If you want to succeed you’d better learn to fail well!

If you want to succeed you’d better learn to fail well!

If you want to succeed you’d better learn to fail well!

We are not all champion sports people, gifted actors or brilliant writers, but we all have talent, a capacity to excel and make a difference; it’s just very rare that any of us decide to exploit our potential to its maximum.

We look at successful people with reverence, like they are a special form of our species to who have been gifted powers that we mere mortals could only dream about and we complain about our lot. We call them lucky and go and buy another lottery ticket.

The truth of course is far from this; in the main, the story behind successful people is one of straight forward beginnings and their “super powers” have not come from some freaky twist of their DNA but something that we are all capable of doing; having focus and a determination to succeed.

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Successful people treat failure like a bad meal; they learn not to go to the same restaurant again but realise they still have to eat! They adapt and respond to the new knowledge; failure becomes the key to unlocking success.

In the pursuit of excellence we forget the simple humility and power of failure. It is a fact that all those people and organisations we consider to be successful have not! They never sit still or rest on their success; they push on addressing failure in their current performance knowing that if they don’t, their current success cannot be sustained. They know that if they focus on success only and expect to just get better, they will have crossed the rubicon and become arrogant, failure is then a certainty.

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It is foolish therefore to suggest that success is reliant on luck, and if you asked those people who considered themselves lucky you would undoubtedly discover a tail of hard work and persistence with their endeavour; a tail of humility.

The reality is we are all capable of doing what we perceive as impossible and in fact we all used to do it as a natural part of our development when we were children, so who or what stopped us?

It was Einstein that said; “common-sense is the accumulation of prejudices acquired by age 18,” and as you get older you begin to realise the prophecy of these words! As children we are naturally gifted and free from any psychological encumbrances to explore and question with an annoying (to adults at any rate) regularity and in the battle of nature versus nurture, it is the effects of the nurture that usually win through.

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We are taught, “failure is not an option.” When we fail we blame, and this encodes in our minds year on year the negativity of failure until we become too fearful to try. Successful people and organisations embrace failure on the journey but focus on the success of the ultimate goal.

The good news is that all those years of negative encoding can be overcome by following a simple process:

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  1. Segment the fear – Break down the task into smaller steps where the effects and impact of failure are not fatal to the task.
  2. Celebrate successes (even if it’s your own on your own) – Success is habit forming!
  3. Embrace the idea of Journey Failure – Journey failure should be thought of as learning and development. Review, establish the reason for the failure, adjust and move on, but never blame either others or yourself! Change is the only thing that ultimately prevents decline.
  4. Don’t try to plan in detail the whole task from start to finish. Plan in detail to where your current knowledge or ability allows. Being vague about the future is fine and stops you worrying about things you cannot control anyway.
  5. Memories are powerful in creating a positive mind set for the next task. Remember how you feel about both the successes and the failures – I bet you will look back and say to yourself that it was the failures from which you learned the most and made the ultimate outcome more successful.

Learning to fail well is the most powerful thing you can do to enhance your performance in whatever field you are seeking success in. I know that telling someone to “learn to fail” is counter intuitive to everything that we have always been taught, but if you can get over the impact that the phrase has on you, after all it’s only words, then in your future deeds and actions you will ultimately succeed.