The art of successfully failing

AKA what you learn and how you grow from your mistakes.

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"Après la pluie, le beau temps" - Picture credits 

Successfully failing is an expression that sounds oxymoric in a world where success and failure are doomed to be opposite. We have been taught that “to fail is not to succeed” and “to succeed is not to fail”. But is it the only way it should be defined?

Failure lurks everywhere, whether it is when one is rejected from the college he/she worked so hard to get into, when one does not secure his/her dream job, when one is not awarded the promotion he/she believes he/she deserves or when one fails at a new business venture where all his/her savings were invested for example.

Taking a closer and analytical look at these situations makes us understand one thing: “failure” is not the end. It’s just the opposite: all the fun is about to start, if only one is willing to let it do. Understanding that failure is just the beginning and the secret to big achievements and success relies on knowing how to move beyond a failure is capital. Keeping in mind the following rules will undoubtedly help you relativise the situations you have faced, and better; overcome their difficulties and take lessons out of them.

1. See failure as temporary and make it temporary.

You’re not permanently stuck there unless you decide so.

Failure is the stage that comes before success only if you decide so. Understand that it is your actions towards changing the status quo that will lead you to success. If you keep wallowing in self-pity, you’ll never go anywhere nor reach any objective. The secret here relies on knowing when to readapt your strategies according to their outputs and understand when you need to change direction.

2. Take the blame and learn from it.

Stop finding excuses and stop relating what is happening to you, to external incentives exclusively.

It is always easier (and well, very much self-satisfying) to accuse the entire world for our problems. However, this mindset has never led to a better situation and will just keep you on the vicious circle of negativism. Be aware of the things you can control and act in consequence with the ones you cannot control. Understand and acknowledge your errors in any situation and learn from that. If you decide and switch your thinking mode into seeing the positive in any situation, you’ll truly learn and grow from your mistakes.

3. Set realistic expectations and take actions towards them.

Never overpromise or you’ll get frustrated. Understand what you can really achieve and stick to it.

It’s all about how you organize yourself. Do a review of your life, understand where you stand, and where you want to be. Determine how you can get to your arrival point by setting goals; realistic ones. Prioritize your SMART goals (A is for achievable in case you forgot), and keep in mind that every action you make has to be beneficial to that goal. Never forget though, to have a right life balance.

4. Focus on your strengths and use them.

Stop wasting your energy on trying to fix things that won’t help you achieve your goal.

Allocate more time on perfecting your strengths than on working on your weaknesses. This goes in line with your workplan towards your goal, that has to be realistic: you have to make sure you have the ability and competences to reach your objective in order to push towards it serenely.

5. Get out of your comfort zone and be creative.

Failing in something means that you tried hard enough to find that it doesn’t work this way. You’re courageous, be proud of that.

Robert Kennedy declared that “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”. When you are experiencing things in life, you are allowing yourself to grow and to learn. You are proactively acting towards your success when you learn to try new things. Keep in mind that you learn more from failures than you do from success. If “bad” things happen, always remember that you did not fail, you just found a way that doesn’t work.

6. Persevere and be consistent in your work towards your goal.

As Aristotle goes “we are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an act but a habit”.

The quote means it all. Follow the KOKO mantra: “Keep on Keeping On”, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”, Winston Churchill advised us. Persistence in the face of failure is very often rewarded with success. Never forget that you are not what happens to you, but rather how you deal with what happens to you. Do not base your self-worth on your performance which is highly correlated with external parameters. Healthy and strong self-image is dictated by the strong will and belief that whatever the external obstacles are, reaching the goal is an obligation, that should be consistently pursued.

7. You are not the only one!

Many successful inventors, entrepreneurs, politicians, and so forth have been there. Many of them believe their successive failures led to their actual success. It strengthened them, made them more creative, more mature and helped them in finding the real path they should follow. The below table gives you a brief overview of some of these personalities, have a look at it and … meditate on that!




Thomas Edison

(AKA Perseverance)

He failed more than 10,000 times before he made his invention a reality.

He created the light bulb.

Jack Ma

(AKA Keep On Keeping On)

He failed at his Primary school examinations twice, he failed at university entrance exams three times, he applied to Harvard 10 times and got rejected each time, when 5 people applied for a police job he was the only one to be rejected, when KFC came to China 24 people went for jobs and all 23 were accepted except him.

He is the founder and CEO of the China’s most important e-commerce platform Alibaba (worth more than Facebook and processes more goods than eBay and Amazon combined)


Let’s just say it’s time for you to make your choice, try hard, and write your own story…

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