How to Fail Successfully

Successfully fail

The best way to understand a person is to watch him fail. Anyone can be spectacular and optimistic while riding the wave of success, but when one fails, especially deeply, true ambition and even personality emerges. It’s likened to the classic story of the character that steps up during tough times to save the day, while the so-called leader flounders. The truth is shitty situations reveal an often hidden, sometimes undesirable, layer of our personalities. So how do we handle these failures, these shitty situations, with even a shred of grace and control? Allow ourselves to accept the failure and build upon it. Let me explain with a timeline:

Moment of Failing until 24 Hours After: Feel It

You’ve fail at something you’ve wholeheartedly prepared for over the course of X weeks, months, even years. Maybe you felt confident in success, surely with all the effort and hard work you’ll succeed. But you failed instead. You’ll feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, and perhaps angry. Allow yourself to feel it, but don’t do anything regretful such as lash out at co-workers or embarrass yourself on social media with a rant. Instead convert that energy into something physical like a run or kickboxing class. If you’re not up for anything but sulking then eat some comfort food in front of the TV, or just cry in the privacy of your home.

You failed at something you’ve worked hard to accomplish successfully. You’ll have feelings of wasted effort, lack of will, and even question your skills. Give yourself some time to sort through your feelings and thoughts, regardless of how irrational they may be.

24-48 Hours After: Back to the Routine

You only get 24 hours for a pity party then it’s back to reality. At work, focus on lower priority tasks you may have been putting off. At home, eat a healthy meal and exercise, even if you’re only up for a walk. Spend some time on a hobby, write in a journal, or grab coffee with a good friend. Whatever you need to get back on track to a positive mindset. Periodically throughout the day, try to acknowledge that you failed, but recognize that it’ll be ok.

48-72 Hours & Beyond: Look Ahead

What are you going to do now? This step is shaped by your failure. You need to analyze how you stumbled: what went wrong? Can you can fix it? Adjust goals and make a plan. For example, if you lost a major client to a competitor, ask yourself why? What was lacking in your presentation or skill set that turned the client away? Same with getting passed up for a promotion. If you failed to stick to a diet and exercise regime, why? Did you make the plan too restrictive or have you been too stressed to focus? If you still have passion, then make it happen. Find a way to success.

You may find when analyzing your failure that you may not be interested in pursing the same course of action. Maybe you wanted to change careers, but have been striking out consistently. If you recognize that your heart isn’t really into it, don’t feel bad about quitting— that’s not a failure, that’s realizing something isn’t your passion.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Failing hurts, but giving up becomes more of a regret when we look back upon our lives. Successfully failing means getting something out of failing whether it be a lesson, a new successful plan, or the realization that you need to adjust courses. Good luck in your success….and failures.