Stunning Motivation

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What Should You Do When You Make Mistakes Or Fail At Something

what to do with mistake and failure

Managing your mistakes is one of the most powerful success lessons you should learn in order to make a difference in you and other people’s lives. If you can handle your mistakes well, you can manage everything that life throws at you.

The problem is that we have been told that making mistakes is bad. We try our best to get away from making mistakes. And because of this, we are afraid to make new attempts and discover new grounds.

At school, we get punished when we make mistakes. At work, we get ridiculed and our boss screwed us when we make mistakes. Even our parents scold us when we accidentally spilled the milk on the floor.

As you can see, we have been conditioned to NOT MAKE MISTAKES since our childhood.

And when it comes to achieving remarkable success in life, mistakes and failures are inevitable.

When you study the success of amazing people like Thomas Edison, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, etc, you will discover that all of them made a lot of mistakes. All of them failed many times in their journey before they finally became famous and successful.

Therefore, if there is one powerful lesson you should learn to achieve greater success in life, it is the ability to manage your mistakes and handle your failures more effectively.

Handling Your Mistakes Starts with Managing Your Emotions

On 10th December 1914, a massive explosion erupted and caused a huge fire on 10 buildings in New Jersey, of which, more than half of those buildings were owned by the famous inventor Thomas Edison.

Edison’s laboratory was built there, and it was engulfed in flames. According to an article covered by Reader’s Digest, Edison’s son, Charles, said that Edison walked calmly to him as he watched the fire destroy his work.

And then Edison told Charles, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.”

Instead of shouting, “Oh God! All my life’s work has gone!” Edison requested his son to get his mother because he wanted his mother to watch the unbelievable sight.

Of course, Charles objected at first, but then Edison continued to say, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

After that incident, The New York Times interviewed Edison and he said, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.”

Edison kept his words and began immediately to rebuild his laboratory the next day without firing any of his employees.

Ever wonder why Thomas Edison was considered one of the most successful inventors in the world? He knew how to manage his emotions when things were not working in his favor.

One thing we all can learn from Edison is that managing mistakes and failures starts with handling our emotions.

Whenever you make a mistake or failure, the first thing you need to do is to handle your emotion. Just like how Thomas Edison did it. Although the fire was an accident and not his fault, he faced the situation calmly with rationality. He knew that there was nothing much he could do, so instead of crying over the spilled milk, Edison chose to accept the situation.

Stop Crying Over Spilled Milk – Lessons from Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield is one of the best-selling authors who has published over 250 titles and sold hundreds of millions of books. His most ground-breaking books are none other than “The Success Principles” and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

I once read about the “spilled milk” incident in Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and I think that everyone should learn about it.

Jack told the story of Robert in his book. When Robert was about 2 years old, he wanted to take a bottle of milk from the fridge, and when he lost his grip, the bottle fell and spilling the milk all over the kitchen floor.

When Robert’s mother came into the kitchen, rather than yelling at him or punishing him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?”

Of course, Robert did. After a few minutes, his mother then said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel or a mop. What do you prefer?”

Robert then chose the sponge and they both cleaned up the floor together. This was not the end of the story, Robert’s mother then asked said, “You know what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go out in the backyard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it.”

Robert, the little boy then learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top with both hands, he could carry without slipping it and dropping it.

This is such a wonderful lesson that every one of us should learn! Can you imagine what kind of positive impact Robert has experienced and learned?

And this is exactly how everyone should approach their mistakes and failures. Whenever you make a mistake or experience a failure, rather than blaming, complaining, or feeling inferior, handle it the right way so that you can learn the most from it.

From Robert’s story that I learned from Jack Canfield, here are a few suggestions of what we should do whenever we make a mistake or fail at something.

1. Manage your emotions and control your negative feelings

The first thing you need to do when you make a mistake or fail at something is to control your emotions.

This is because when we get angry or feel inferior, our brains will shut off and only focus on those negative feelings. You will ignore all the possibilities or solutions when you are feeling negative.

I strongly suggest you read my previous blog post to learn more about the impact of negative impact:

The #1 Benefit Of Positive Thinking According To Research

When you worry, upset, or angry, all you do is focus on those negative thoughts. Just like when your children spill the milk over the floor, you get angry and all you do is yelling at them. You fail to see why they make the mistake and spill the milk in the first place.

Therefore, learn to manage your emotions and control your feelings. And a great way to do so is to delay your reaction.

Whenever someone makes a mistake, don’t react immediately, instead, take a minute to let your thoughts seep in before you say anything or react.

If you try to react immediately, you will fall into the trap and follow where your emotions lead you. So don’t react immediately, delay the reaction and gain control of your emotions.

2. Enjoy the ride since you’re already on it

Stop worrying about the mistake or failure, instead, just enjoy it. Like Thomas Edison, there was nothing he could do when he saw his laboratory was in fire. Rather than crying in despair, he chose to be awed by the incredible scene. He even asked his son to bring his mother to watch along.

Every time when you make a mistake, it is alright. All you need to do is to accept it. It is alright that it rains, rather than showing your sulking face, choose to dance with the rain.

Here’s an amazing lesson you can learn from Buddha:

“There are three solutions to every problem – accept it, change it, or leave it. If you can’t accept it, change it. If you can’t change it, leave it.”

There is no point to cry over the spilled milk. There is nothing much you can do as the mistake or the failure has already occurred. Therefore, rather than feeling sorry for it, just accept it and then look forward to solving it.

Just like what people often say, “When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say “Why me”, just say, “Try me”.”

3. Clean up the mess and solve the problem

Robert’s mother actually said something wise after he spilled the milk all over the floor. His mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up, and restore everything to its proper order.”

Whenever you fail or make a mistake, don’t fret, instead, choose to clean up the mess.

You will definitely make mistakes and experience failures in life. If you are not making any mistake or failure, it simply means that you did not try hard enough or your dreams and goals are not big enough.

And whenever you make a mistake, learn how to clean it up. Learn how to solve the problem.

You can choose to continue to feel down because of the problem or tough situation, or you can choose to handle the problem and find a solution to it.

4. Improve and learn from the feedback

After Robert cleaned up the spilled milk, his mother even asked him to learn how to carry the milk bottle carefully so that he would not slip and drop it again.

This is what we need to do as well. We must learn from our mistakes and failures. If you are not learning from the feedback, you will for sure to repeat the same mistake and failure.

The only way to become better and to improve is to treat your failures and mistakes as feedback, and then learn from them and improve.

If you want to build a successful blog but you fail, treat the result as a feedback, study why you fail and then change your strategy. Are you not taking enough action? Are the things that you do did not work? When you understand why you fail, you can prevent and avoid yourself from making the same mistakes again.

Why do you think success requires such a long time to achieve? It is because you need to learn, develop the right characters, and acquire the right skills in order to produce the success results you want.

And the way to become better is to learn from the mistakes and failures you have made. If you are not learning from your experience, you are not improving. And if you are not getting better, there is no way you can be successful at what you do.


The story about the spilled milk that Jack Canfield writes in his book, The Success Principles, is an inspiring one and I believe every one of us should learn the lesson.

Every one of us will make mistakes and experience failures in life, but that does not mean that we are not good enough or we should succumb to the situation.

Instead, whenever we make a mistake or failure, choose to delay our reaction, accept it, clean up the mess, and then learn to improve so that we will never repeat the same mistake or failure again.

This is how success is made.

About Shawn Lim

I'm a blogger, writer, and also an internet entrepreneur. If you want to learn more about me, kindly go to the About page. By the way, have you downloaded your FREE copy of Active Goal Setting? Don't forget to do so. :)

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