Realize There Is One Major Difference Between Average People and Achieving People
Look at the way any achiever approaches negative experiences, and you can learn a lot about how to fail forward. Read through these two lists, and determine which one describes your approach to failure:
Failing Backward Failing Forward
- Blaming Others • Taking Responsibility
- Repeating the Same Mistakes • Learning from Each Mistake
- Expecting Never to Fail Again • Knowing Failure Is a Part of Progress
- Accepting Tradition Blindly • Challenging Outdated Assumptions
- Being Limited by Past Mistakes • Taking New Risks
- Thinking I am a Failure • Believing Something Didn’t Work
- Quitting • Persevering
Think about a recent setback you experienced. How did you respond? No matter how difficult your problems were, the key to overcoming them doesn’t lie in changing your circumstances. It’s in changing yourself. That in itself is a process, and it begins with a desire to be teachable. If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle failure. From this moment on, make a commitment to do whatever it takes to fail forward.
Learn a New Definition of Failure
How can you help yourself learn a new definition of failure and develop a different perspective concerning failure and success? By making mistakes. Chuck Braun of Idea Connection Systems encourages trainees to think differently through the use of a mistake quota. He gives each student a quota of thirty mistakes to make for each training session. And if a student uses up all thirty? He receives another thirty. As a result, the students relax, think of mistakes in a whole new light, and begin learning.
As you approach your next big project or assignment, give yourself a reasonable mistake quotient. How many mistakes should you expect to achieve? Twenty? Fifty? Ninety? Give yourself a quota, and try to hit it before bringing the task to completion. Remember, mistakes don’t define failure. They are merely the price of achievement on the success journey.
Remove the “You” from Failure
If you’ve been thinking of yourself as a failure, you can break yourself out of that negative thinking pattern. Look at an area of your life where you have repeatedly failed, and do the following:
- Examine your expectations for that area. Write them down. Are they realistic? Do you expect to do everything perfectly? Do you expect to succeed on the first try? How many mistakes should you expect to make before you succeed? Adjust your expectations.
- Find new ways to do your work. Brainstorm at least twenty new approaches, and then try at least half of them.
- Focus on your strengths. How can you use your best skills and personal strengths to maximize your effort?
- Vow to bounce back. No matter how many times you fall down, pick yourself up and keep going.
Don’t wait until you feel positive to move forward. Act your way into feeling good. That’s the only way to start thinking more positively about yourself.
Take Action and Reduce Your Fear
What objective essential to your success are you most afraid of tackling right now? Write what it is here:
The only way to get going is to face that fear and act. Write down all your fears associated with the activity:
Examine your list and accept the fact that you are afraid. Determine what first step you can take to get started on achieving that objective. It doesn’t matter whether it’s small or large. Just do it. If you fail at it, do it again. Keep trying until you accomplish that first step. Then figure out what the next step is.
Remember, it’s almost impossible to feel your way into acting. You must act your way into feeling. The only way to get over the fear is to take action.
Change Your Response to Failure by Accepting Responsibility
Take a hard look at a very recent failure that you have considered not to be your fault. Look for anything negative in the failure that you should claim responsibility for. Then own it.
Once you begin thinking in terms of what is your responsibility, you will be able to change. And changing your mind—the way you think about failure—is the next step to failing forward and the subject of the next part of the book.
Don’t Let the Failure from Outside Get Inside You
What in your life have you considered to be the greatest source of frustration and failure? Think about that factor, and then list all the heartaches, pains, obstacles, and problems related to it.
Now, consider the items one at a time, and decide whether each is a fact of life (which you need to accept and then move beyond) or an item that requires positive action. For a fact of life, write “fact” next to the item, and determine to be positive despite the adversity
For any item needing action, in the space on the right-hand side, write down what you ought to do to create positive change in your life. Then vow to do it cheerfully.
Say Good-bye to Yesterday
To move forward today, you must learn to say good-bye to yesterday’s hurts, tragedies, and baggage. You can’t build a monument to past problems and fail forward.
Take time right now to list the negative events from your past that may be holding you hostage:
For each item you listed, go through the following process.
- Acknowledge the pain.
- Grieve the loss.
- Forgive the person.
- Forgive yourself.
- Determine to release the event and move on.
If you are having a hard time because you’re holding grudges, talk to God about the issue and ask Him to help you through the process. No matter how difficult this becomes, persevere through it. You will not be able to be your best today until you say good-bye to yesterday.
Get Over Yourself and Start Giving Yourself
If a selfish streak has been keeping you from getting over yourself, examine your attitude, and determine to make meeting the needs of others a priority in your life. You can start by asking yourself the following questions daily, either at the beginning or at the end of each day:
- Whom am I pouring my life into?
- Whom am I helping who cannot help me in return?
- Whom am I lifting who can’t help himself?
- Whom am I encouraging daily?
If you will act with the interest of others in mind every day, you will soon be able to give concrete, affirming answers to these questions.
Find the Benefit in Every Bad Experience
Finding the benefit in a bad experience is an ability that takes time to develop and effort to cultivate. You can start by thinking of the last major setback you experienced and listing all of the benefits that have occurred—or might occur—as a result.
Once you’ve learned how to go through that process for an event from your past, the next step involves learning to do it as you experience adversity.
During the coming week, as you experience problems, setbacks, or failures, take some time at the end of the day to brainstorm all the good things that can come of them. And try to maintain a positive mind-set as you move forward so that you can keep yourself open to the coming benefits of failure.
If at First You Do Succeed, Try Something Harder
The willingness to take greater risks is a major key to achieving success, and you may be surprised that it can solve two very different kinds of problems.
First, if you’ve been hitting all the goals you set for yourself, then you need to increase your willingness to take chances. The road to the next level is always uphill, so you can’t coast there.
Conversely, if you find yourself in a place where it seems that you don’t achieve many of your goals, you may be playing it too safe. Once again, the answer is a willingness to take greater risks. (It’s ironic that opposite ends of the spectrum come together in the area of risk.)
Think about the next big goal ahead of you. Write down your plan for reaching it. Then go over that plan to see whether you have included enough risks. If not, find parts of that process where you can push the envelope, take more chances, and increase your opportunity for success.
Get Up, Get Over It, Get Going
Undoubtedly some great task lies ahead of you. Maybe you suspect that accomplishing it is the key to your purpose, but you’ve been afraid to tackle it. Perhaps you’re worried that you will not be able to overcome the failure that could result from attempting it.
Plan to do it. Don’t jump into it frivolously. (If you’ve tried and failed at it once already, then you probably wouldn’t be frivolous.) Get back up on your feet, and use the strategy contained in this chapter to move forward:
- Finalize your goal.
- Order your plans.
- Risk failing by taking action.
- Welcome mistakes.
- Advance based on your character.
- Reevaluate your progress continually.
- Develop new strategies to succeed.
If you’re willing to stay determined, work according to a plan, and keep getting up when you get knocked down, you will be able to achieve your goals—and someday your dreams.
Now You’re Ready to Fail Forward
The next time you find yourself envying what successful people have achieved, recognize that they have probably gone through many negative experiences that you cannot see on the surface. An old joke goes like this:
“Never ask what’s in a hot dog while you’re eating one.” The idea is that if you did know what’s in it, you’d never want to eat one again. A lot of failure goes into success.
If you really want to achieve your dreams—I mean really achieve them, not just daydream or talk about them—you’ve got to get out there and fail. Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward. Turn your mistakes into stepping-stones for success
Now that you know how to fail forward, you won’t have to give up either. I wish you well. Keep dreaming, and keep failing forward.