If at first you don’t succeed…
Have you ever failed at something? If you haven’t, you may be the first person in the history of ever to have gotten through life without failure. Even as infants our entire existence is about trial and error, failing and trying again. When we are young though, failure is considered natural and becomes the means to an end. Why is it then, as we grow up, failure becomes something that feels so defeating? After all, failure truly can be necessary to achieve an end, or a beginning for that matter.
Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first evening news job in Baltimore because she didn’t meet expectations? Prior to that she faced years of obstacles and failures. She was born in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s to a teenage mom, abused, and became pregnant at age 14. She lost her baby and was still able to turn her tragedy around to excel academically and even win a beauty pageant. And despite early failure in her television career, she persevered, in a white male dominated field none the less. Oprah has built an empire not only despite her failure but because of it, and she has done so by being true to herself.
Think about your own life. Where has failure in your life brought you to a new and better path? When my marriage failed, all I could focus on were my faults and the assumption that I would never be ok again. I was embarrassed, afraid, and so hard on myself. I have never felt more overwhelmingly WRONG in my entire life. I didn’t know at the time that I needed this defeat to act as a catalyst for extraordinary change. I was actually so focused on NOT failing in my marriage, I had accepted a less than average life as my own. I could not fathom the possibilities that could and would come from failing and learning from it.
Oh, the possibilities! From a business I never could have dreamed of being a part of, to the most genuine and caring relationship I could have imagined, my circumstances have changed so drastically that I thank my lucky stars for that failure every day. I now look at defeat in an entirely new light. Failing and surviving has taught me to take risks. I now think to myself, what’s the very worst case scenario if I fail? Will someone die? No? Ok, then I can risk it. I now know that failure will lead to learning. It is life’s greatest teacher in fact. When I feel like I’ve botched a parenting move or took a misstep in my business, I evaluate what went wrong, make a correction, and try again. These mistakes give me the power to transform myself into someone better than I was before. When I view my failures in this way, it pushes me towards my full potential.
Failure is a part of life, period. If you are not failing, you are not trying. So, what are some do’s and do not’s? When we start to fail the first thing that happens is our defenses kick in. Our ego takes over and we immediately want to preserve our dignity. We may do this by burying our heads in the sand. Denial can be your best friend when you flop. Admitting failure needs to be your first step. Own it. Next, have you ever put your foot in your mouth only to say something else that drives it in further? Yup, me too. We do this with failure too. Chasing your losses erratically and emotionally to try and correct your failure will only dig you in deeper. Instead when you recognize your failure – get some feedback, remove your emotions, and adjust your plan. Remember plans are just that, plans. They are an outline not a bible and they can be adapted. Last, avoid idealistic editing. In other words, don’t try to put lipstick on a pig and shine up your failure to make yourself feel better. Accept your failure for what it is. Learn and grow, the end.
So, I challenge you the next time you feel like a failure is set to derail you, take a new approach. Have a five-minute pity party, dust yourself off, and try, try again.