Have you heard of Nick Woodman?
Nick Woodman initially had a startup company, Funbug, which was backed with $3.9 million from investors. But Funbug failed and the $3.9 million was lost.
Nick was devastated and decided to take go on a surfing trip.
During his trip, he wanted to take videos while he was surfing. That led to his next idea: cameras that made it easy for people to video while participating in activities.
Nick and his girlfriend sold shell necklaces out of the trunk of their car to raise money for Nick’s business. They also borrowed money from his parents. With that, GoPro, the popular action camera manufacturer, was launched in 2002, and Forbes now estimates Nick’s net worth to be now close to $5 billion.
J. K. Rowling was rejected by multiple publishers before Bloomsbury gave “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone“ the green light in 1997. Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because he “lacked imagination and good ideas.” Winston Churchill failed sixth grade and was considered “a dolt” by his teacher. Soichiro Honda was rejected at Toyota Motor Corporation when he applied for an engineering job, leaving him jobless until he began making scooters in his garage and eventually founded Honda Motor Company.
Now they all could have considered themselves failures despite their first losses and rejections. They had all the reasons for it. They failed at what they wanted to do, with no guarantee they can do better next time.
So what led them to keep trying? Why didn’t they let the feeling strike them down?
Because of one simple thing, really.
The knowledge that the supposed “failures” aren’t really failures at all; they are successes in their own right.
Let’s find out why.
1) Everyone, even the most successful person, has failed at least once
Search for any successful person you can think off the top of your head and look at their life stories. You can guarantee whoever you look for, pretty much everyone faced setbacks at some point in their supposed “successful” lives.
Think of life as a long road. It might be smooth sailing for a long while, probably have a few good valleys at some places where you can speed up, but you know there will be steep hills eventually.
But the existence of the hills doesn’t make the eventual valleys just go away. They are still there on the other side, just waiting for you to reach them.
It’s this thinking with how you face failures.
They’re actual indicators that success is just over the hill. If you see the hill and turn back, how are you going to find the valley in the first place?
2) Failures teach you much more than anyone else can
Now we know failures are indicators of success, but they actually are the best teachers in the world as well.
Each time you get a setback, you’re learning something from it. If someone had just told you about something, would you even care? Probably not because you would still be curious to try it yourself.
But running into any real setbacks teach us on what we did wrong and what we can do better the next time. And this knowledge is absolutely invaluable.
After each “experience” (remember, not failures), always try to form an answer to these questions.
- What’s the one thing I can learn from this?
- What’s the one thing I can do differently the next time?
- How can I change what I do to avoid making the same mistake and do better next time?
Finding the answers to these might take hours, days or even weeks. But that’s ok. What’s more important is approaching each problem with this perspective and looking at every moment as an opportunity to learn how to do it better.
Thomas Edison, before he built a proper working model of the light bulb, he reportedly failed 10,000 times. But he was quoted as saying,
“I have found 10,000 ways something won’t work. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
So this wasn’t 10,000 “failures” at all. This was 10,000 learning opportunities.
3) Failures do not define you as a person at all
One of the main reasons why most people are afraid of failure or get really depressed when they fail at something is because they internalize it. You think the failure shows to the world and yourself that YOU screwed up and it’s your own fault.
Once you get sucked up into this self-destructive thinking, it’s a long spiral downwards, one from which it gets more and more difficult to break out off the farther you’re going down.
But know this, failures do not define who you are. You are an absolutely great person with hopes and dreams who is only learning about life at each thing you do. Mistakes might have been made, but no matter. You just learned something new on how to do that thing better.
Everything that happens is only temporary. Each new experience serves to enrich your next one, and never can take away from it.
This thinking is essential to keep moving forward in life and being optimistic.
4) Remove the need for trying to get approval from others
Another reason why failures hit hard on us, is other than breaking our self-esteem, we believe it destroys other’s opinion about us and we’re being judged. Basically, the same reason why people are afraid to do anything in the first place because of what others may think.
What’s important that you have to know, what people may or may not think of you is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if they care or don’t care about it. It doesn’t change anything on how we improve as a person, other than dragging us down because of the fear of rejection.
What anyone else thinks is not the truth about you, it is just their opinion.
Only you know what the truth is.
5) Think of failure as a foundation, not a conclusion
It’s easy to think as a failure as a dead-end with nowhere to go once you reach it. In our despair, we cannot see any other way out of it because we’re caught up in our sadness. We look at it as a conclusion.
On the other hand, reaching failure has an unintended side-effect. Freedom. In a normal situation, we might consider the pros and cons of any decision and act accordingly. Only if the pros were to much outweigh the cons and the risk is less, we might actually do it.
But when we hit failure, we’ve reached a low point. At that moment, there is nothing left to lose. The scale of risk to benefits is immediately skewed to the benefits, meaning there is only one way to go from here. Which is up.
We’ve reached a foundation from which we cannot go down anymore and can only build up from there.
6) Keep moving forward and don’t stay too long
When you fail, it’s ok to think about it while ensuring instead of focusing on the grief and sadness, focus on how to do it better. Get a rough plan in your mind on how to tackle it. It doesn’t have to be the most elaborate and detailed scheme which may or may not fix the entire problem just like that. It just has to be a few small steps.
Break the plan into smaller things to do, and immediately get started on the first step and try to make it a part of your goal.
The sooner you move forward, the sooner you don’t let the self-destructive thoughts get control of you and start you down the slippery slope.
7) Enjoy your Successes
When we have a string of failures, despite all you’ve read until now, it still might be the most discouraging thing in the world. You might know it is a good thing in the end but the missteps are still hurtful.
That’s when instead of focusing on what went wrong like we as humans are so inclined to do, focus on what went right!
In a paper published by the international journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen from the University’s School of Psychology describe a diary study that found positive reframing (in essence looking for something good that happened), acceptance and humor to be most effective in dealing with small failures and setbacks, and helping people to keep up their spirits and feel satisfied at the end of the day.
Even though your goal maybe didn’t go as well as you hoped, there definitely is something good you did. The test or exam that you took might have been an overall disaster, but you might have got a few particular questions right. They might have been topics that you had a great personal interest in, which led you to do well. Now maybe if you can try to bring that interest to other topics, you might even be able to do great in them as well.
When we focus on what went right, it helps our self-confidence in that we did something good. We might not have achieved what we actually wanted despite multiple tries, but we did a few right things. This helps build our self-confidence little by little and motivates us to keep going through it all.
And that self-confidence and optimism are all we need to be a force to be reckoned with.
How does one achieve success
All of us face failures and setbacks. It’s a part of life. Even the most successful person in the world (take your pick for this one) didn’t go without some problems at some point in their journey.
And if you ask them personally, they would probably say the failures actually helped them in the end. It was the best mentor they could’ve ever had. The only difference between them and the average person is they didn’t quit after a few failures. They used them to keep moving forward.
Here are quotes from successful people who say it the best,
I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. Michael Jordan
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. Jimmy Dean
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. Henry Ford
Share your experiences and feedback with firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment down below. This’ll really be worthwhile knowing if you guys could take something out of this or if you have any new topics you want me to write about.
Since this is the first post of 2018, Happy New Year everybody!
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- Anxiety, Stress & Coping – Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen
- Five Ways To Make Peace With Failure
- Famous Failures: 23 Famous Failures to Inspire You