No matter who we are, where we come from, or whatever our age, we have all failed at something at some point in our lives.
The big question is, how good are we at failing? Silly question? Maybe. The point I want to make is to ask ourselves how successfully did we recover from failure? Did these failures become the pillars of our success? What lessons did we learn from them? Did we ever seek feedback to see how we could improve next time, or did we just give up? Maybe we tried and tried again until we succeeded? Can we identify with all or maybe some of these scenarios?
Speaking from personal experience, I can honestly say I can identify with all of the above. With that in mind, I would like to share with you which of these reactions or responses have actually worked for me.
The main thing to remember is that everyone fails; some people are just better at hiding it than others. When we were little, if we failed at getting our way with the adults in our life, we would just lie on the floor, kicking and screaming until we either got fed up or successfully acquired our desires. Life was pretty simple then.
As we grew older, we realised that this was no longer acceptable social behaviour. Although, saying that, we may still encounter adults who tend to throw the proverbial “fit” from time to time. The point again is that what we learnt pretty quickly were the tactics we used as kids at home were not going to work in our school, university, or work life. If we were not going to get the object of our desires, we worked or studied hard for it, gave up, or moved on to other things, whichever the case may have been.
I think as parents, we do not teach our children how to fail well enough. Yes, we are all about encouraging them, giving them confidence, telling them that they can do and be whatever they want to – which is all well and good – but are we teaching them that it’s ok to fail at things too?
This is the most important lesson because everyone is not going to be good at everything. We all have our own strengths and gifts. This is what makes us special and unique. Some of us are good at maths, others are good at English. Some will be good at art, yet others may excel in sports. We need to make sure our children understand this.
At school, kids try different sports and learn different subjects. While the rare few may be good at everything, most will fail at something. What we need to impress upon our kids is that if they fail, it is ok. What they then need to do is get feedback from their teacher or coach: why did they fail? What can they do better? What do they need to do to improve? The key is not to just give up and walk away. Of course, sometimes that may be the best option but to also remember that if they are walking away from something, it is just leaving the door wide open for some better opportunity, thing, and person to come in.
In a recent survey, I read that the rate of youth suicide among people between the ages of 19 to 24 has been on the rise. This age period is a very critical time in the lives of young adults. They are coming out of university, armed with the best degrees, repeatedly told by people how good and brilliant they are, but they are failing repeatedly to get their dream jobs. This failure is incomprehensible to them.
What they need to understand is that they have now entered the big, bad, corporate world. There are sharks and lions out there, waiting to eat them up and spit them out in this concrete jungle.
To achieve success, it is going to take time and some very hard work. It will also mean taking a long, hard look in the mirror and saying, “it’s ok, I failed today but there is always tomorrow – I will try again. I will get feedback and see what areas of expertise I am lacking in and work on it. I will sacrifice one or two nights of drinking and partying to stay at home the night before the interview and read up all about the company I want to work for. I will do research, plan my strategy and then execute successfully. I will not give up.”
When we fail, it doesn’t mean we have been lazy or didn’t work hard or didn’t give it our best, it just means that sometimes there are reasons and situations beyond our control that are responsible for our failure. We cannot control these situations, but what we can control is our reaction to them. Are we going to give up or are we going to take these failures, learn from them, and use them to grow stronger and more determined to succeed the next time around?
When we look at the lives of all the successful, famous people or successful, ordinary people – our parents or peers – they all have one thing in common: they failed many times in life but they never gave up.
If I could list the things that would help people to fail successfully, they are:
Never, ever give up! Tomorrow is an opportunity for a new start, to try again.
Get constructive feedback, learn where you have made mistakes, and avoid them the second time around.
Hard work is the key to success; there is no short cut.
You are always going to suck at something; you are not going to be good at everything, every time.
Don’t take it personally. Develop a thick skin, laugh at yourself, and have a sense of humour.
Ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask. No one is going to think less of you if you do. If you don’t ask, you are the only one who is going to miss out.
Believe in yourself. You can do it if you want it badly enough and if you try hard enough, you will achieve it. If not, start from number one again.
All of the above has served me well in the past. As we get older though, we get very good at failing. What’s important is, it’s not about how many times we fail, it’s about how many times we get up and keep fighting for what we want and what we believe in.