as you recovered in the past, you can recover from your recent failure too.
- Make a decision. “Doing nothing” is certainly an option … but it’s a decision in itself and often one that won’t lead to anything positive. Your decision might require some deep thinking. You can help yourself to make better decisions by getting some extra advice and support with a particular area of your life or reading and learning more, if a lack of knowledge led to your failure.
- Forget the past and focus on the future. The quicker you can deal with failure, the quicker you are ready for success. Your past is past! It’s water under the bridge. You can’t change it so you may as well stop worrying about it. Take stock of what you have learnt. Repackage your knowledge, experience, skills and move on to accomplish your purpose.
- Revisit your vision. Stephen Covey wrote: “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things.” When you revisit your vision you’ll be focused on the most logical steps to take and build relationships with the right kind of people you would need to realize it.
Failure is the inevitable price of trying to do something and it forces you to be more creative as you look for new ways. A wise man once wrote, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker! Failure is delay, not defeat. Failure is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.” Failure prevents arrogance and egotism. It accelerates the process of identifying your true friends. It also causes you to re-evaluate what’s important in life. It brings out the real character in you … you get to meet the real you.
“There’s nothing wrong with a plan but don’t get too attached to it. Make the necessary changes. Remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg),” Smith concludes, “If you don’t grow through your failures, then you will go through it again and again.” Some people cannot deal with failure, so they never try anything. The result: nothing. Nothing can happen without action. Life is all about action and taking risks.
PSST! Don’t Keep Karl A Secret!
This article may be copied or republished with the following credit: “By Karl Smith: author, speaker and founder of Business Networking South Africa” Cape Town