Everyone fails in life. At one point or another, you’re going to suffer through failure. It's a fact of life I guess. If you haven’t already experienced some monumental failures, then you just wait and see. I failed spectacularly last year. I never thought I would and real life came back and bit me on the ass big time.
The problem? Most people associate failure with complete defeat. In fact, at one point, you could have called me a professional failure. I was failing at everything. Marriage. Business. Life in general. And I felt a sense of total loss and absolute defeat. It's heartbreaking, it really is.
But through these failures I've learnt some important lessons. In fact, before having to suffer through countless failures, one after another, I never realised the importance of failing. I also never realised how some of the most famous people to have ever lived had failed the most times. While failure hurts at the time, (and trust me it still does), it’s part of life’s design – a divine chisel.
When we fail, we learn. We grow and mature, achieving new understandings and perspectives on life, love, business, money, relationships, and people. We’re forced to make new connections, bridging gaps where we hadn’t connected the dots before.
Failure is also a part of the genetic makeup of life. Our DNA is the result of endless failures. With each iteration, our genetic fiber has used those failures to evolve. It’s part of natural selection and the grand design of things here on earth.
However, if you’re going through failure right now, you might not find its utility at this moment. I know that wading through failure hurts. In fact, the pain can run so deep, that at times, you question your very existence. But there’s most certainly light at the end of the tunnel – and thats what I have to believe
#1 – It helps to redefine your priorities in life
Failure will either make you or it will break you. But it can’t make you until it breaks you. That’s the tricky part. No one has experienced a wild sense of success without first failing in a major way. While some have had to endure only a few failures before success, others have endured thousands.
But when you fail, something strange happens. You begin to redefine your priorities in life. You reorder the things that matter to you. You look inwards, forcing an inventory of your hopes and your dreams. And you come to realize the things that matter the most to you.
For some, this redefinition of priorities is a crucial step for overcoming failure. You shuffle things around to make room for what’s important. If success in any aspect of your life is as important to you as you think, then you begin to make the necessary adjustments.
#2 – It shapes what you value
It’s funny. Through each successive failure in my life, my values were reshaped. Over time, they completely morphed. What I valued 10 years ago is no longer the same as what I value today. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to succeed, is that they value the wrong things. That can be internally or externally. I valued my pride and my ego more than i did the love of a loving partner. It was stupid and wrong.
When you value the wrong things, success can be fleeting. It’s easier to give up. But, when your values are in order, you can happily succeed rather than succeeding to be happy. So, what does it exactly mean to value the right things?
Whenever we’re focused on taking something from the world or other people, failure is only a moment away. But, when our values change to ones based on contribution, and giving more to the world than we receive, a monumental tectonic shift occurs.
#3 – It makes you more compassionate
We all know the power of the mighty ego. Before we fail in a major way, the ego runs your life. You’re more concerned with what people think of you or how much money you spend in the face of others. But when you fail, things change.
Major failure causes the ego to shatter. As a result, you become more compassionate. You become more in touch with your fellow human beings. It forces you to look deeper at things, understanding and caring more about others rather than solely focusing on your self. I wqas often told about a friends relationship on how it was abusive and draining, yet the woman always went back for more. I could never understand why. Now I can. My failure made me see the situation in a different light.
The failures in my life served me far more than I could have ever imagined. They're making me kinder, gentler, and more caring and giving than I had ever been.
#4 – You’re forced to revise your approach
In many of the books that I've written, I've talked about the necessity for creating a plan in order to succeed. But not just creating one plan and never changing it. You have to constantly revise your approach, measuring and adjusting things as you go.
When I failed in the past, I realised that I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t properly planning along the way. If I had planned better, maybe I wouldn’t have failed in such monumental ways. The goals shouldn’t change, but your plan should be constantly evolving.
I've realised that I cant do everything on my own either. I am human. It's in my DNA to fail at some things, so the trick is to reach out to the real people who can help. Whether it's a coach, a doctor, a therapist, close friends and partners.
#5 – You learn who your true friends really are
I learned very quickly who my true friends were after each successive failure. Many people do the same. Failure acts as a “friend filter,” so to speak. When you’re succeeding, everyone wants to be around you. But, when you fail, most of those so called friends up and disappear.
At the time, it feels painful. It feels as if everyone is betraying you. But, true friends love you for who you are, not how successful you are. A true friend doesn’t care about how much money you have in the bank or the kinds of things that you’ve accomplished.
The friends who really cared about me, stuck around. They've tried to inspire and motivate me. They were there to uplift me rather than to pull me down. They said positive things, not focusing on the negative. True friends will be there for you no matter what.
#6 – You develop new ways to cope with your emotions
The wild gyrations of success and failure can wreak havoc on your emotions. It’s hard to stay focused and committed when you’re upset and reeling from the pain of failure. Your emotions can be all over the place, up and down like a rollercoaster ride.
Failure was painful for me. It was emotional. I suffered with stress and depression. And they were horrible dark times. Often, I felt like I couldn’t bear it. But, I've reached out to therapists and self help books, and I've come away with some important tools for coping with my emotions. I'm learning how to refocus and retrain my mind to see positive things rather than the negative ones.
The mind is very much like the lens of a camera – it will see whatever you focus on. When you train your mind to focus on the right things, you can better cope with the emotions that might make their way to the surface.
#7 – You look to your faith in a higher power
Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, or just a spiritual oneness that binds us all, failure causes you to look to your higher power. We’re all interconnected beings. There’s a spiritual fibre that runs through us all.
When I failed in a major way, I turned to a higher power. You look to your higher power for inspiration and realise that whatever problems you’re facing, others have faced them before. Whatever failures you’ve suffered, others have suffered them before.
I put my faith in my higher power because I know that all things in life have a purpose. Failure has its purposes, just as success does. It’s what we do in the face of failure that truly helps to define and shape us. And I'm not quite sure what my purpose is yet...
#8 – You realise that success isn’t everything
I know, I know. It’s almost a sin to say that, isn’t it? But, when you fail, and you do so in a major way, you come to realise that success isn’t everything. That’s especially true when your values aren’t aligned with your goals.
When I failed at business, marriage, relationship and life in general, I've come to realise that success, the way I had defined it, wasn’t everything. This has forced me to take a deeper look, and do some real soul searching into who I am and why I do the things that I do.
More importantly, when you value success over everything else, failure tends to rear its ugly head more often. But, when you value happiness and contribution, success becomes almost effortless.
#9 – You seek out inspiration through others
Failure causes you to seek inspiration through others. Whether it’s through famous people who failed at first, or some other source, you begin to seek out things that will help push you towards your goals. And that’s exactly what I did. I've read autobiographies from Michael J Fox to Barrack Obahma. Spike Milligan to Lee Evans.
What I came to realise was that many people had failed numerous times before succeeding in all aspects of their life. I've been too hard on myself. So I needed to lighten up and just enjoy the journey rather than focus so hard on the final destination.
If you’ve failed, you too should realise that many others have been through similar, if not worse, failures in the past. Seek and you shall find the inspiration that you’re after.
#10 – You begin to look at obstacles differently
We’re an instant gratification society. We want things and we want them now. We’re somewhat similar to babies and toddlers in that respect. It’s part of the psychology of our mind because we’re born solely with the Id, which is the basal and instinctive part of the mind that acts on the pleasure principle. But that Id-mind is still very prevalent in us as adults.
But, when you fail, you begin to realise that good things don’t come overnight. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We have to work hard to accomplish our dreams and realize our goals. When I failed recently, I wanted something so badly, i tried too hard and it pushed things further away.
The problem? When goals are new, they’re exciting. But when that newness wears off, the grind becomes far more real. We get bored, complacent, fed up, and we revert back to our old ways. Our goals go out the window. But, when you can override that natural tendency, that’s when the magic really starts to happen. Not overnight, but in time. And I'll never go back to my old ways; if the pain burns why go back?
#11– You learn not to take ‘no’ for an answer
After a few major failures you come to certain realisations about what people say they want and what they actually want. You learn not to take ‘no’ for an answer. You keep pushing and prodding, no matter what it takes.
Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC was famously rejected 1,009 times before someone agreed to his franchise chicken model. But he knew, deep down inside, that his product was superior. He harbored the belief that eventually people would start to say yes.
I learning to not take ‘no’ for an answer. I'll keep at it. I will be persistent. No matter how many times I fall on my face. No matter how many times people will laugh at me or talk behind my back. You should too.
#12 – You become more passionate about your mission
Henry Ford’s first two companies failed. The first one went bankrupt. And the second one he had to walk away from with only the rights to his name after a big dispute. But it was his third try that really sealed the deal. He was so passionate about his mission that he refused to give up.
I learned that it’s a natural progression to become more passionate about your mission the more times you fail. It’s a result of refining the ideas in your mind, solidifying them in thought, making them far more real and concrete. Mt personal goals are simple. And they remain the same as they did last year and the year before.
Often, you become so passionate that you can just about taste success. If you failed, it’s not the end of the road. It’s a new beginning. It’s the chance to pick yourself back up again and try again, no matter how painful, but this time with all the knowledge, wisdom, and experience you garnered from the last several tries.
#13 – You recognize your bad habits
When you fail, you destroy a part of your ego. Depending on how monumental that failure was, you lose either a major chunk or a small piece of your precious ego. Once that ego is shattered as a result of failure, you begin to recognise your bad habits and the things you took for granted. It's a humbling experience.
Bad habits get in the way of your failure. In fact, bad habits can all but ruin our chances for success in anything. And I literally mean anything. Part of my failures were the results of bad habits that were ingrained in me for years and years. ANd if you don't realise them, reach out to someone who can; I implore you.
But you learn to recognize those bad habits. And when success means enough to you, you begin to change. You slowly modify your behavior over time to help rid yourself of any bad habit that was holding you back from success.