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The most powerful two letter word on the planet to fuel your growth

Johnny Martin, M.Ed, Director of Aftercare, FitOps Foundation


The fact that we can learn from failure is undeniable.  We can point to lessons from our own lives, work, relationships, and societal stories.  Where many of us, myself included fall short; is HOW we learn from failure.  If you’re anything like me and have failed at various tasks over your lifetime, the following approach to the “bounce back” may seem all too familiar.  The fact that it doesn’t always work probably feels all too familiar as well.

Insert your failure here!  To decrease the chances that failure will happen again, most of us follow some very basic steps: We identify the failure, hone in on the cause, and take steps from making the same mistake again.  This straightforward approach is what we do because it is what we know.  What we know is not always what’s best.  I believe we view failure, disappointment, and being told “NO” the wrong way.  Learning to appreciate hearing NO, and adapting to failure appropriately will lead to personal creativity and growth at an exponentially higher level.

How we’ve been taught to view Failure

From as far back as we can remember, our views around failure have been shaped for us.  Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who was raised to embrace failure, told NO often, and understood that anything worth having requires hard work.  For most of us though, our internal data around failure is anything but positive.

Failure is BAD

Being told “NO” sucks

Disappointment is a sad feeling

These emotions and the very real events that accompany them taught us early on to avoid any/all things that may cause these feelings to occur.  Today, let’s revisit our thoughts around failure and change our mindset.  The failure will not change; our response to it will.

Debunking the MYTHS

1. Failure is ALWAYS bad: Failure is not always bad, Failure is inevitable.  Failure is sometimes bad, sometimes good, and will occur more often than not when chasing anything great.

2. Learning from Failure is Straightforward: Horseshit, and this is precisely the reason most people, companies, and leaders continue to make the same mistakes, and continue to be told NO.  This old ideology is simply not true.  “You didn’t follow the procedure” or “They had their mind made up already” does not put us in a position to learn anything.  By revisiting old beliefs about why we failed or were told NO; we simply continue to place ourselves in a position to hear it again.  We blame others and we rarely look inward.

3. A Fail is a Fail and a NO is a NO: Not all failures are or should be created equal.  How much time did you invest before failing or being told no?  Who were you actually doing it for?  Did you expect a “NO” going in?  What did you do after failing or being told no?  Asking yourself these questions will help you examine how important this work is to you.  Your answers will help guide you in the direction that matters most to you.

There are a myriad of reasons we fail, and even more reasons we are told NO.  By knowing what they are; most of which we probably never consider, we can better prepare in advance and minimize our chances of them occurring again.  Our mind is our most powerful weapon.  Let’s look at the psychology behind these failures, as a means to personal and professional growth.

The reasons for failure listed below come from the Harvard Business Review; “Strategies for Learning from Failure. (Click Here for Link)

What’s interesting is that; although all these are clearly failures, not all should assign personal blame.  Look at the reasons for Failure below and identify which ones would be worthy of praise.  As an individual or leader, now imagine working and living in an environment where these failures were praised instead of punished.  How much more effective would you be?  How much more willing would you be to take these “personal and professional chances” as a tool for growth; instead of an instrument for punishment?

1. A clear choice to NOT do the work – BLAME or PRAISE

2. Not paying enough attention – BLAME or PRAISE

3. Not enough ability or experience – BLAME or PRAISE

4. Taking reasonable action steps yet still fail – BLAME or PRAISE

5. Creatively testing a thought or idea – BLAME or PRAISE

As you examine your own life and goals, begin to ask yourself why you’re failing or hearing NO.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t fail and we would be told yes all the time, right?  I guess that depends on your definition of perfect.  In this world, the real one, our growth hinges on our ability to not only adapt from failure, but to expect it as part of the journey.  As you’ve certainly heard before; “If your dreams don’t scare the shit out of you, you’re not dreaming big enough”.  The add on should be; “and by the way, expect to fail a shitload along the way.  It’s the universe’s way of separating those who WANT from those who ACHIEVE.”

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