Failure Doesn’t Automatically Lead to Success. Embrace These Lessons to Make Sure It Does

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“I can tell you’re somebody who doesn’t like to hear the word ‘no’.” That’s what a new friend said to me recently. I laughed it off because really, who does? But during my five years being an entrepreneur, I’ve noticed my relationship with this word has changed significantly.

Failure is something we hear about often. Everyone, from Jeff Bezos, to Seth Godin, to Albert Einstein have all expressed how much their failures fueled their successes. So as business owners, we’re encouraged to embrace failures and to focus on learning from them.

And while that is helpful, what often doesn’t get talked about is what happens in the middle. How do you go from avoiding failure like the plague to thriving because of it?

A ton of failures don’t automatically lead to success. It is largely the relationship you have with those failures, particularly how you see and respond to them, that makes the difference.

My mountain of failures have come in the form of outright “no’s,” or “not right now,” being ignored, nobody buying, nobody reading, listening, or watching, and everything in between.

No matter the method, here are 10 important lessons to embrace about failure, that will help you win in the long run.

1. Failure isn’t a personal indictment.

It has nothing to do with your character. Just because someone tells you no, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you suck. When you can divorce your worth from an outcome, failure becomes a better teacher.

2. Failure makes you take responsibility.

Instead of getting flustered by all the things that may have been unfair, or wondering why others are succeeding when you aren’t, take a different lesson from the disappointment.

Ask “what could I have done better?” Focus on the things that you can control so that in time you become so good you cannot be ignored.

3. Failure induces mastery.

Work on improving your skills, refining your methods, and developing the technique that enables you to excel in your craft.

If you succeed too early on, it may be tempting to get complacent and focus on the next goal. But the sting of not hitting the mark can compel you to focus on getting better, rather than relying on your innate talents.

4. Failure fuels persistence.

More than 150 entrepreneurs told me their number one key to success is being persistent. But you don’t develop your persistence muscle by succeeding. It gets stronger in the process of doing something over and over again, even when there is no immediate visible reward.

5. Failure fosters resilience.

There’s this great line from Rocky Balboa that underscores this point perfectly:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

6. Failure makes you ask the important questions.

Failure will cause you to be more introspective to help you figure out what you really want. It will help you determine whether or not you are willing to do the work or make the sacrifices necessary to get to a ‘yes.’

7. Failure forces you to be creative.

After enough doors get slammed in your face, you may decide it is time to alter your methods and build your own door. Failure helps you figure out a way to succeed, by any means necessary (all legal of course).

8. Failure makes you more confident.

It will teach you to get your validation internally. It will teach you to work on something until you are proud of it. Once you meet that standard, any validation or acceptance you receive from the outside world will be an added bonus.

9. Failure produces better habits.

Sometimes we approach things haphazardly. But as you work to learn from your failures and improve your work overall, that means you’ll have to develop better habits that enable you to consistently perform at your best.

10. Failure pushes you closer to where you are supposed to be (if you let it).

A ‘no’ is an opportunity that can let you know when you’re not quite on the right track. As you adjust in response to what you learn from a closed door, eventually you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be. The failures are often nudges working to get you on the right path.

Learn the lessons failure teaches you, so you can come out shining as a result.

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