The more successful you are, the more failures you will go through. We have all heard about this. And both you and I know that failure is inevitable. Unless you don’t do anything and you don’t venture out of your comfort zone, failure is something that we all must face and go through.
The key is that we must learn how to overcome failure, in life and at work.
Handling failure is often easier said than done. It is easy for me to say, “just let go and move on”, but to the person who is suffering the pain, it is difficult for her.
And this is exactly why I decided to write this article. This article is meant to show you some good ways to overcome your failure.
Therefore, when it occurs, you know what to do and hopefully, you can get out of the slump as soon as possible.
So here are the 7 steps you can take to overcome failure…
Step #1: Accept and Let Go
First, you have to understand that failure is inevitable and everyone experiences failure at some point in their life.
It is a very normal phenomenon and it does not only happens to you.
Steve Jobs was fired by the company that he started. And before he returned to Apple after the 12 years, he discovered and bought Pixar and NeXT computer. And because Jobs bought Pixar, he inspired the team to create the first animation movie, Toy Story, which became a blockbuster.
After Jobs returned to Apple, he launched iPod, iPhone, and iPad, which revolutionized the technology industry and totally changed our daily lifestyle.
And here’s what Jobs said about his going through failures:
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
You can watch the short video of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford here. It is a very inspirational and insightful speech. Watch it.
What is even more important are these words from Jobs:
“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
Yes, sometimes life can hit you with a brick on the head, but don’t lose faith.
Jobs also said that it was an awful tasting medicine, but the patient needed it.
Guess what, if you are experiencing failure or you are at the lowest point of your life right now, these events may be like what Jobs described, an awful tasting medicine, and perhaps, you needed the medicine.
A lot of people thought that failure is the opposite of success. Failure is not something good, but what failure truly is, is that it is a part of success.
You cannot be successful without going through failure.
Failures allow you to learn, improve, and become a better person worthy of success.
Imagine you are playing games, the higher your character’s level, the stronger he is. So how do you level up your characters?
You fight through all the tough bosses and you make equip your characters with powerful weapons and armors.
The same is true in your life. You have to fight through some tough times in order to grow and build stronger qualities of success.
You can’t become successful or build a multi-million-dollar business if you still think like an employee. You need to change. And failure serves as the wakeup call to that change.
Perhaps, Arnold Schwarzenegger said it wisely:
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”
What you can do:
Change your thinking. Treat failure as part of success. And choose to think that there are no failures, only lessons. Thus, turn your failures into lessons and improve yourself to become a better person worthy of success.
Step #2: Manufacture hope and see the possibility
The University of Kentucky published a list of extraordinary people who have successfully overcome big setbacks and failures in life. The list includes:
- Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.
- R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland. In fact, the proposed park was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.
- Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered “nonsense.”
- Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life. And this to the sister of one of his friends for 400 francs (approximately $50). This didn’t stop him from completing over 800 paintings.
- Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Clearly, he evolved.
- Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
And the list goes on…
You have to understand that no matter what failures you have gone through in life, you can always bounce back higher, like all the extraordinary people mentioned in the list above.
The first step shows you that failure is inevitable and it is something very normal, and this second step is telling you that achieving great success is possible, even if you are nowhere near there right now.
In fact, the more failures you experience, the more successful you are going to be.
Just like what Thomas Edison said, he didn’t fail 1,000 times, he just found 1,000 ways that were not working.
The same principle applies to everything in your life and work.
When you do something and it is not working out, you just need to try another thing.
Success is a science, my friend, not so much of an art. Anyone who tells you that success requires a lot of luck is simply not successful.
And this is exactly what Oscar Wilde said:
“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”
If you don’t believe this, just take a look at Starbucks. I’m not so sure about other countries, but here in Malaysia, almost every Starbuck store is full and each store not only survive but thrive.
Starbucks found the recipe for success, and they replicate it in every store across the world.
The same goes for every other successful franchise business like McDonald’s. As long as they follow the system, the chances that the store can make it is greatly increased.
Hence, success is about the system, the formula, the recipe, the ingredient, or whatever you want to call it. It is a science, not luck.
And the reason you fail simply shows that you are yet to discover the right formula.
When you do the right thing at the right time and at the right place, you will receive the right result that you desire.
Thus, you too can bounce back higher. Even if you are experiencing failure right now, it doesn’t mean that you cannot be successful.
You must believe that it is possible to achieve what you want, just that you are yet to discover the right method or tools.
What you can do:
Read the success stories of extraordinary people, especially those who are in your industry. If you can network with them, get to know them and figure out their belief system and how they did it. Read books, watch inspirational videos, and associate yourself with other successful people.
You want to fill yourself with hope and possibility that you can do it too. Please understand that the real failure is when you decided to quit and give up. As long as you don’t quit and continue to improve and make progress, you will eventually get there.
Step #3: Be brutally honest and learn from your mistakes
Well, we have to face it. The reason we fail is that we are not good enough. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve.
So if you failed to achieve your goals, you must be brutally honest. Face the fact that you have failed, and then learn from it.
This is one of the most crucial parts in the process of overcoming any failure you experience whether in life or at work.
Most people just don’t do this. They choose to do something else like watching the TV, whining on Facebook, share their sad emotions on social media and hope that they will win someone’s heart.
You have to be honest and confront the truth. And answer the question, “Why did I fail?”
If you don’t ask this question, you don’t learn. And if you don’t learn, you’re going to repeat the mistake again in future.
Albert Einstein has a famous quote:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So don’t be insane. Face the truth. Face the fact.
And find out why you failed. This is the best moment for you to improve and become better.
When you succeed, you celebrate. And there is nothing much for you to learn.
However, when you fail, you tend to ponder. You ask yourself why you fail and find out all the reasons. You then improve it. You do it again, with a different strategy or method. And that’s how you become successful.
Imagine a baby learning to walk. She first learns to stand by holding on to something. And then slowly, she makes the first step.
But she falls. So if you see a baby falls when she tries to walk, what did you do?
Do you stop her from trying again? Do you tell her not to do so because it is difficult?
Or do you encourage her to walk again and try until she can walk?
You know the answer. But that’s not how most adults operate. When people fail, instead of reflecting on their failures, they choose to give up.
This is why babies can walk while not all adults are successful.
What you can do:
When you fail, take some time to reflect. Think about why you fail and how you can improve to do better. Don’t run away from your mistakes or failures. Face them and reflect on the reasons why you fail. Failure is a great way to improve yourself and do better in life and at work.
Step #4: Ignore the naysayer and focus on what you can do
One of the biggest reasons people choose to give up when they fail is because they listen to the naysayers. They choose to believe what others have told them rather than listening to their hearts.
People shun failure because they care too much about how others look at them. They think that if they fail, they are going to be embarrassed publicly.
This is why the fear of public speaking is even stronger than the fear of death for most people. They worry about “What if I fail and how will others look at me?”
The truth is that what others think of you is immaterial. You have to understand that this is your life.
Hence, how others look at you or think of you are not important. The most important is how you look at yourself.
When Sylvester Stallone was rejected by the agents for his “Rocky” movie script and he didn’t have money to pay the electricity bill so he had to sell his dog, how do you think he felt?
If he worried so much about how his friends and family look at him, he won’t be where he was today. He won’t be successful in his acting career.
A similar story happened to Colonel Sanders, who was forced to retire at age 65 and received his retirement cheque from the Government for $105.
Of course, Colonel Sanders felt like a big failure that he had screwed up his retirement life. But luckily, he chose to focus on what he can do instead of what he can’t do.
He then went on a journey to sell his fried chicken recipe. It was said that he was rejected 1,009 times before he found someone who said “yes” to his idea and recipe.
You can read the inspirational success story of how Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken from this article on BusinessInsider.
If Colonel Sanders were to give up, there won’t be any KFC today.
You can find this same element in every success story from the extraordinary people. How they were rejected, failed, and went through the tough times. But they choose to ignore the naysayer and continue to focus on what they can do and not what they can’t.
If you are in a slump right now and you are in a hard time, listen to your heart. Ignore the naysayer and pay attention to the possibilities, not impossibilities.
What you can do:
This step is easier said than done. It is not easy to bounce back from the bottom. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t or it is impossible. Read success stories of how ordinary people went through rejections and failures in life, and bounced back to achieve extraordinary results.
Choose to focus on what you can do. When you do this, you feel in control and that you stand a chance to succeed, once more. If you choose to think that you can’t change anything, you feel powerless.
Learn the E + R = O Formula. Read this article below:
Step #5: Reimagining your success
After you have gone through the four steps above, it is time to get ready for the relaunch.
Get ready to bounce back by reimagining the success you want. Start over again by visualizing the success you desire.
Now that you have learned the lessons and you knew much better about what works and what don’t. You are much wiser than before.
It may be difficult to refocus and pay attention to your vision because everything around you collapses.
But it is even more important for you to focus on the positive side of things and to see the possibilities when everything seems bleak.
You have to understand that failure is not the end of the world. You may have failed now, but it doesn’t mean that you will fail in the future.
You just need to envision a bigger and brighter future. Build a stronger desire and use that desire to spark your motivation again.
Do you know that the author who wrote the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, was fired from her job because she works on the book in her spare time? And she took 7 years to publish her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorceress’ Stone.
And during those 7 years, Rowling went through the darkest period of her life. She suffered a short-lived marriage and then divorced, the death of her mother, unemployed, and having to go through all the difficult times as a lone mother.
Yet, she did not give up on her idea for Harry Potter. She chose to focus and pay attention to what she can do, which is to finish the book.
And she did. The rest, they say, was history.
You can read J. K. Rowling’s success story from this article here.
What you can do:
Imagine the success you want again. Revisit your purpose of why you want what you want. The best way to do so is to get a journal and write them down. Write down the success you want. And write down your purpose to achieve them. Why do you want to achieve them?
Remember, the stronger and the clearer your purpose, the more powerful and stronger you will be.
Step #6: Assemble your team and draw inspiration from those who support you
It is true that some people will tell you that what you are trying to do is impossible and they may ask you to find get a proper job or some similar comments.
But you have to understand that there are also people who will support you to reach your dreams. Find these people. Talk to them. Let their positive energy influence you.
You have to understand that you cannot succeed by yourself. Especially when you are experiencing hard times in life. You need the support of others.
Therefore, find out who can help and encourage you.
When you are at a low point in life, find inspiration and support from your environment and surrounding.
You can read books, check out articles from the internet, read similar stories of how people faced a similar situation like you and overcome them, check out online forums for positive-minded people who have solved the problem, and read blogs like this one.
It is important to build your own support from around you.
When you are down, it is important to maintain a positive mindset and to look at things from an optimistic way.
What you can do:
Join groups, forums, or subscribe to magazines and newsletter to receive regular motivational materials that inspire you to go forward. Find out who are the ones who can inspire and give you the support, meet with him or her regularly. You can also listen to the podcast and motivational speeches from YouTube.
Step #7: Start over again, with an edge this time
The final step you need to take is to start over again. You have to bounce back.
My friend, you have a choice. When you fall, you can choose to:
- Stay there, or
- Get up, dust off and try again.
What you choose to do is up to you. But I suggest you go for the second option. You can fall down 7 times, but choose to get back up and do it again for the 8th times.
What truly matters is that you don’t give up and choose to bounce back.
You are a real failure when you choose to stay there after you fall. As long as you get back up, learn, improve, and do it again, you still stand a chance to achieve what you want, with an advantage.
Do you know that if you failed at something but you choose to come back and do it again, you are doing it with an edge? You have a higher possibility of success now because you have gone through the process.
You become wiser and you know what works better and what don’t.
This is how all the successful people did it.
The first 3 rocket launches from SpaceX were failures. But Elon Musk didn’t give up. He and his team learned the lessons and came back wiser. The fourth launch was important to the company because they were running out of capital and it was SpaceX’s last hope.
In 2008, SpaceX launched their 4th rocket successfully. The missile successfully completed the flight and went into orbit with the weight. And thus, the existence of the company was secured. Read the success story of SpaceX here.
As you can see, failures only make people wiser and stronger.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
So don’t give up. Choose to relaunch and start over again. You have already put in the effort before, although that you have failed, the previous effort that you poured in becomes your experience.
That means your failure actually contributes to your success.
Thomas Edison would never find the right material for the lightbulb if he did not fail thousands of times.
Your failures are your experience. So leverage on your experience to create better result the next time.
However, if you give up, all the time and effort you have poured in before will be gone in vain.
Tony Robbins once said:
“Success in life is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is usually the result of experience. Experience is usually the result of bad judgment.”
Thus, to be successful, you must gain experience. And experience usually comes from failure.
So, without failure, you will never have the experience. Without failure, you will never learn and become better. And without failure, you will never be successful.
What you can do:
Do not give up and do it one more time. Follow all the steps above and prepare yourself to do it one more time. You failed in your previous attempt doesn’t mean that you are going to fail in your next attempt.
As of this point, you should know what you can do to overcome failure in life and at work. Here is a recap of the 7 steps:
Step 1: Accept and Let Go
Step 2: Manufacture hope and see the possibility
Step 3: Be brutally honest and learn from your mistakes
Step 4: Ignore the naysayer and focus on what you can do
Step 5: Reimagining your success
Step 6: Assemble your team and draw inspiration from those who support you
Step 7: Start over again, with an edge this time
So do you think this article is helpful? Let me know what you think by leaving your comment below. Cheers.