Why You Should Date Failure — Not Marry It

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As sure as we breathe we will fail, but that is all right. That is acceptable. Failure is going to happen. The more thorough we are at setting goals the more we will be familiar with failure. If you desire to achieve a goal then you will become quite acquainted with failure. Failure will be a constant companion in the life of the ambitious.

Accepting failure is not giving up or residing to live in mediocrity with the attitude that you can’t be successful. Accepting failure is accepting the truth that we can’t ace every single goal we set. It just isn’t possible. We must understand that failure is a part of success, not its arch enemy.

One could consider failure as the pesky kid brother. You don’t want him hanging out with you and your friends, but you know it’s going to happen so deal with it. Failure is part of the Success family. We can’t succeed without some amount of failure in the process.

The more ambitious we are, the bigger our risk of failure is. Just like Robert F. Kennedy pointed out, “But we also know that only those who dare to fail greatly, can ever achieve greatly”. We must not let the risk of failure paralyze us to a point of not acting at all. One must look at the big picture and understand that in order to accomplish their goals they must embrace failures as they come and use them to move forward.

Plot Your Goals as Stepping Stones to the Big Prize

When you make a failure determination, then there has to have been a goal that was set at some point. If you didn’t set a goal you can’t actually say you failed. Goal setting on any level is important, whether it be on a macro or micro level.

The key thing when setting a goal is that there really should be a series of smaller goals progressively leading you to the bigger overall goal. By setting small goals then we try and either fail or succeed. If we fail, we stop, take a step back, assess the situation, make adjustments, and try again.

Not everyone is a sports fan, but take the analogy of an NFL game where the offense gets four shots to make it 10 yards to earn another four chances. They try, succeed or fail, assess outcome, adjust and repeat. In life, we just have more downs and the games last longer. During this process, we have to use caution to not get caught up in the moment and lose awareness. Recognizing the failure immediately is crucial to moving forward. We just can’t suffer from paralysis by analysis.

Live and Learn

Accepting failure is a part of the process. If we aren’t willing to acknowledge it and we just shrug it off instead of embracing it for what is worth then we have an ego problem and/or are in a state of denial. People have a tendency to try to ignore a failure and move on to something different, but a) it usually always stays in the back of their minds and haunts their psyche and b) that means they don’t use the experience as a learning opportunity.

We must recognize failure as a valuable educational moment. If you don’t believe me then take it from Thomas Edison when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. He was kind of a success so you might want to embrace his point of view. Look at failure from the dating point of view, not the marrying point of view. You are going to spend time with it, but you don’t want to commit to it if you’re not happy — which you won’t be at that moment. You will learn your lesson and move on. If you deny it, then you marry it. It will be moving into the back of your mind, common-law style, because it wants to be there and you aren’t stopping it.

Some people will seize the moment to gain wisdom from the setback. They add it as part of their checklists. Make it a part of their process. Over time it will become instinctual. So sit down and analyze what happened. Break it down and use it to succeed the next time. When we fail it feels like something in us died. So do a mock autopsy.

Perform a Postmortem

If we refuse to ask the right questions, then we will not prosper from the wisdom the failure has to proffer.

Ask Yourself the Hard Questions (Yes, they should be hard):
– Did we define our goals correctly?
– Did we break up our macro goal into small attainable micro goals?
– Did we set out on the right path toward the goal?
– Did we seek out sound advice and wisdom?
– Did we do our homework and research or did we wing it?
– Did we have tunnel vision or did we stay flexible to change?
– Did we continue to assess our situation during each stage of the process?
– Did we let a chip on my shoulder cloud my judgment?
– Did we address all aspects of the failure and answer the “What would we do differently next time?” question?

At the very least if we complete a postmortem we walk away with nuggets of knowledge that we can use going forward to not make the same mistakes again. Filter out all the knowledge and wisdom you can from it then bury the carcass and move on. Don’t look back because you got all the value that you need from it.

Don’t just utilize postmortems going forward, look back on past events and perform them past previous setbacks. You will gain knowledge from these as well, which will continually make you more comfortable. We will always be learning and in some aspect, we will always be failing.

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed” —Theodore Roosevelt

Failure is inevitable, how we overcome and reboot our aspirations is what sets us apart. The true determination of failure is if we learn from our shortcomings and use the new knowledge to move forward or just deny it and abandon our goals. You either learn from it and continue on your journey toward your goal or rebuke it and become its victim. The choice is yours and yours alone.

Don’t let failure stop you from pursuing your dreams. Stand up to it, confront it and use it to achieve your goals.

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By KP O'Neal

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