“Success is 99 percent failure” – Soichiro Honda (Founder of Honda Motor Company).
We have all failed. We will all fail. These are undeniable truths. Most of your successes have come from how you’ve handled your failures. There are people who…
- fail and then believe they are ‘failures’ – triggering a cycle of failure in their lives.
- have suffered from some big failures and have thrown in the towel. They’re tired and have lost all hope for future success.
- deny their failures and shift the blame. These people never succeed because they never learn or grow.
- are scared of failing and so never try anything daring, anything risky, and anything big in their lives – just in case they fail in the attempt.
- believe it is a sin to fail. They have been trained to perform at all times and meet the expectations of someone else. This devolves into points 1 and 3 above.
Being scared of failure is about as clever as being afraid that you might be hit by a crashing plane on the way to work. If we keep thinking about it we’ll never leave home. In the case of the plane we push aside the fear by considering the how miniscule the probability is of that ever happening. In the case of failure we need to develop a sense of self esteem and adaptability. So what if I fail? I’ll try again, or I’ll try something else, or I’ll use the failure as a catalyst for a new plan of action.
I remember my first ever assembly as head boy. It was my role to assemble the 1000 or so students in the quadrangle and go through a list of general announcements while the teachers filed in from their morning staff meeting. I had my new flashy blazer on and a few natural stage-fright jitters. I took a deep breath and strode boldly onto stage to take my place behind the microphone at the podium. Just as my long clumsy legs approached the ‘spotlight’, my size 12 feet swept up the microphone cable and in an instant I was falling like a giant redwood among the ruins of podium, mic and cables. In that instant I had to decide what to do with my failure. Would I lie there like a rabbit in the headlights or would I get up and acknowledge that I hadn’t made a great start to my year and get on with what had to be done. I got up and joined in the applause and laughter I was receiving from the crowd – told a joke – and carried on with the announcements. I had many failures that year, but in the end I think my season as head prefect was a successful one.
Anyone who claims never to have failed is either delusional or Superman, and even Superman fails a whole bunch in the new era of comics. So what do you do when you fail? Here are some suggestions for getting over failure and moving on to success:
- Assess the situation honestly. Ask yourself why you failed. Consider which of the reasons for your failure had to do with poor decisions and which were out of your control. Be honest. Ask the opinion of someone you trust to give you perspective.
- Learn from your mistakes! If you made a poor decision – acknowledge it – and decide how you might have done it better if you could do it again.
- Don’t wallow! There is no benefit in telling yourself what a loser you are, or sitting in a dark room drowning in misery and self pity. This attitude is a failure in itself! Get up. Call a friend. Talk about it. Get it out of your system. Move on!!
- Consider who you are. You are not the sum of your failures. You are so much more! You have talents, skills, passions, dreams, gifts and attributes that are unique in the world – in fact I believe that everyone is the best in the world at something – you may just need to find out what it is.
- Get back on the horse! Leave the past where it belongs and dare to try something else. Most great achievers suffered massive failures before they discovered their success.
- Put things in perspective. Many people think they have failed because they have been conditioned to see certain things as failures that are not. For example, a man is retrenched and finds himself unable to pay the bills for a few months. Is this failure? Not at all! He hardly needs to feel ‘guilty’ about circumstances out of his control. It can become failure if he gives up hope, sleeps all day and stops looking for new opportunities – but that’s a different story.
- Plan. To get over your failures you need to plan and strategize. What’s your next step? Write it down. Discuss it with a friend. Draw pictures. Make phone calls. Send emails. Get organized.
We might not always have direct control over our successes, but we certainly have control over how we handle our failures. When you fail – and you will most certainly fail at something – exercise your will and look to your success.