Failure is Flattering: How To Embrace Failure
Today I thought I would talk about failure. I fail a lot. All the time. Everyday. I am human.
I was inspired to talk about failure because I realized, we don't talk about failure in a positive way. We talk about it like someone passed away and were attending their funeral "Oh well they just had so much potential, too bad they failed and won't ever try again". I've had a lot of conversations with people after I've failed at something and a lot of people get quiet and step away slowly as I talk. I get the occasional "oh you can do it", " you'll do better next time", and "maybe you should stop", but I never get "what did you learn from failing?".
Failure comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes you get one big failure and sometimes you get many little failures one right after the other. Sometimes, you don't see failure until much later in life and sometimes you learn what failure is at a really young age. Sometimes you think you know what failure is, but you only really comprehend it after you hit rock bottom.
In high school, was bad at math, or so I thought. It wasn't that I was bad at math, it's just that I hadn't given myself enough times to fail to truly try over and succeed. I was desperate to be good at math, like the other kids in my class, they understood it right away, so why couldn't I? I would fail tests and I would ask myself "why can't I be smart like the other kids?" I would be so frustrated I reduced myself to tears because I just wanted to understand what everyone else understood. I needed more time to understand math so I got a tutor, I became better at it, not an expert, but better, so proud of my accomplishments. I would be so happy with my little strives.
Then I started taking physics. On the first test, I got 40%. Well, you can guess that I started to cry... in class. I needed more time to understand physics so I got a tutor, I became better at it, not an expert, but better, so so proud of my accomplishments. I vividly remember yelling in front of the class " I didn't fail" when I didn't fail my first test, I was ecstatic. I had worked so hard and guess what? I had gotten a 55%. Yup. I remember getting to re-do a quiz and getting a 74%, I was so happy of my accomplishment. That was a huge moment for me. What ruined my excitement was seeing peoples faces when they saw what I had received. It was like I got a death sentence and they were mourning my future.
In university accounting, I tried so hard. I was really proud of my B's, but they weren't A's and if they weren't A's, people looked at me like "Well, not everyone get's to do their CPA"... I never wanted to do my CPA, I wanted to get a better grasp of accounting methods to be able to read a balance sheet or financial document. Again, it was like a death sentence when I shared my grades.
I am using the example of school because it's relatable. There's this useless notion that if you're not an A student, you're a failure, that you didn't try hard enough, that you are stupid. I tried so hard to understand and I worked so hard to reach my school goals. For the longest time, I let the cruel words of others make me believe that I was incapable of succeeding in school. That I was a failure. I wasn't a failure, but I was in an environment that wasn't working for me.
I quit accounting, I took a year off school to work, and I took some time to discover what I wanted. Then finally it was time to go back for my final semester and I had a whole new attitude. I didn't care. I didn't care if I succeeded to someone else's standard. Turns out, all I needed was to take a break, realize that being in classes where people made me feel bad wasn't worth my time, and to take classes that made me happy.
I discovered over the year that I needed encouragement to succeed and failure would always be part of my journey. It makes me happy to know that I am always bettering myself when I realize I've made a mistake and someone is there to be like "yo dude, you made a mistake, let me help you".
So, here are some tips that I have come up with to embrace your failures instead of kicking yourself down when you don't succeed to someone else's standards.
1) Define your own level of success and your own goals. Life is filled with people trying to tell you how to live your life, don't let them. I know it can be difficult, always wanting to please someone else. Whether its your parents or a loved one, but constantly trying to please another without embracing what you really want to do will enviably lead to failures that you don't want to fix. When you choose to do something you want and you fail, you'll find that motivation to continue and to fix your mistake.
2) Don't let the haters get you down.
Enthusiasm is key when you fail, I want you to put on your blinders when people try and discourage your efforts. There are some people out there who are just going to be negative and not encouraging, step away from having those people in your life. When you fail at something and you want to get back on the horse and try again, you're going to need people who exude positivity for your re-trial.
3) Take baby steps.
So you just failed, sure, you can stay on the ground, but isn't it so much more rewarding to try and figure it out again? Where did you go wrong? How can you fix it? When I workout, sometimes I start to go down on my journey and it's because those little habits I was doing everyday suddenly stop and I don't realize. Then all of a sudden everything seems worse and I've failed at my fitness journey. So what do I do? I start with little things I know will make me feel better, like eating better and exercising, then amping it up when I feel like I can. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen does a wonderful job of explaining the baby steps we need to take everyday to end up at our goals and to keep them strong.
4) Keep trying and don't stop.
When I was in my second year of university, I was captain of a competitive business team. Man, at 19 years old, I didn't know anything about running a competitive team. I was disorganized, I was impatient, and I was not a good leader to the whole team. Luckily, I was given a second chance when I owned up to my mistakes and took some advice from someone who wanted to help. I took that advice, worked with my team instead of against them and kept trying to be organized and the best co-captain I could be. That year I won captain of the year with my co-captain and all my hard work had finally paid off. I knew I had learnt from my previous failure and made a 180 turn to a better path that taught me about dealing with tough situations. Keep trying because wonderful experiences are waiting around the corner and you never know what could happen.
5) Make new goals when you've reached the goals you wanted.
I am a big believer of setting new goals. You will never be a master at something if you don't set new goals for yourself. You don't just say "Oh I learned to ride a bike, time to put it away forever", no you ride that bike until your parents threaten to lock you out of the house. You learnt how to ride that bike, now it's time work at really having fun with it.
6) Be grateful for your failures.
I love failing because then I know that I was doing something wrong and I needed to fix it. I needed to change the way I was doing something to get better at it. Love your failures and learn from them. Ask for feedback all the time and use that feedback. Constructive criticism will get you further in life then if someone is constantly praising you.
I've gained a lot from working with my failures than working against them. I hope that something I've said has resonated with you and you found it helpful.
Thanks for reading,