Failing is for Winners

Nobody likes to fail.

It hurts. When we are unable to achieve our goals, we don’t just experience failure. We experience discouragement. Rejection. Doubt. Fear. Apathy. Failure has a way of warping our perspectives; re-shaping our outlook to align with the constraints of our current condition rather than that of the desired future state. We begin to say or think things like “Maybe this wasn’t meant to be” or “Whatever – I don’t care.” In some cases, our assertions may be accurate. Perhaps, our goals weren’t exactly pre-destined.

But what if they truly were? What if our failure is a mere pit stop en route to the final destination?

We have all heard inspiring stories of redemption. Many of us have even benefited from the rewards of resilience, which leads me to believe that failure is critical on the path to success. It is inevitable. How we handle failure is what separates cowards from champions and winners from wimps. Life’s challenges have taught me that we can conquer failure and overcome our circumstances by taking the following steps.

Own Our Position

Failure is tough to digest. However, the sooner we accept it, the sooner we are able to move forward.

In March 2015, after the company that I worked for was acquired, I was laid off from my job. Even with 10 years of experience in IT project management, I felt like I had no traction in my career. I spiraled into a place of uncertainty and had a hard time determining what my next step should be. I chased mirages of the job I had lost rather than seeking purposeful placement. Disoriented, I found myself frustrated and focused on the wrong goal. It wasn’t until I owned my position and began to unpack what I was experiencing that I found peace and ultimately, perspective.

Acknowledging our position resets our perspective. Armed with a fresh outlook and a sober assessment of where we stand, we are positioned to move forward with confidence and clarity.  Stephen Covey says, “The proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it. This literally turns a failure into a success.”

Take Inventory and Tool Up

Failure is costly. We expend significant time and resources in our respective pursuits. Mentally, we commit ourselves to a mission and press forward full speed ahead. So, in the face of failure, we often find ourselves depleted. Taking inventory allows us to discover what’s “left in the tank” for the journey ahead.

Prior to starting my own practice, I was “on the bench” consulting with one of the “Big Four.” For those who are unaware, being “on the bench” is when you’re in between projects. As a new consultant, I didn’t have the track record or relationships to navigate the consultancy’s network to find a new role. Therefore, my search became my full-time job. After weeks of searching, I wasn’t having any success and separation was looming in the shadows. I had to pivot. I took advantage of the down-time to assess what skills would make me more marketable and align with the roles that I desired. In addition, I leveraged the firm’s massive training database to strengthen my internal profile. The skills that I attained during this time prepared me for my next role and career season.

After facing failure, some resources will need to be replenished. Others will need to be discarded. Tools that have been worn done over time may need to be sharpened. Or perhaps, our toolkit could use a complete overhaul.  No matter the circumstance, we must ensure that we are equipped to pursue opportunity. This begins with taking inventory.

Strategize, Then Execute

While failure and obstacles are inevitable, they are not always experiences we wish to repeat. Strategy gives us the opportunity to (re)declare our vision and encourage those with whom we are journeying. Additionally, we can target resources and ensure effective use of time and tools. The quickest path to failure is an unplanned one.

With our sights set and resources replenished, we must execute – one step at a time. In accordance with our strategy, we move forward. We catch our stride. We overcome.