27 September 2023

Fail safe: How to see failure as a positive step to success

Start the conversation

Travis Bradberry* says failures are a part of our lives; the important thing is how we view them — as reflections on our abilities or as opportunities for growth.

Everyone faces failure in life, and it can be a crushing experience.

The only thing that separates successful people from the rest is how they respond after they fail.

When facing obstacles, you have to decide if you’re going to let them be the excuse for your failure or if you’re going to make them the story behind your success.

When you adopt the right attitude, failure is a great teacher.

Failure gives you an opportunity to explore new solutions, but only if you have the right attitude.

Psychologist, Albert Bandura conducted a study that showed just how great a role our attitudes play in the face of failure.

In the study, two groups of people were asked to complete an identical management task.

The first group was told that the purpose of the task was to measure their management abilities.

The other group was told that the skills required to complete the task were improvable and that the task was merely an opportunity to practice and improve.

The trick was that the researchers made the task so difficult that all participants were bound to fail, and fail they did.

The first group — feeling like failures because their skills weren’t up to snuff — made little or no improvement when they were given opportunities to repeat the task.

The second group saw each failure as a learning opportunity, and performed at progressively higher levels each time they attempted the task.

Just like the study participants, we can either view our failures as reflections of our abilities or as opportunities for growth.

The next time you catch yourself wallowing in the self-pity that often accompanies failure, focus on what you can control: Your attitude.

When you want to achieve something important, that first step is inevitably going to be daunting, even frightening.

When you dare to make that first move, anxiety and fear dissipate in the name of action.

People that dive headfirst into taking that brutal first step aren’t any stronger than the rest of us; they’ve simply learned that it yields great results.

Success, above all, requires time and effort.

Author Malcolm Gladwell suggested that mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours of tireless focus.

Consider Henry Ford, whose first two automobile businesses failed before he started Ford at the age of 45.

Or author Harry Bernstein, who dedicated his entire life to writing before he finally landed a best-seller at the age of 96.

Look at everyone around you.

They all seem so busy, running from meeting to meeting and firing off e-mails.

Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level?

Success doesn’t come from movement and activity; it comes from focus — from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively.

You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else, so use yours wisely.

There are too many extenuating circumstances in life to control every outcome.

You can, however, control how you react to things that are out of your control.

Your reaction is what transforms a mistake into a learning experience and ensures that a victory doesn’t send your ego through the roof.

You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you; people who make you want to be better.

What about the people who drag you down?

Why do you allow them to be part of your life?

Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them.

Cut them loose.

Almost all our problems occur because we time travel.

We go to the past and regret things we’ve done, or we go to the future and feel anxious about events that haven’t even happened.

It’s all too easy to slip into the past or jet into the future.

When you do, you lose sight of the one thing that you can actually control — the present.

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself with others, you are no longer the master of your own destiny.

When you feel good about something you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments to take that away from you.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself with others.

That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within.

Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Some people will inundate you with negativity, passive aggression, anger, or jealousy, but none of this matters.

As Dr Seuss said: “Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.”

Letting go of the opinions of people who don’t matter frees up time and energy for the people and things that do.

Don’t seek perfection as your target, it doesn’t exist.

Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible.

When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up.

Instead move forward, excited about what you’ve achieved and what you’ll accomplish in the future.

Successful people never stop learning.

They learn from their mistakes and they learn from their triumphs, and they’re always changing themselves for the better.

* Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.