We can deal with failure. You and I can deal with it. It is not the end of life. More importantly, it is important for us to understand the meaning of failure, and how important failure is to eventual success. People who have achieved anything meaningful in life have had to fail, a lot.
What is the meaning of failure?
The meaning of failure is giving up on your dreams and ambitions. If you haven’t given up, you are not a failure.
Do you want to achieve something meaningful in life? Failure is a given. It is not failure till you give up.
So, how do we handle failure in life? We do it by redefining what failure means. Let’s say that you want to learn how to ride a bicycle. Now in the course of trying to learn how to ride it, all of us have fallen a bunch of times. I remember falling tons of times and running my bicycle all over the colony where I used to then live.
Were those failures?
I didn’t fail because I didn’t give up. Eventually, I learned how to learn how to ride a bicycle.
The failures on the road to your destinations are not failures. They are experiments. Experiments fail because that’s what they are-experiments.
So, instead of looking at this post by saying how to deal with failure, we will say how to deal with failed experiments because unless you give up because you failed experiments, you are not a failure. You are a failure when you give up in the pursuit of your dreams. Dealing with failed experiments is a part of character building.
So, how to deal with failed experiments?
1. Understand you will fail on the road to your destination
It is a part of the learning process. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn a thing. The problem with the school, college system and the corporate world is that it makes failing something to be truly embarrassed about. Even in school, we get multiple terms to improve our scores, and hence failure is a part of the process.
Failure is not a bad thing. In fact, when you are trying to achieve something truly important, you will need to budget for failure in both time and money.
2. It is okay to fail at things you are not naturally inclined towards
We need to contextualize failure. It is absolutely okay to fail at things you are not drawn towards. However, at least the school and college system demands that we clear all the subjects to get a basic understanding of how things work, which is okay.
However, in life, we don’t need to excel at most things. If we put in the effort, we will improve at almost anything, over time. However, it is important of us to understand where to invest time and where not to invest time.
3. Fail at something that you enjoy
As entrepreneurs, it means choosing what problem to solve. As an employee, it means choosing what kind of company and industry to work in. Ideally, one should pick a work area where one has a natural inclination towards. If we enjoy something, the process of failing will not hurt as much because we would want to apply the lessons forward and improve, because we really want to improve.
4. New inventions take experimentation
Thomas Edison would agree. When people asked him how it failed to fail so many times, he said that he didn’t even fail once, but he found out 10000 felt that don’t work. He looked at those ‘failures’ a failed experiments and did not give up. Since, he did not give up, he succeeded and attained his goal of inventing the light bulb. Even if he did not succeed, he still wouldn’t have failed since he did not give up. This is the only definition we need of failure.
5. It will hurt
Alright, so does it hurt to keep failing over and over in multiple attempts in trying to achieve your goal? Yes, it does hurt. It will hurt because all of us would want to reach our goals faster and take our lives to a higher place. When we reach our goals, our lives become better and convenient. So, for people with a lower risk appetite, it will hurt more than it will hurt people with a higher risk appetite which brings us to the next point.
6. Build a higher risk appetite
What does a risk appetite means? It means how long can you fail and stay alive before you succeed. Let us say that you want to quit your job to start a business. Now, in order to start and build a successful business, it will take some time. How will you manage your expenses during that period? How long would you be able to sustain yourself?
That’s your risk appetite. Do not quit the safety of your job without a risk appetite. It will hurt you a lot more and may force you to quit before you have achieved your goals.
7. Do not fix a timeline
A lot of people give themselves a year or two years, after which they plan to quit on the journey of their dreams. However, the people who have made it emphasize that their plan was to keep at it forever, till they make it. It actually takes an all or nothing approach to really achieve your dreams.
Most people are riding in multiple boats and hence they are never able to give 100% to their goals and quit before they make it.
8. Do only one thing
The greatest people in the world recommend doing one thing till you succeed at it and then moving on to the other thing. The postage stamp is a great metaphor for doing one thing. It does one job and doesn’t leave till the purpose has been achieved. The stamp doesn’t leave even after the purpose is achieved. It dies with the purpose.
You would find it easier to manage failure when you are working on only one thing at a time. Again, it depends on your risk appetite and how you build it. You need to have some savings in your bank to keep you going, till you focus on that one thing and achieve it.
9. Discard the naysayers who know nothing about failure
However, you want to ignore the naysayers, even if they are people close to you. The journey to your dreams will be difficult and there will be failed attempts. You will need people to believe in you. If you can find those, hold on to them for dear life. When you fall down, and you will, it will help to have someone say, get up and do it again. If you don’t find someone to believe in yourself, you have yourself to believe in you, still. It may get lonely, but keep the faith.
10. Fail Faster
If we keep avoiding failure and failed attempts, we will never attempt what we want to achieve because it is a process of learning and iteration. The faster we fail, learn, iterate, the faster we can grow. Therefore, failure in experimentation is not to be feared, but looked forward to.
Nothing can be gained without failure. None of us learned how to walk without falling a number of times. Everything is learnt by doing, failing and doing better.
We need to embrace if we are to grow in life. Otherwise, life would become a boring routine where we are learning nothing.
Thank you for reading.
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