Success is such a great word. It can mean so much and it’s a word that I find insanely inspiring and motivating. The cool thing is, it means something different to every single person on this planet.
On the other hand, the word failure is something that we all fear. No one likes to fail. Yet, failure can often lead to even greater success in your life. It all comes down to perspective and what you learn from your failure.
Today, we have a guest post from Jo Casey who shares with us some of the failures she has experienced in life and how it has shaped her life to now experience success.
Recently, Brendan sent out an email with one of my favorite quotes – “There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.”
I love this phrase so much I’ve even got it emblazoned on my dining room wall. (see picture- that really is my dining room wall!)
Like many people, I was raised with the idea that to fail was a terrible thing. And the worst insult that could be leveled at a person was to call them a failure.
I went to a school where you could pass or fail and exam. You could pass or fail a driving test. Everything from businesses to marriages, careers to high profile projects –seemed to be split into successes or failures.
The message was clear – whatever you wanted to out of life, the main thing was to never, ever fail.
Except that this is totally impossible. No one gets through life without failing at some things. It stands to reason that not everything we do will be a ‘success’. So why do we have such a downer on it?
The Problem With The Success/Failure Dichotomy
I think part of the problem is that the success/failure is so binary; It’s absolute black and white with no grey areas. Psychologically, this becomes a bit like the concept of heaven and hell/angel and devil – everyone wants to have one but not the other (even though one of them definitely has the best tunes!)
For the longest time I was brilliant at beating myself up whenever I felt I’d ‘failed’ at something. I was divorced by 25 (failed marriage), I’d been made redundant twice (failed career), and in my corporate job had ‘failed’ to get my first promotion. All of these experiences felt devastating at the time, but also left me with a feeling of there being something wrong with me as a person – instead of being unpleasant but common parts of many people’s lives.
Thankfully I eventually learned that life experiences can’t be neatly divided up into ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ and that there are many, many shades of grey.
A great thing I’ve realized is that sometimes the things I’m not so good at and therefore don’t tend to go so well are not things that are part of my path – and the act of failing at them gave me really good information as to where my real happiness lies.
For example, my marriage ending was sad but it was a case of two people who had married young for the wrong reasons. I hadn’t been the only person in the marriage, nor had I been the only person to ended it. It falling apart was a sign that we weren’t meant to be with one another, not that we were terrible people.
When I didn’t get my first big corporate promotion I took it as a sign I wasn’t good at my job. Yet, looking back I didn’t really enjoy the role I was in and I now realize that the company culture, ethos and style wasn’t a good fit for me. I had lots of skills to offer but they weren’t the right mix for that organization. I couldn’t thrive there and it’s only through the absence of the promotion, subsequently leaving and finding work elsewhere (work that really did fulfill me and allow me to shine) that I realized this.
Treat It As A Learning Experience
At other times the act of not succeeding has given me really useful information that I’ve use to get me closer to my life goals. When I applied for my first role as a trainer I fluffed the interview and let nerves get the better of me. But I didn’t give up. I asked for feedback and worked on my weaker areas. When another job came up I tried again and this time I aced it.
Great things can take a while to get right – but if you give up because you consider it a failure then you really have… well, failed. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If he’d given up after the first attempt we might still be left in the dark!
The phrase ‘there’s no failure, only feedback’ not only saved me from another 40 years of self recrimination and low self esteem, but it allowed me to start really learning from those experiences, and realizing that failure isn’t the end of the world. Once you realize this, a big layer of stress falls away.
Yes, there are times when I’ve wanted something badly and it hasn’t gone as planned – then it can feel like I’m getting some really strong feedback indeed! But I’ve learned to view it all as a learning experience – and ironically it means I’m more likely to achieve my goals because I’m less likely to give up at the first challenge.
Questions To Help You
If you’re struggling with dividing your work/life/experiences into successes and failures, here are some questions which might help. They’re especially useful when you’re in the grip of feeling like something has gone badly wrong and is therefore a failure:
- On a scale of 1-10 (10 being a meteor is about the hit the earth!) how bad is the situation really?
- How important will it be in 6 months time? In 12 months time? In 6 years time?
- Are you making the best/most appropriate response?
- What can you do to improve the situation?
- What lessons can you take from this?
- What will you do differently next time?
- What positives can you take from this?
Jo Casey’s motto is ‘Work Happy’. She helps people beat stress so that they can LOVE their work. Whether you’re a freelancer, business owner or work the ’9-5′ your work should be a source of joy and enrichment but so many people are stressed out, overworked and feeling unhappy. Jo teaches practical ways to increase resilience, reconnect with your purpose and rediscover the joy in your working life.
You can connect with Jo at www.jocasey.com
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