Failing sucks. Not being able to achieve the goals you’ve set is a letdown for most of us. Your confidence might drop and you’ll start doubting yourself. However, most succesful people that we admire today because of their achievements, kept embracing their failures througout the years. Here are some examples:
- Steven Spielberg: One of the most renowned film directors of all time, who directed classics like ‘E.T.’, ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, was rejected from film school because of poor grades.
- James Dyson: founder of the Dyson vaccuum cleaner failed an astounding 5126 times in the course of 15 years, before he finally made a vaccum cleaner that worked.
- Michael Jordan: One of the GOAT’s of Basketball and well-known under his nickname ‘Air Jordan’, didn’t make it into the High School Basketball team.
- The Beatles: The famous British band that became a true pioneer in the music industry, was rejected by the record label they contacted in the early 60s.
- Oprah Winfrey: Shortly after studying speech communication and performing arts at Tenessee State University, she started her career as a coanchor. After seven and a half months, she was fired because she was “unfit for television news”. However, Oprah later became one of the best known talkshow hosts in history.
I guess you can see a pattern when looking at these examples. The most succesful people in the world failed several times before their career finally took of. However, these ‘constant failures’ didn’t stop them in achieving their goals. Another example is that J.K Rowling, the now famous writer of ‘Harry Potter’, was allegedly rejected 12 times by different publishers. People like her use their failures as stepping stones for carrying on. But how can we learn from these people? I’ll try to explain how you can turn failures into something positive!
Failure helps you to make better choices in the future
I think we all have made decisions in the past that we now regret or things that happened to us that inflicted pain or suffering. Think of business owners that went bankrupt because of a bad decision they made or a relationship that didn’t work out because of you, are a few examples.
An important thing from these failures in our lives, is that we learn to make better decisions when similar moments happen again. Learning from them is the most important thing in this. Otherwise, you would just make the same bad decision when the situation occurs again. Albert Einstein once stated the definition of insanity: doing the same over and over again and expecting different results”
Therefore, most succesful people learn from their mistakes by identifying what went wrong, analyzing why it went wrong and to finally come with an improvement. So in our little example, the business owner doesn’t make the same mistake with his company that could lead to bankruptcy (hopefully).
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
It's better to try and fail, than to never try at all
Most people have a fear of failing at something. You get stressed in these situations or even feel pain during these moments. However, most of the times the fear you have is actually greater than the failure itself. In my case, I hated giving presentations/speeches. The fear of standing for a large crowd made me nervous and stressed weeks in advance, but I did them nonetheless. Sometimes, it didn’t go that well, but so what?
I realised that giving presentations in school would improve my overall skills, which is something that could come in handy in my professional career. An important step in this, is to listen carefully to feedback after you’ve given the presentation. In my case (in my early high-school years), I always carried a small piece of paper with the lines on it that I read during the presentation, because I was afraid that I would leave something out because of stress. The teacher gave me feedback that I should try and leave the paper out, so I would speak more naturally. After trying it out, it improved the overall flow of my presentations.
Based on my experience, there are several things I learned in my process of improvement:
- Listen to feedback and learn from the mistakes you made. In the case of giving presentations. It helped that all students had to practice presentations that needed to be filmed via a video camera. The teacher then gives you overall feedback as well as points of improvement based on the skills you showed in the video. This way, you can easily look back on your performance and you know exactly what the teacher is talking about.
- Realise that the people that might laugh at you, are probably not the best public speakers themselves.
Furthermore, they (probably) didn’t insult you or anything, so try and take these things lightly. They don’t really hurt you in one way or another, so why bother? Other classmates might laugh at the guy that was first laughing at you, so nobody really cares who’s standing in front of the class.
- Practice makes perfect. The more you do something, the better you’ll become at it.
And even when something didn’t go as well as you planned, always remember where you came from and the improvements you made along the way.
Overall, we learn how we can improve and become better the next time. Now, I’m no Martin Luther King when it comes to public speeches, but I dare to say that my presentations are not that bad nowadays.
As with all things in life, it’s okay to take calculated risks when you’re trying to achieve something. You have to push yourself to reach certain goals. Just like in sports, you have to deal with the risk of losing a match. But when you take the win, satisfaction will be great. Victory will always be sweet.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But i can’t accept not trying”.
You learn what you want and don't want in life.
We gain a deeper perpective when we fail. We come to conclusions about all things in life, including work and relationships. How so? Well, a lot of things are being dealt with in autopilot mode (shout out Self-awareness). Sometimes the best way to actually discover if you actually like the job you have or the relationship you’re currently in, is by failing. Failing to reach a sales-target for example, will give you the opportunity to discover why you didn’t reach your goal. Was there a lot of competition, was the price of the product you were trying to sell too high, or weren’t you really motivated because you actually don’t like your job? If everything went according to plan, maybe you wouldn’t even realize that deep inside, you are not enjoying the things you do.
By failing, you come to realize what you actually want and don’t want in life, which is incredibly valuable ofcourse. Life is short, so you better enjoy it by doing the things you like, which in turn leads to happiness. Like Greek philosopher Artistotle said: “Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human civilization”.
“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human civilization”.
Tips on how you can learn from your failures
So there are some useful things when we fail. There are three main tips that I would like to give you whenever you fail in the future.
Own your failures
Accept how things went. Maybe you gave the wrong advice, made the wrong choice or went into the wrong direction. Accept that you’re human. We all make mistakes and you can’t go back in history to undo them.
Learn from your mistakes.
Try to think rationally instead of emotionally and ask yourself what you did that lead to the failure. By critically looking at yourself, you’ll understand why you made the decisions you made. Maybe you need another course of action, take more time or don’t rely too much on other peoples opinions. Learn from you failure and try to move on.
Live in the present and keep going
After you’ve learned from your mistakes, live in the present. Focus on the things around you and try to recognize situations that are within your control that previsiously didn’t go as planned. Focus on things within your power. Past failures are sure not one of them. Keep the following quote of George Bernard Shaw in mind: “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”.
I hope you got some useful tips out of this blog on failing and remember that people around the world make the same mistakes as we do. All we can do is learn from them and move on.
See you in our next blog!