Fail Upwards: How You Treat Your Failures Will Determine Whether You Succeed. Period.

When you mess up, acknowledge it, learn from it, and throw again.
Photo by David Kovalenko on Unsplash

“Successful people don’t fear failure, but understand that it’s necessary
to learn and grow from.” ~Robert T. Kiyosaki

You will fail.

There, glad that’s over with.

It’s true though, you will fail.

I will fail. We will fail. That is inevitable. Failure is part of life, just like breathing, eating, and sleeping. It’s endemic to existing — and if that’s the case, why do we treat it with such fear and hatred? More importantly, why do most people grind themselves into the dirt when they fail and let failures scar them for the rest of their lives?

  • Failure hurts (if we perceive it as such)
  • It reveals our weaknesses (or, from another view, areas to improve)
  • It embarrasses us (if we think it does)
  • It is a disaster (or a lesson)
  • It’s seen as a loss (or as an opportunity)

There are many reasons, but the bottom line is perception, and the fuel of counterproductive perceptions around failure is one word: fear.

Failure is today’s boogeyman. Everyone chases “success” and the word “failure” haunts them night and day. No one wants to be called one — and yet most people make themselves into failures by trying to avoid failure in the first place.

The real issue: since everyone fails, success isn’t about not failing, but what you do when you do fail.

  • How do you react when you fall short?
  • How do you think about yourself and your future when you screw up?
  • How do you treat yourself when you fail?

This is what determines your destiny.

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Failure — A Choice

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It
is a temporary detour, not a dead-end. Failure is something we can avoid only
by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Denis Waitley

Life has duality: weak and strong, hot and cold, up and down, failure and success. Likewise, boiled down, there is a duality to how we handle our defeats:

  • Do we let them break us down?
  • Or do we let them build us up?
  • Do we fail downwards or upwards?

Take basketball for instance: picture yourself missing 9000 shots, losing 300 games, and missing the winning shot 26 times when everyone was trusting you to make it. What is your response? Most people would give up and never look at a basketball again. Yet the person behind those stats didn’t. His name is Michael Jordan.

When you mess up, acknowledge it, learn from it, and throw again.

Henry Ford went broke five times before he succeeded. Most people would throw in the towel after one and never touch an engine again! Yet Ford had a philosophy: that failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

Thomas Edison took 10,000 unsuccessful prototypes to devise a viable lightbulb. 10,000! Yet he kept going UNTIL he succeeded — and that’s a powerful word, until. And what did he say about it?

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

These people, and everyone at the top of their game, didn’t quit. Sure, they didn’t like failing, it hurt, but the idea of giving up, the notion of failing FOREVER was far more excruciating — and it should be for all of us.

That’s what failure is: by choice.

We can choose a temporary failure and keep going.

Or we can choose permanent failure by giving up.

Be it Edison, Ford, Jordan, or many others, they changed how they saw failure, and how they treated themselves when they failed. And that changed their destinies. Period.

It can also change yours.


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