The big, bad “F” word. The word that lots and lots of people are afraid of. The word that stops people cold in their tracks, destroys confidence, and prevents people from ever chasing their dreams. Failure is the boogeyman that peeks out from your closet at night and causes you to sleep with one eye open, because you’re always afraid it’s going to pop out and grab you at any moment.
For years, that’s what failure did to me. It did all of those things and more.
“How am I ever going to pull this off?”
“What if people don’t listen to me?”
“What if people think my work is shit?”
“What if it never works out?”
Any time I started a new venture, worked with someone new, or began a new journey towards a goal or aspiration I had, the possibility of failure always crept into my mind. I was always afraid the boogeyman would come out of the closet and suck me into his world of darkness, despair, and agony.
Over time, I learned some things, and came to some eye-opening conclusions that allowed me to learn to love failure and embrace it in ways that gave me power, and actually allowed me to use more of my potential and become more successful and happy.
I want to share those with you.
1) Failure is a fear, and like any fear, is completely over-magnified based on self-illusion.
Society has given failure a bad name, and it’s often associated with horrible things. We’re often taught to do everything we can to avoid failure. But, the truth is, it’s not anywhere near as bad as it’s made out to be. For years, I over-magnified just how bad failure would really be, and I created this illusion in my mind that failure would mean I was a total loser, that no one would take me seriously, and that I would have to pack it in, give up, and head home if things didn’t work out. I was sure that, if I tried to work for myself and try to turn my passions into a career, I wouldn’t be able to make any money or. And, if I did, I’d lose it all and end up homeless if I ever failed along the way at some point.
I learned that those things couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I learned that, if I failed at something, it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t have to pack it in, give up, and head home. I learned that things never turned out nearly as bad as I had imagined they would.
The first client I ever had, I ended up “failing” with him, and we stopped working together after 3 months. Yet, here I still am, and better than I’ve ever been.
Even if you do fail at something, you can continue to keep going and you can still be successful, as long as you take the time to learn from that failure and do your best to avoid the same failure the next time.
2) There’s a huge difference between Failure and Momentary Defeat.
Too often, these two get mixed up or misinterpreted. On my journey through my career, I often used to see a speed bump as mountain. Whenever I thought I was experiencing a failure, I never interpreted it for what it really was – a momentary defeat, something that is simply a small obstacle, and that I can just learn from it and move on.
We need those speed bumps from time to time. They give us a jolt and remind us, “Hey, here’s some things you still need to improve on.”
Failure is only real once it’s accepted as real. You only fail at something once you give up on it.
As long as you continue to persevere and keep going, failure is literally impossible. It’s only once you give up that true failure has set in.
3) Failure is an opportunity to learn and make necessary changes.
If you’re experiencing “failure”, it can mean any number of things. It can mean your approach is wrong, that your plans need tweaking, or that you’re still inexperienced. I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, every “failure” is nothing more than a learning opportunity. It’s a cue from Life that you need to look at the things you’re doing, or who you are as a person, and re-adjust.
Use failure as a chance to say to yourself, “Ok….what can I learn from this, and how can this “failure” teach me something valuable?” That way, no defeat will ever seem permanent, nor will it shatter your confidence and belief in yourself.
4) Failure means you’re moving forward and progressing.
The only way to never achieve anything in life is to never try to do anything. Experiencing failure means that you’re actually doing something, and you’re in the process of learning, growing, and achieving your goals. That learning and growth is what leads to success and happiness. Unless you’re willing to take the risks and experience failure, you’re never going to get anywhere.
Lastly, and most importantly:
5) Success only comes through Failure. It’s impossible to succeed without it.
Every single success story in the history of the world carries with it a story of failure that came right before it. Before Thomas Edison finished the light bulb, he “failed” thousands of times trying to create it. Bill Gates “failed” at Harvard before he founded Microsoft, and Conan O’Brien “failed” at Harvard as well, before he went on to be a comedian and talk show host.
Your level of success will be equivalent to the level of the failure(s) that came before it.
In order to achieve success in anything, you have to experience failure first. It’s impossible to become successful without going through some form of failure at some point. Knowing that, doesn’t that make failure seem a little less scary? I mean, if you knowthat you’re not going to be able to avoid failure in your life, why be afraid of it?
When you understand just how important and beneficial failure really is, it suddenly becomes less scary. It’s no longer the boogeyman you thought it was.
We can learn to take Failure and use it as a source of Personal Power. We can see it for what it really is – A chance to learn, grow, change, and become better, stronger, and more complete.
Your failures don’t define you.
In my life, I’ve failed so many times, it’s ridiculous. I failed in school (I always had bad grades because I just didn’t really give a shit about it at all). I failed in the music industry when I tried to break into it as an audio engineer. I failed when I had my first real relationship with someone. I failed at saving money for years, and was constantly broke and in debt. I failed at writing my book the first time around and had to totally scrap it (I’m still in the process of writing it). I failed with my first client, who ended up quitting golf. I failed at starting my Personal Development Coaching & Sports Psychology business for years because I was petrified at the idea of having to earn a living working for myself and the idea that people would be looking to me for guidance and development.
However, if it wasn’t for those failures, I wouldn’t have the life I have today. I can say it, and I want to say it proudly:
I’ve failed really hard in my life.
Don’t be afraid to go out into the world and fail as miserably as you can.
I promise you that, if you stick through it, you’ll come out the other side with your hands in the air and a gigantic smile on your face.
Charlie Chaplin once said:
“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”
Go make fools of yourselves, my friends.