When we fail at something — whether that means we missed our expectations, closed the door on a business, or had to leave a position we thought would bring us forward — it’s easy to see that failure as a burned down home. For months, or years, we filled that home with treasures, but as the fire consumed it, everything was lost.
This sort of thinking has a dangerous side-effect though; accomplishments we should be proud of, skills we can continue to use, and opportunities that we opened through that failure tend to be discarded as well.
But was all your hard work really in vain?
Sifting Through the Ashes
Instead of declaring the failure as done and buried, we need to challenge ourselves to look critically at what we’ve been through.
What started the fire of our failure? Could we have put out the flames?
By taking a close look at our mistakes and our shortcomings, we get better at future-proofing ourselves. Perhaps the project failed because not everyone involved was passionate about it. Next time, you’ll pick your team more closely. Maybe you couldn’t meet your expectations because you had set your goals far too high. Next time, you can have a better understanding of how much you can actually accomplish.
Be careful to recognize that reflection is a double-edged sword. The goal of this exercise isn’t to beat yourself up over your mistakes, but to learn from them. As you identify places where you could have done better, remind yourself that you did your best with what you knew at the time, and remember that you are preparing yourself to do better in the future.
You don’t often see blind men playing dodgeball, and that’s because you have to know what’s coming to avoid it.
Build Your Home Bigger, Stronger
What skills did you pick up while working on your failed project? What did you discover you excel at? What did you decide you could do better at this time?
If you can make a thorough list of ways that you’ve improved, being entirely honest with yourself, and also a list of weaknesses you discovered that you’ve still yet to fix, your next project will be tremendously advantaged.
You don’t need to rebuild your old house exactly as it stood, because clearly that didn’t work out. Instead, you can re-evaluate your skills and create something even better by aligning it with what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve gained.
Let’s look at a specific example.
Through a strange series of events, I ended up co-founding a granite importation company. This would eventually turn into my greatest failure — the company never sold a single product, and I lost a good deal of money and time in the process.
But never has it crossed my mind to regret that year. Through it I learned to fine-tune my researching skills and practiced international business relations, client management, high-value sales, and so on. Several of these skills I realized are not my forte, but a few I discovered I had a talent for.
When trying to decide what to put my efforts into next though, I knew I needed to learn how to identify market needs better, how to develop a thorough business plan, and how to reach out to and research potential customers.
What I lost in money and time, I gained a hundredfold in new skills. On top of that, one of my partners went on to internationally source textiles, and the other partner went on to inherit a supply chain company dealing with large government contracts — both opportunities that were opened up because of their experience with our failed company.
None of us treated that business as a failure. We learned a lot, and each of us still secretly hopes we’ll land a sale through it someday.
So what did you learn from your latest failure? What should you strive for next?
Get Over Failure, and Get Addicted to Success
Joel Brown, founder of Addicted2Success, is a master of empowering people to push past their obstacles and achieve the greatness they deserve. His platform educates and inspires thousands to find their best self, and there is no better way to rebuild your burnt down house than to become a better craftsmen.
Check out his interview in the Superhero Academy Podcast to learn how he got over his own failures and got truly Addicted to Success.
Community can be the greatest tool to achieve success. Feedback and the push and pull from people around can help you form your vision. It’s important to be aware of your vision constantly in order develop your self to be able to reach it, as the input you get from others is a mirror you can reflect on and see if you’re achieving what you initially set out to achieve.
Your version of success will always be different than others’, which is why it’s important to consistently check in with yourself, your values, and your passion, and question whether or not you’re acting in accordance with them.