The word fail has become a buzzword in the new millennium and it irritates me beyond belief.
People look at failure as if it’s a bad thing. They see the collapse of a company, the unsuccessful launch of a product, or the middling results of a new concept, and they think, “Boy, what a silly mistake! Those people were such failures.”
But I think they’re focusing on the wrong thing. They’re focusing on the word “failure”, and I think this is causing more people miss an opportunity for success.
The new mantra is “It’s ok to fail…” That doesn’t even make sense to me!
Let me elaborate.
Never Fail Again
When I was a kid growing up, a failing mentality did not exist.
My parents taught me to work hard, work smart, and strive to succeed. Success could be measured in a man’s job title, position, and the amount of money they earned.
Through both my military and police service, the concept of success was also clear.
Each mission we were sent on, each case I took, there was a clear definition of a “successful outcome”. Failure wasn’t something we could consider—if we failed, people got hurt.
But the failing mentality is a lot more prevalent today. In fact, the fear is failure is one of the greatest problems cited by the youth of today, the thing that causes them to hesitate to take a big swing, step out, or try new things.
Fear of failure can be utterly paralyzing, and the more you entertain it, the bigger it gets.
Today I would like to propose an alternate theory that will help you change the way you perceive failure, a theory anchored ultimately in success.
Where I come from the only true failure in life is quitting. There are times when you have to cut bait and run, or change your approach to a problem.
Doing so is actually the smart play, as coming at problems from a new angle or trying a new tactic could lead to ultimate success.
But straight up quitting? Giving up because something is hard or makes you uncomfortable? That is 100% NOT OK in my books.
Throughout my life and professional career, I have spoken on the need for persistence, perseverance, and downright GRIT.
It’s these three things that make it possible to get to the places we want to go and achieve the things we want to achieve. They’re also the only thing that will help you turn what seems like a loss or failure into a win, into success.
All of the business gurus out there talk about “Failing Forward” and whatever other mantra is on the cover of their book. But indeed, it isn’t failing at all, rather it is learning.
Take this quote from what is considered the “guidebook” on the topic: Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell. The book says, ” In life, the question is not if you will have problems, but how you are going to deal with your problems. If the possibility of failure were erased, what would you attempt to achieve? The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you’re going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”
The book goes on to say, “Recognize that you will spend much of your life making mistakes. If you can take action and keep making mistakes, you gain experience.”
Think of it as a multi-step process. I have X goal I want to reach, and I’ve decided that step X,Y, and Z are how I’ll get there. If I try a course of action that does not result in the desired outcome, it means that my steps are wrong. The goal is always the same, but the WAY of reaching that goal wasn’t executed correctly.
Perhaps my initial assumptions were flawed and I acted on incorrect information, or my approach to the problem was incorrect. Maybe I started out great but deviated somewhere along the way. Whatever the case, I learn, I adapt and I try again in the pursuit of achieving my goals.
Experiences teach, and that learning in turn causes growth. That’s the real secret: we only succeed when we grow. The more we grow, the higher our chances of success!
If there is one thing in this life that holds true, it is that you should never stop learning and growing. I don’t buy into the mentality that we fail if something doesn’t go our way. We learn. The more we try—and the more we fail—the more we learn. Every fresh misstep or “failure” is one more learning experience. We come to understand the things that we did wrong, that we could have done better, or which need to be totally overhauled.
With every lesson, we get better, smarter, and more successful. Ultimately, we gain the tools we need to reach our desired outcome. That desired outcome is what we like to call “success”.
But don’t make the mistake of giving up too soon! To quit is not OK–that is true failure–and the only people in life who quit on their dreams, their relationships, or on their goals… Fail.
You may be the unluckiest SOB to walk Planet Earth, and you may have tried and gotten smacked down by life time and again.
So what? Whether it’s Beatdown #1, #15, or #24,001, it’s time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to it. Every good boxer or MMA fighter watches re-runs of their fights to learn—whether they won or lost. The more they learn from both successes and failures in the ring, the better they have a chance of walking away with the W next time.
You know what fighters don’t ever get that W? The ones who never enter the ring again.
Let that be clear in your mind: we fail if we quit. We succeed when we try, learn and try again.