Someone close to me failed recently at something they were sure they could handle, and this got me thinking about failure. How it feels. How much a part of living it really is. What we teach our kids (it’s ‘bad’ to have the wrong answer, make mistakes) about it.
When you think about it, how many times have you heard highly successful people talk about their many failures? Steve Jobs. Abe Lincoln. Nelson Mandela. Sometimes we underestimate the foe, or our own strength. Sometimes the timing is wrong. Sometimes we misjudge events, get bad advice or lack essential resources.
Whatever the reason, failing when you were sure you would succeed is the worst thing ever. It cuts you to the core. Hurts like mad. Shatters your confidence and has you scurrying for safety like nothing else. It keep you tossing and turning at night. If you’re lucky your failure is private rather than lived before the whole world. Either way, in the midst of a crushing failure, it’s hard to believe any kind of recover can happen.
Except that it can, and does.
What’s bothersome is the reality that so many of us (especially young people) are so fearful of failure. Perhaps it’s because we hear success stories without the crushing failures that are an essential part of the story, though not the part that gets attention. Failure isn’t all that glamorous after all. We need to recognize that adversity happens to everyone and as much a part of success as anything… it comes with the territory.
And it’s not going to kill you. It just feels like it for a time.
And since none of us is perfect, it makes sense for all of us to get used to facing setbacks. Everyone (yes everyone) gets a turn at this. You can be overwhelmed and defeated — hide yourself away and never move forward — many people choose this option. Or, you can admit to being rocked a bit, disappointed in how things turned out while giving yourself credit for the effort and taking steps to overcome this failure, perhaps even turn it to your advantage.
So if you find yourself facing failure, resist the urge to browbeat yourself. Be kind to yourself instead. Let a bit of time pass as you regain your bearings and regroup. Tell that nasty little voice in your head to shut it. Know that you are one step ahead of where you were yesterday. You’ll do better next time.
Failure may slow you down… but never, ever let it stop you.