How Do I Deal With Failure?

A summer intern asked me this question a couple days ago and I answered it the best I could at the moment. But the question didn’t leave my awareness.

This is an upgrade to the answer I gave, Jacob. In full transparency, I can’t remember what I said.

I can summarize my best approaches with a simple idea I heard many years ago but didn’t understood until I started to intentionally develop my mindset.

Detach Yourself from the failure.

I heard this concept from John C. Maxwell’s book “Failing Forward.” His exact words were, “take the YOU out of failure.”

You probably think the phrase is common sense. Yet, I’m willing to bet you have spent a lot of energy letting failure influence your self-worth and self-esteem.

Back in my teenage years, I can remember many instances in which I punished myself when for doing something wrong. If I didn’t get it right, I didn’t deserve to have fun. I had effectively convinced myself my worth was determined by the quality of the outcomes.

Here are some examples, If I don’t succeed…

  • My parents won’t love me.
  • I’m not worth anything.
  • I am not good enough.
  • Why should others care about me.

Over time, these thoughts converged on a succinct belief: I am a failure.

How do I detach myself from failures?

When I do it properly, there are certain ideas that repeat.

  1. I remember the many times a perceived failure was the trigger to a new achievement or breakthrough. Getting demoted was the turning point for me to discover my purpose, passions, and talents.
  2. I frame the failure as a new departure point. In other words, the outcome is a checkpoint letting me know where I am in my success journey.
  3. I identify the failure as a moment to validate if my actions are still aligned with who I want to become. Many times I have failed simply because what I was doing was out of fear or obligation as opposed to something I truly wanted.
  4. I remind myself, unless I am dead, there’s an opportunity to get better. I can choose to get up or give up.
  5. I ask how does it serve me to devalue or criticize myself. While it is important to recognize the current situation, punishing myself doesn’t make the situation better.
  6. I give thanks for the opportunity to grow. Ultimately, I learn more from mishaps than successes.

It is unfortunate that society programs us to believe our worth is solely driven by the outcome of our actions. At the end of the day, I have to wonder how boring life would be if I always did everything right.

I let you go with the words of Mary Morrissey,

The content of your life is the curriculum of your evolution.



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