There is a disease in our culture right now.
The disease is the fear of failing.
I guess it perhaps stems from our evolution and how failure could lead to death for our ancestors. Fail to find food and you’ll starve. Fail to evade a predator and you’ll become lunch.
I think it’s natural to want to avoid failure, but the reality is that failure happens to everyone. The difference is that some people go one way when they encounter failure and others go another way. The outcomes from those two groups can be vastly different.
Group #1. Avoid Failure At Cost
The first group, and one that seems to be getting more common, is the group of people that experience failure and go on to avoid future failure at all cost.
There is pain associated with failure. When we fail at something – our job, a sport, a test, a whatever – it makes us feel bad. And that makes sense. It shouldn’t feel good to fail at something.
The first group, however, experiences this pain and the next course of action is to avoid future pain at all costs.
A golfer might shoot a poor score and quit the game. Why keeping punishing themselves?
A couple divorces and avoids serious relationships with others. Why tempt fate again?
A person goes bankrupt in business and stops thinking of new ideas. Why risk it all again?
Sound familiar? It’s common.
Group #2. See Failure As Opportunity
The second group doesn’t like failure anymore than those in the first group. In fact, the second group might even hate failure more than those in the first group.
You’ll often hear stories about some of the best sportspeople in the world about how they hated losing more than they enjoyed winning. They were driven to avoid failure instead of to win.
You might be thinking that their approach is no different from the first group and that’s true. They want to avoid failure. The difference is that those in the second group see every instance of failure as an opportunity.
A golfer might play a horrible round and come away seeing the opportunity to work on their game. They can identify the area of their game that is lacking and become improved and come back better than ever.
A person that goes through divorce certainly won’t feel good about it, but they can take away the good things that occurred in the relationship, take those to heart going forward, and perhaps learn how to improve the next time around. Or perhaps they simply look at the situation as something that was never meant to be and now they have the opportunity to find someone that is a better fit.
A person might go bankrupt in business and that’s not a pleasant experience. But some see when it’s time to stop, learn lessons and do better the next time. Many successful entrepreneurs don’t find success until their second, third, fourth or even more attempts.
Some Of Us Are More Conservative
A quick note here is that it seems that some of us are more conservative with risk than others. It’s just the way it is and that’s fine. We all have different ideas of what makes for a successful life. The difference, I think, is what we’ll talk about next.
Pointing Out The Failures Of Others
I’m not a fan of people that point out the failures of others. I catch myself doing it sometimes and I get angry with why I’m doing that. I try to avoid it the best I can.
Maybe it’s a natural reaction in life for us to kind of focus on the failures of others. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves in some way. Maybe it helps lessen the blow of our own past failures when we focus on how others have failed in similar ways or in perceived worse ways.
Admire The Ability Of Those That Rebound
Perhaps we should instead be admiring the failures of others. Well, I guess we don’t want to admire someone that continues to fail.
But when someone has achieved success in an admirable way we should focus on that and how they likely overcame failure in their journey to achieve success. And I think we do admire folks that have achieved success especially if they came from humble beginnings or if they’ve had struggles in the past.
And for those that haven’t achieved success yet that keep finding failure maybe we can admire their resilience and recognize that they will likely achieve success and figure things out at some point.
I think it was Vince Lombardi that said something like: We didn’t lose. We just ran out of time.
I like that quote and its variations.
It could be used for all walks of life.
A golfer might lose a big tournament, but they look at the situation as simply not yet winning.
An NFL team might lose a big game, but look at it like they simply haven’t won the Super Bowl yet.
An entrepreneur might fail in business, but they look at it as they simply haven’t started the right business yet. Or that they’re current business simply hasn’t succeeded…yet.
The overarching idea of this entire post is that if you point out the failures of others you’re focusing on the wrong aspect of failure. And it’s likely a sign that you’re going to avoid failure in the future and that will likely lead to you not experiencing the success you dream about having.
The next time you catch yourself focusing on someone else’s failure, take another look at the situation and see perhaps how that person has been able to overcome their failure to succeed. See if there are traits to admire about that person and how you could apply those lessons to your own life.
We’ll all experience failure in life. It’s just reality.
The difference in our your life turns out is how you respond to those failures.