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REDEFINING FAILURE


Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash


I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can. –Babe Ruth

F A I L U R E. Does just looking at the word, make you twitch or bring back shameful images of the past? Have you ever been so afraid to fail that you became paralyzed and didn’t act at all?

From the time we’re young children, we are taught that we’re not supposed to fail a test or a class in school. We learn that failure is a bad thing to be avoided at all costs. If we’re not careful, we can grow up confusing what happened (we failed) with how we define ourselves (we’re a failure).


What if we’re looking at it all wrong? Maybe failing is a good thing. Just like we need to exercise in order to strengthen our muscles, or practice before making a presentation at work, don’t we need to learn how to fail?


Like death and taxes, it isn’t something most of us can escape. If you’re human, you’re going to fail at some point in your life. Instead of carrying it around like a shameful secret, why not embrace it, learn from it, and strive to do better next time?


Here are some mind shift changes to consider about failure:


  • Reframe Your Failure: Instead of fearing failure and never taking any risks, redefine the meaning of failure. Did you fail because you were brave enough to step out of your comfort zone? Did it allow you to learn or grow? Did failing cause you to become more empathetic or humble as a result of the experience? You might be tempted to beat yourself up and diminish your self worth because a job didn’t work out or a relationship ended. Change your story. Tell yourself that it wasn’t a fit.

  • Stick To The Facts: Often when we don’t succeed, we add our own meaning and interpretation to what happened and it isn’t even true. For example, if you’ve written a story and submitted it to several publishers and been rejected, you might tell yourself that you’re a bad writer and you’ll never get anything published. The fact is that you have yet to be published. What if JK Rowling, who was reportedly turned down by 12 publishers before finding success with the Harry Potter books had done that?

  • Don’t Let Others Define You: If you’re still carrying around negative feedback from a teacher, parent or boss from 5 or 10 years ago, or perhaps even longer, isn’t it time to let it go? They probably don’t even remember what they said. Ask yourself why you’ve given that person the power to define you and your future. According to a CBS News article on famous people who failed before they succeeded, Walt Disney was fired for not being creative enough. Oprah’s first boss told her she wasn’t right for television. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California three times. All of these people have enriched the world with their talents and contributions, but what if they had let themselves be defined by negative feedback?

  • Move On: Sometimes as much as you prepare, you won’t get the grade you want on that important test or the dream job you interviewed for; a work meeting might turn out to be a disaster. These things happen. You can ruminate on your failure and stay stuck and afraid to try again or you can evaluate the situation and come up with a new plan for moving forward. Babe Ruth certainly did. According to an article in Forbes , Ruth redefined the meaning of success in baseball, AND he also redefined failure. With his reputation as the King of Home Runs (714) came the title of the King of Strikeouts (1,330).

  • Remember, Others Don’t Remember: Are you avoiding people because you failed or said something you thought was stupid? Guess what? Most people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t even notice or remember what you did or said. They will remember if you made them feel good or provided inspiration.

In summary, don’t sit on the sidelines of the game of life because you’re afraid to fail or because you failed once and it was painful. Get on the court and play the game. When you fall down, get back up and play a new game. Others may try to define you or tell your story; don’t let them. Only you can be the author of your story. Make it a good one.


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