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How To Overcome Failure

By Edited Jun 7, 2016 7 9

Fail Is Not A Four-Letter Word

Overcoming Failure

Overcoming failure is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things we can do in our life.  The key is realizing that failure is not a bad thing, it's a step in the learning process.  There have been countless famous failures in history, and it's easy to take a lesson from their stories.  Steve Jobs was kicked out of the company he founded ten years after creating it because the Board of Directors didn't think he could lead the company to future success.  Abraham Lincoln lost sixteen elections on his way to the Presidency.  Your failures may seem insurmountable, but these four steps will help you overcome your failure and get back on track.

F. A. I. L.

1.) F is for FEAR.  

Fear does funny things to us. It physically alters our bodies at a chemical level.  When you are feeling fear, your fight or flight response kicks in.  This is a by-product of one of our most useful survival mechanisms, when fear meant avoiding getting eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger.  Fear would kick in, and in the process would shut down extraneous functions like rational thought, in turn funneling all of thoe body's resources towards survival.  Fear is the body’s first reaction to things not going as planned. For this reason, it is important to see fear for what it really is:  a natural chemical reaction.

Fear exists to spur us into action, either to resolve the problem (fight) or to get out of the situation (flight).  Feelings like FEAR or ANXIETY are designed to get you to do something.  They are uncomfortable because they are designed, by nature, to be uncomfortable.  

The first step to overcoming your failure is to overcome your fear of failure.  And you do this by understanding that no matter how bad it may seem, your failure is not going to kill you. Unless you're face to face with a saber-toothed tiger.

2.) A is for ACCEPT.

Accepting your failures as part of the learning process is crucial to overcoming failure.  Instead of seeing failure as the end of something, try to look at it as the beginning of your learning experience.  Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985.  It would be easy to look at this part of his life as a massive failure, having been kicked out of the company he had founded in his garage just a decade earlier.  But instead, Jobs founded Next Computers and learned from his failures at Apple.  The second time around, after re-joining the company in 1996, he created one of the world's most valuable companies.

Everyone fails in some way or another.  The key is not to see the failure as the end result, but as a step on the path to something greater.  Even if you fall flat on your face, at least you've moved forwards.  Embrace the fall. It means you are going somewhere rather than just standing still. Recognize that many have failed before you.  Get up and take that next step.

3.) I  is for IGNORE.
There is always going to be someone who is going to laugh at your failures.  Especially now, when the world is entirely connected, your failures are probably going to have an audience.  If you're going to learn how to overcome failure, you must first learn to ignore those obstacles in your path.  

Dr. Robert Goddard was the world's first rocket scientist.  In 1926, he tested the first liquid-fueled rocket with the intent of landing it on the moon.  His first flight took off in Auburn, Massachusetts and landed 184 feet away in a cabbage field.  The next day, the front page of the newspaper in Auburn read, "Moon rocket misses target by 238,799 1/2 miles."  

But Dr. Goddard was not deterred.  He continued his experiments for fifteen more years and while he was never famous for his achievements during his life, his experiments went on to influence many others to pursue space exploration, including Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin.  

Those who criticize and laugh at your failures should be disregarded as distractions.  Ignore them, and keep moving forward.

4.) L is for LEARN.
A failure is never truly a loss unless you fail to learn something from it.  We aren't born knowing how to do things.  We don't just intuitively know how to be great at everything.  A lot of life is trial and error.  Failures, even big failures, are okay so long as you learn a lesson you can apply to the next challenge you come up against.  

"I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work." -Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison once famously said of his failed attempts to create a commercially viable light bulb, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work."  Your failures, though they may seem massive at the moment, are in fact lessons to help you learn what doesn't work.  Take those lessons and use them.  Learn from them.  Remember them the next time you are faced with a challenge so that you can come out on top.  The lessons learned from your failures will help accelerate you to the next level.

In Order to Overcome Failure, You Must Learn to F.A.I.L.

Failure can be scary, but it doesn't have to be.  By taking these four steps and applying them to your own life, you can turn your failures into successes.  Anyone who has ever accomplished anything has first failed.  It's not about the number of times you get knocked down.  It's the number of times you get up.  

One of NBA great Michael Jordan's most famous quotes is as follows, 

"I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."

Remember that every failure will bring you that much closer to success. 

Overcome Failure Cross the Finish Line
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Comments

Jun 2, 2014 11:24am
ladybugblue
Enjoyed your article and I agree with your ideas on failure. Many people give up too soon!
Jun 2, 2014 1:29pm
Ruby3881
Excellent article! I think a lot of people get stuck trying to choose between fight or flight, and then they find themselves in a rut by the time the adrenaline wears off. They may accept the failure, but never move beyond that acceptance in order to learn from the experience. Or they may stay bitter and project negativity long after the original incident, because they wanted to fight and just couldn't spur themselves into action.
Jun 16, 2014 10:28pm
curiosity44
I read somewhere that Milton Hershey failed three times before finally succeeding with the Hershey Chocolate company. He learned from his mistakes and the rest has been history. Failure is a part of life and it will make you stronger or permanently defeat you. When you fail, it will make you appreciate your successes more. Great article!
Jun 17, 2014 6:51pm
Moina-Arcee
Really like the Edison quote, and the one by Michael Jordan too. Inspirational article, thanks.
Jun 22, 2014 9:25am
NateB11
Very well-put and you laid it out very clearly. I like that you covered the origin of fear in our fight or flight response and how to understand what it is too.
Jun 22, 2014 5:45pm
dogman007
Excellent. Great motivational advice.
Jun 22, 2014 9:22pm
finwin
I agree with all your principles about failure. Acronyms are always a great way to explain and comprehend important principles in life. Failure often becomes the proverbial wall that stops a lot f people from progressing.
However, as is the case with any principle in life, too much of anything is not good
One of the problems with the current generation of thinkers and learners is a sense of living a consequence free life, losing their sense of duty when it comes to taking responsibility for their actions. "I'm sorry. I made a mistake" can quickly become an overused and abused excuse for quite simply a lack of effort. Unfortunately, some take advantage this. Before we look at our failures and acknowledge them , a more appropriate precursory action to take will be to look at our effort level in regards to the task, and then examine and appreciate our failures.
Jun 23, 2014 3:48pm
Gopala
I always tell my students failure and success are like the two sides of a coin. You can't have one without the other.
Jul 1, 2014 11:16pm
snehalwagh
That is really an inspiring article. Found out a different way to look at failure.
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