As a child, nobody feared failure like I did. We were taught to fear failure subconsciously. From the time we started school, students laughed at you for not giving a correct answer or sometimes not knowing the answer. Actually more than just being laughed at, some teachers would cane students for not knowing the answer to a question. What this meant is that there was only one road to Rome and If you tried to create another, you would get a thorough beating. Everyone became obsessed with being right all the time that they forgot they were human.
The above was the kind of start we got to life. A start where failure was almost abominable. Later in life, I discovered that it was through failure that we became good at anything. When I looked at what we were taught in school, I realized that our own teachers had also not understood the lessons they were teaching us. For-instance when we were taught about man powered flight by the Wright brothers, my teacher seemed to undermine how hard and long the Wright brothers worked (read failed) before they even got something close to success.
Apart from the fact that they were the first to successfully build a flight machine. I wasn’t told that they were bicycle fundis who got their meagre earnings to buy parts to build a flight machine. I also wasn’t told that they stopped counting how many times they crashed and had to start all over again.
He didn’t tell me about how there were so many other people at the time with all the resources and connections they needed to figure out flight. And after all, it was the least connected peasant brothers with no resources who actually successfully figured out man powered flight. The lesson here should have been that when you fail, try again. Do not use lack of resources as an excuse; always use what you have to create what you want.
Before Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb (actually he didn’t – He just made the most commercially viable option at the time), it’s said that he tried over 9,000 times (to find a substance that can sustainably burn and emit light) before he got it right. I can only imagine how many times he was told to give up.
If we are to bring it back home, my teachers taught me that Nelson Mandela was a great man but yet they had a disregard for what he went through to become a great man. It’s until I read his biography that I understood his Mantra.
It’s through a lot of experimentation (read failing) that I have learnt lessons about success and not giving up. I tried so many things so hard that I became a certified jack of all trades. After a while, It all came together and I chose a path to take and define my life.
When you finally choose the path you want to lead in Life, I guarantee you that along the way, you will fail. Not once not twice but very many times. And when you do, I hope you find some of these lessons helpful. So the question here is What do you do when you fail?
1. Find out What failed you and Why – Evaluate
This is normally the time when you are feeling down and have a lot of self pity and doubt. It’s the time when lots of questions run through your mind. May be I shouldn’t have started, What If I fail again? What didn’t I do right? Am I doing the right thing? may be I wasn’t cut out for this. My friends are laughing at me and bla bla bla.
Step 1: Breathe in and then out – You are alive!
All these thoughts and feelings are actually good and it’s okay to let yourself feel them instead of blocking them out. It’s part of the process. I call it a major part of the Failure – Success equation. By not blocking these thoughts and feelings, you allow yourself to tap into your mind and being for answers that no one will give you. The human state we call failure can be a powerful tool to unlock answers you had no idea were available.
Step 2: Stop the pity party – It’s time to move on.
After going through the emotional roller coaster that is failure, It is also important to know when to stop the pity party and move before you get trapped in the vicious cycle of “If only I knew what to do”. Well you will never know unless you keep on keeping on. After the pity party, find out what failed you and why. Take time to evaluate what didn’t work out and why it didn’t work out this time.
Step 3: Evaluate and analyse
Try to figure out what you could have done better. It’s through this evaluation that you can know what not to do next time. Actually sometimes you did everything you were supposed to do but it still didn’t work out. It happens. May be your best wasn’t good enough so what you do is give it another go and see how it goes. Sometimes there are multiple contributing causes to our failure some of which is human. Don’t be bitter – learn to let go. It might have failed for the right reasons. You also need to know that just because you failed doesn’t mean your idea sucks and even if it does, you were brave enough to try.
2. Learn from your failure. Success is just failure turned inside out so – Fail forward
Step 4: Enjoy the process – learn to accept failure as part of the process.
Failure is temporary and it’s not a bad thing. On the contrary, It’s a powerful tool by which we master our crafts. When you fail, you learn something that you didn’t know before. Life is about learning. It’s one big school with infinite classes where you keep graduating from one to another till you stop breathing. You only fail when you stop trying. When you embrace failure as part of the process and stop fearing it like we were taught to do, you will be a better risk taker with more chances of success than the average individual. It’s only through repeated failure that many have become experts whom we admire. They weren’t born with the expertise – they earned it one failure at a time.
Step 5: Fail forward
One of the best things you can do when you fail is to fail forward. It’s through failure that you can refine your idea or strategy and map out a better course. It’s at this stage that you should take notes. lots and lots of notes. Talk about your failure and what you have learned from it with people you trust. Talk to like minded people and find out there experiences so you can learn from them. They will give you the necessary positive energy to keep moving. Finally, use the knowledge and experiences you have gained to propel yourself further.
3. Try again and again and AGAIN – DO NOT GIVE UP
Step 6: What now? Give yourself a break – Rejuvenate.
You have done all you can do within your sphere of possibility and it has still failed, repeat processes 1 and 2 and shelve your idea. Do not do the same thing again and again and expect different results – It’s madness. Forget it for a while and then use the experience you have gained to try something else that you love while you cool down and regain perspective. It must be and I REPEAT must be something that you love. Sometimes (actually many times) returns are slow coming so don’t give up yet- be patient and take one day at a time. In order to have the strength and zeal to keep moving, you have to ask yourself the fundamental question -WHY? Why are you doing this again? With a clear purpose, it’s easier to press on
Step 7: Maintain the Goal and Vision but be Flexible about the Process.
You will not get it right all the time – you win some and lose some – its life so get used to it. Not everything will work out the way you want it all the time so be flexible. Being rigid means you aren’t learning. To avoid dangerous compromise, on matters of trend flow with the tide but on matters of principle stand like a rock
Step 8: Whatever you do avoid these
Avoid burnout at all costs. Interrupt work with play, or punctuate your routine with small things that will make you happy.
Avoid negative people and negative energy – most definitely not what you need.
Avoid whatever upsets your balance or peace of mind. Anything that has the ability to throw you off balance probably will if you give it a chance. So watch what you feed your mind because keeping the right attitude and altitude are important in getting back there and shooting for the stars just one more time
NEVER GIVE UP – JUST GIVE IT ONE MORE SHOT. I PROMISE YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.