Failing to Succeed

My friend and client Emily Bennington recently shared the following poignant words about failure after delivering what she referred to as “one of the worst presentations of her career”. 

“When the failure is yours, it huuuuurtsDeep. Bad. Still, I have to take my own advice here and recognize that failure isn’t final. It’s a test – and the difference between those who pass and those who don’t is who gets up and who doesn’t. So while every cell in my body wishes things would have gone differently, this is the part where I have to recognize that I can’t change what happened. I can only learn from it and do better next time.”

The truth is, we’re deathly afraid of failure. Because failing sucks. Because we feel like we’ve wasted our time. That we’ve done something wrong. That we should have, could have done something differently.

In some cases, this may be true. You may have fucked up royally. But even the worst mistakes cannot be undone – the only direction you can move is forward.

Failures are there to remind you that you’re human. And as a human, you’re imperfect. You’re not always going to be “on”. You won’t always get the girl. You may not become rich on that idea that you swore was brilliant and would be your key to a long and prosperous life.

But sometimes you’re going to succeed. And this cannot be overlooked.

I love what John Acuff recently had to say about failure – how we romanticize it as a teaching “tool” – and more importantly, why we should focus on learning from our successes.

“Can failure teach you lessons? Without a doubt. But don’t buy the romanticized version of failure our culture loves to shop around. Losing your only client sucks. Going through bankruptcy sucks. Getting fired sucks. You’ll definitely learn some lessons from those experiences, but having a successful business, having a successful job and having a host of successful clients will teach you far more than failure ever will–if you’ll stop to ask “why?”

Preach. Learning from success can honestly be even more challenging. Why? Because we don’t stop nearly enough and ask “why?” – We fail to see our success, even as we’re succeeding – and don’t pay attention to WHY we’ve had that success.

Our fears, failures, and successes mold and shape us into who we are and what we want to become.

But don’t get so hung up on the failing part – learning from the experiences that suck – all the while neglecting to recognize what you have done.

What you are accomplishing.

And what you will do.