I’m an expert at failure.
When I was in high school, I failed Filipino class. I had never failed a class before and it meant staying in school for summer classes. As a kid, summer was everything. I ended up taking classes for half of my vacation that year.
It wasn’t enough to learn my lesson. In my first year of college, I failed even more classes, three more. My grade point average was barely enough to make it to my second year. Any more screw ups and they would send me home packing. Despite the setbacks, I managed to graduate in four years by buckling down, figuring out a study habit, taking classes every summer, and overloading my last year in school.
Failing those classes shaped who I am today. The problem with society and school is that it has brainwashed us into thinking failure is a bad thing. On the contrary, failure is a necessary part in doing anything worth doing.
Try all the letters, A through F.
Feel the sting of failure.
The first time you fail something big, it will feel like nothing you’ve ever felt before, like a stab through the heart. You will physically feel failure. It can make you sick to your stomach, give you a headache, it can even make you daydream about turning back time. Whenever I screw up, my first thought is always, I wish I could take that back and do it better.
Remember that feeling. Remember every pain, time wasted, money lost and embarrassment. Use it to fuel you to move forward. There is no more powerful a tool for motivation as failure.
Failure can be powerful. Use it.
The first time you do something, it will suck.
There’s no way around it. It’s rare to find a talented person who gets it right the first time. Those guys are freaks of nature. The rest of us mortals need to put the hours in before anything becomes good.
Ask anyone who has made anything of worth. Their first version sucked, but that’s ok. Now it’s time to make the second, then the third, then the fourth. Make as many versions as you need till it becomes good.
That’s paying your dues. That’s learning. That’s pushing forward to something better.
The first time you drew on a piece of paper did not look pretty. You probably drew a squirly line with no semblance of anything, but your three year old mind said, “It’s a house!”
Continuous failure is practice. Getting better requires you to fail. Drawing something beautiful requires thousands of sketches and thousands more crumpled pieces of paper inside a trashcan.
Be comfortable with failure.
Failure can be done wrong. When it is accompanied by a lack of effort, an unwillingness to learn, and an absence of any sort of plan, it’s not taking advantage of the opportunity of failure. There are people who eagerly take on new jobs and tasks, but don’t inject any of the necessary ingredients to give it a chance for success.
There are right ways to fail. It needs to have these key ingredients – continuous learning, the ability to get up after every fall, an infinite amount of effort, execution of a plan, and knowing that failure is just part of the process.
The more you fail, the more you realize that it isn’t as bad as you think. What’s the worst that can happen? The worst generally doesn’t mean you will be sleeping on a public bench begging for food. Realistically, if you are reading this on your mobile, laptop or even inside an internet café, the worst thing for you probably isn’t that bad.
The more you fail, the more you realize it isn’t as bad as you think. You might feel embarrassed. You might lose a few friends. You might be a little lighter on the wallet. So what? You learned something. Most importantly, you may realize the taste of failure and work even harder not to sip into it again.
Is failure a necessity?
People who get things perfect the first time around are freaks of nature. They were born incredibly talented, incredibly lucky or with a silver spoon in their mouth. For most people, this is not the case. For most people, they will have to experience failure and learn from it.
This goes back to the discussion of would you rather be super talented? Or would you rather work the hardest?
The incredibly talented does well in their first try. While the one who works the hardest, fails early and often, but gets better over time.
It’s a tough question. On the one hand, if you were super talented, that’s a leg up against most people. That’s an advantage straight out of the gate. LeBron James was born super talented. But you know what, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped working. LeBron James works harder than many of the players in the NBA. He doesn’t get by with pure talent. He gets by with talent and thousands of hours of hard sweaty work.
If you happen to be talented doing something you love, congratulations. But don’t stop working. Working means pushing the barriers, finding the edges and even failing.
In order to do work that matters, in order to move forward with whatever we want to do, in order to make anything of worth, failure is a necessity.
A hater never fails.
A hater is someone who wants to be right more than wrong.
A hater points out when something is going wrong. They are the first people to say, “I told you so.” But if you take a step back, 99% of these people have never done anything of note. They’ve never looked through the gaping hole and jumped. The haters are always right because they never had the balls to be wrong. As a result, they’ve stuck to playing it safe, they’ve never created anything worth talking about, and they have never put their necks out on the line on something that might fail.
Differentiate between the haters and legit criticism.
Criticism isn’t failure.
When you try to do something of worth, people will give you advice, people will give their two cents. Even when they don’t know exactly what you are going through, even when they don’t see your vision, even when they don’t understand the effort that is required, people will give you unsolicited advice. It’s important to remember that they mean well. Listen, but choose wisely on what you act on. Most advice will be wrong. In many cases, the advice will suit the person giving the advice. The truth is everyone is different. Everyone has a worldview that differs from yours.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are doing anything worth doing, people will criticize you. You need to remember that criticism isn’t failure. It’s a pre-requisite to doing anything worth doing. If no one is criticizing you, that’s a red flag. That means you aren’t anywhere near the edges. No one cares about what you are doing. Criticism is a good thing, but treat it like advice. Listen, but choose wisely what to act on.
Everyone can be good at anything, but not everything. Each and every person has strengths and weaknesses. Some people were meant to build big businesses and others were meant to be super effective employees. Knowing who you are is a requirement to success.
Through failure, we understand a little bit more about ourselves. Either we get up and try again, or in many cases, we realize that it isn’t for us. If it isn’t for you, it’s a good signal that maybe you should quit. There’s nothing wrong with quitting. The faster you quit and figure out where you want to be in life, the better you are for it.
A friend of mine started a business right after he graduated college. It was an internet café beside a school. He was miserable. Most of his time was spent watching over the struggling café. After a few years, he finally decided to call it quits and closed his business. He got a call center job and went through the ranks incredibly quickly. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, but the truth of the matter was he excelled with his new role as an employee.
Knowing yourself is a key component to living life successfully. The fastest and best way to figure out who you truly are is through failure.
Sometimes we forget.
It’s easy to treat failure as a crippling setback. People are often lauded for their successes, while their failures are conveniently swept under the table. Many successful people have gone through deep intense failure.
Steve Jobs was fired from his own company, Apple.
Michael Jordan didn’t make his highschool basketball team.
J.K. Rowling was rejected nine times before a publisher picked up the Harry Potter book.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
All the greats failed. Without their failure, we would have never heard of any of them.
When was the last time you failed?