Failing Forward – Turning Your Failures Into Successes

Jul 10, 2013 1 Min Read


Remember the time when you first learnt how to ride a bicycle? Like everyone who is learning something new, no one gets it on his “first try” – unless of course he is an acrobat. Real people begin with a lot of false starts and even some nasty knocks and falls.

Life is a lot like that. We succeed in a certain aspects of our lives because we have experienced failure doing it in the past. That experience will undoubtedly determine the way we approach similar occasions. By then we would have discovered a solution to tackle that matter and overcome it. Beginner’s luck is almost always a myth.

But failure in itself is such a feared concept that most people will attempt to avoid it at all costs. But like everything in life, success and failure comes in a cyclical flow – at the lowest point in your life you can rest assured that with a bit of effort it will not be long before you are peaking again.

Successful people such as writer J.K. Rowling, TV host Oprah Winfrey and basketballer Michael Jordan experienced rejection and failure so many times that most will wonder why they did not just give up after trying for so long. But these exceptional people strived on, perfecting their every move.

Reasons for Failure

There are several reasons why people fail and most of them stem from within:

1. Lack of commitment

To start off, they may not be 100% committed to what they are doing. When that happens it is easy to lose the momentum to move forward. To drive a plan or idea towards success, it needs passion and inspiration. Without dedication, the fire to drive people to make hard decisions and take extraordinary measures for success would be absent.

2. Not learning from past mistakes

Another reason how people end up failing is when they do not learn from their mistakes. In order to move forward there are certain lessons we need to learn that will allow us to choose the correct path towards success. As difficult as learning through impact is – for example when faced with failure – for most people, it is still the more effective way to learn than learning through books or from another person.

In that sense, being unsuccessful becomes a powerful way for us to learn the best way to do something. Some of these lessons can quickly be picked up; some are just too complex and need constant trial and error and an unwavering persistence to grasp it.

3. Giving up

And that leads to the next point that people who do not succeed tend to be less persistent or resilient in achieving their goals. There is little reason to go on if they feel that they do not have the capacity to push their ideas on to the world. Giving up is usually the result of a setback.

If they ended up obsessing about these setbacks they experienced, they may risk getting “stuck in a rut” with no way of getting out of that stagnation.

4. Lack of conviction

Sometimes people are not that persistent because they lack the confidence or conviction. People like this prefer to blend into their surroundings instead of standing out and making a difference. They would prefer to follow than be followed hence they would never know the responsibility of striving for success.

People who fail also are usually the ones who would seek to deflect the blame from themselves. When failure strikes, they very quickly rationalise the reasons why they were doomed to fail, rather than analysing where the problems lie.

5. Lack of discipline

People who fail often usually also do not have the self-discipline to keep on chasing their dreams. Discipline helps a person to stay focused and to ignore distractions. In order to inculcate discipline, the person has to have a good amount of self-control and a willingness to sacrifice their time and sometimes happiness in order to achieve a much fuller satisfaction later.

6. Low self-esteem

A person’s self-esteem is another determinant of whether a person fails or succeeds. The lack of self-esteem usually stems from the life experiences that mould the self with unfavourable and develop negative feelings of self-worth.

Some people tend to take a fatalistic or even pessimistic view of life. These people have problems accepting responsibilities and will always attribute their success and failures to coincidence or fate.

In such a case, failure to them is seen as part of life and because of that they do not analyse where they went wrong and are bound to repeat their mistakes.

A failure, big as it seems, is never an indication of a person’s self-worth or abilities. It, however, lays a person’s characteristics – their attitudes, beliefs and behaviour – open to interpretation and analysis.

Overcoming Failure

Before you can begin to overcome any failure, you would first have to experience failure. Everyone has to taste the bitter pill in order to experience sweet success after. That is because the nature of that failure itself will provide you answers on how to improve.

After that, try applying other methods. You may just find the perfect solution to turn your failure into a success. Even then, exposure to a wealth of ideas will give you new perspectives and opportunities of how to turn the failure around.

At every juncture of your project or business, take a break and start accessing – are you heading in the right direction? Is there anything wrong that needs to be addressed? Recognising when success has slipped from your grasp is another important element.

When that happens, you have to know when you are approaching failure and start making decisive decisions about changing direction or repacking your ideas into another form.

Open your senses, your self-awareness, observe the reactions of people around closely and you will receive your answers fast enough. The ability to recognise failure means that you now can re-cast the plan or idea into something more likely to succeed.

Listening closely also helps you to gather the feedback you need in order to proceed towards improving your idea. Seek the advice from several people, and not just from one person. Preferably this person should be of some authority with regards to your idea. Feedback is an excellent way for you to get the views of others in order to improve.

The more you work on your ideas or projects, you will find that you will eventually get attached to some. Being emotionally attached to any idea or project may cost you your rationality and sight on how to progress further.

This is where preparing objectives becomes an invaluable exercise for you can keep track of your plans by constantly testing if it meets the requirements of the objectives.

Allow some space to yourself to experiment with ways on how your idea or plan can develop. Start testing your ideas in smaller manageable and favourable environments that can help you develop the necessary skills.

It gives you a good foundation to test and expand your skills. In the end, practice only makes perfect; you become so adept in what you do because you have been testing waters all along.

Perhaps the best way to deal with failure is to regard it as a learning experience. By analysing the reason why the outcome of our efforts does not meet our expectations, we have a better chance later of rectifying that error or avoiding it altogether. That is how failures can act as a catalyst towards such.

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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