Successful failure

May 23, 2023

Who is your favorite athlete? Who are the top 10 greatest athletes of all time? According to different sources, Michael Jordan seems to be consistently on the top 10 list. Yes, once upon a time, I was a big fan of Chicago Bulls and definitely a super fan of MJ! And yes, those magazines are my collections.

I love what MJ said about his career, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Without failure, MJ wouldn’t have become who he is – the greatest athlete in the history in my book of record.

What MJ said is what I meant by successful failure; he failed over and over and over again, and that’s why he succeeded. When you lose a job, a relationship, a competition or whatever, do you see only failure, or do you see it as the price of progress for success?

9 tips to bounce back after failure

You and I have failed and will fail again in life, because there’s no guarantee that life is smooth sailing. There’s definitely no guarantee that you will succeed at your first try.

Dealing with failure isn’t easy; the disappointment, anger, doubt and even pain are all real. Failure hurts; however, failure can’t harm your own future successes, your attitude and action do. Do you feel crushed and paralyzed after failure? Or do you remain calm processing and learning from the past, pick yourself up and go at it again while making the necessary adjustments along the way?

Below are my 9 tips to help you approach failure and embrace future possibilities.

1. Remember that everyone fails

Simply put, no one is exempt, and you are no exception.

2. Acknowledge and accept what happened

When things fail, acknowledge them and focus on analyzing the facts. Noticed I said, “things fail” and not “people fail.” While you are accepting the truth, give yourself the permission and needed time to process your emotions, whether it’s anger, confusion, mourning, or disappointment.

3. Analyze what and how it happened and learn from it

When facing failure, many people ask, “why did this happen to me?” You can’t undo what happened, so instead of asking why, ask what happened and how it happened. Be honest with yourself and look for lessons you can learn from the experience and avoid similar mistakes in the future.

4. Don’t dwell on but move on

Once you accept the facts and are done processing your negative emotions, stop regurgitating and re-running the episodes to feel sorry for yourself. Failure is nothing but a learning process, just like what Denis Waitley said, “Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.”

5. Avoid finger pointing

When things go wrong, pointing fingers at others seems so easy and natural as that’s what people do out of self-protection and defense. Such act; however, can lead to wasting time and energy and even demoralizing the people involved. And when this happens, everything becomes a blaming game, and you forget to take on responsibilities and focus on finding solutions.

6. Change your mindset

You feel down and defeated when failures happen. The way I see failure is that failure is a learning process, and you get another chance to work on it to turn it around with better knowledge and learned experience. You see, failure doesn’t define who you are, but your attitude and action afterward do. A positive and learning mindset helps you embrace challenges and persevere through the future journey.

7. Modify your plans or goals

By now, you know what worked and what didn’t. This step allows you to review and tweak your goals, plans, timeline, and etc. “All roads lead to Rome” – this is the step that allows you to be creative and find other ways to achieve your goals. Make your goals specific, realistic and measurable with deadlines attached to it, which will make the tasks more manageable and help you stay on track to achieve them.

8. Don’t give up, but start again

Failure isn’t a death sentence; rather, it could serve as the aspiration to propel you toward your successes. Be courageous and try again, and again, and again. That’s one of the best ways to move forward in life!

9. Find your support and accountability partners

Everyone can benefit from having a support system; whether it’s your friends, family, colleagues or professional coaches. When you are discouraged, they will cheer you on; when you need some fresh perspectives in difficult circumstances, they can unbiasedly give you their objective input and feedback. They will walk alongside you during the tough time and celebrate you when you achieve your goals.

No one likes failure, neither do I. But how you see and utilize failure is a choice that you have to make for yourself. You can be beaten up and give up, or you can pick yourself back up with the help and support around you and get to that finished line.

Do you know MJ was actually cut from his high school varsity basketball team? If he had given up then, there wouldn’t be MJ, the greatest athlete of all time. Instead, he worked hard to prove them wrong when he got a full scholarship to NC university. In my mind, MJ is the greatest athlete of all time not only because of his stunning NBA records and the six shining championship rings, but also because of his hard work, dedication, competitiveness and mental resilience behind the scene. Like MJ, you may have failed over and over and over again in your life, but remember, that may be why you will succeed beyond your imagination. And that’s how I defined “successful failure.” 

About Faye Weng

Your Online Life and Career Coach

Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.