Failing Forward: 7 Ways to Make It Work for You
Failing forward is a concept that means turning your perceived failures into a stepping stone for success. But when we’re in the grips of failure, it sure can be difficult envisioning a day of triumph.
That’s why we want to tackle the topic of failing forward head-on and give you some helpful tips on how to do it. (That’s right. Even in failure, you can be in control of your destiny.)
When undertaking any such endeavor, it helps to see what other successful people think about the subject. How did they overcome their failures? Or did they fail at all? Before getting into the seven tips we’ve promised you, let’s start with some quotes on what it means to fail forward.
10 Great Quotes That’ll Help You Re-Frame Failure
On the list below, you’re going to find some surprising names. Surprising because, usually, you don’t associate them with the times they messed up. But mess up, they have. And their quotes and experiences are valuable in learning how to deal with our own foibles. Let’s look at what they have to say.
- “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson
- “What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” – John Green
- “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
- “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
- “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
- “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” – George Herman “Babe” Ruth
- “If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
- “When you take risks, you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres
- “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” – Reid Hoffman
- “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game’s winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
If these men and women have failed, then rest easy about your own. Just adopt the spirit with which they approached their follow-ups. And that’s what brings us to the seven ways you can make failing forward work to your advantage. Here goes!
1. Immerse Yourself in Other Failures
That’s sort of what we’ve just done. Find successful people that you know about — they don’t have to be famous — and see how they bounced back from their adversity. You won’t have to look far. Every town has a success, and none of them got there overnight.
Ask them specifically what their worst failures were, how they recovered, and when they knew they’d finally put it behind them. Make note of what they tell you, and remember it the next time something doesn’t go your way.
2. Deconstruct the Failure
This keeps you from taking failure so personally. See, when we do fail, we have the mistaken notion that it’s us that’s the failure instead of the approach that we used. By breaking it down step-by-step in a clinical manner, you remain focused on the problem instead of passing harsh self-judgment.
You’ll find that, by doing this, you’re able to see the solutions plainly and implement them for future use. That’s what moves you one step closer to success.
3. Embrace Learning New Things
We all have weaknesses. But far too often, we accept those weaknesses without making any attempt at mastering them. Now, that’s not to say you’ll ever be great at what you struggle with. But you can get better at it. And getting better at it puts you in a stronger position to succeed moving forward.
At the very least, it’ll give you enough insight about what you don’t know so you know who to turn to for help when those challenges arise in the future.
4. Seek Help
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, few of the people mentioned above got there with the talents they were born with. They had help and encouragement and coaching from people who, at one point, were more knowledgeable and successful than themselves.
That dynamic may have changed over time once they applied the coaching, but the truth remains: they got to where they were, in part, from outside help. So if you’re struggling, reach out to someone who knows more than you do. You may one day surpass them, but not if you don’t first use their advice and training to get over the hump.
5. Use It As an Icebreaker
One of the hardest things to do when you move into a specialty is finding the right mentor for your field of major and personality type. The people who are successful doing what you do are often not reachable through normal channels.
But if you’re trying to follow in their footsteps and have a failure or two you can share with them while asking for their advice on how to overcome it, well, that can open doors that would otherwise remain closed. By using this “failure as icebreaker” approach, you may be able to brush shoulders with some pretty famous people.
The help of others, be they people in our direct circle of influence or people whose successes we may never reach, is nice. But you can’t have someone there to hold your hand 24/7. You have to be able to synthesize advice, failures, knowledge. And that takes alone time.
Schedule some time after a failure to meditate on what went wrong. Sit comfortably in a quiet room. A place where you know there’ll be no distractions. Then, let your mind go. Try to put the problem out of your brain. Use guided meditations to help. YouTube is full of them. Just search “success” or “overcoming failure” along with identifiers such as “meditation” or “hypnosis.”
You’ll get results ranging from spoken meditation to instrumental. Just choose one and try to let your mind empty out during the exercise.
7. Let It Guide Future Decisions
Another way to succeed through failing forward is using the failure to determine whether you’re even on the right track. See, a failure in one area may indicate that you’re better-suited for another area.
If you’re not really examining the failure, then you’d never know this. It could keep you on a path that isn’t right for you while forcing you to ignore or neglect your true talents.
Let failure guide your future decisions, and you’ll be in a better position to choose the right path.
Failing Forward Does Not Have to Be Failure at All
Failing forward is sort of a misnomer. If you do it right, it’s not failure in the least. So put the advice discussed here to work for you, and take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. We’ve all failed. We all will fail. And that’s true whether we’re still searching or already perceived as a success. Good luck!
[Featured Image by CMS Wire]