It's Only Failure If You Don't Get Back Up

Let failure be your teacher, not your master.

As I coach people or speak to groups, I’ve learned there is nothing more unpopular than failure. That’s unfortunate, because FAILURE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ANYTHING MORE THAN A STOP ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS.

Good salespeople know that, and so should you. Good salespeople know that no matter how good their skills, they will almost inevitably experience a certain percentage of “failures.” They won’t make a “sale” on every call.

Winners know that no one succeeds all the time. Winners accept failure as a natural part of life, so they don’t get bent out of shape when failure comes. They see failure as a mere stop in the road, rather than see failure as the end of the road.

By contrast, losers see failure as final. As a result, some of them won’t even try to do certain things, while others will work like madmen trying to avoid failure.

Unfortunately, the very fear that motivates such losers will often defeat them. As Charles Baudouin says, “No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors, and make success impossible.” In other words, if you’re motivated by the fear of failure, even if you make some progress, you won’t enjoy it.

Winners are not defeated by failure because they APPROACH EVERY FAILURE AS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE. They believe that growth and learning can come from any situation or experience, problem or crisis.

Indeed, that very belief is the same belief that motivates successful inventors. They approach every attempt and every failure as a step in a learning process that will eventually lead them to success. As Charles Kettering, one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century, said, “An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.”

By taking this approach, by treating failure as a learning experience, winners get better and better. They make fewer and fewer mistakes, and they get to future successes quicker and quicker. As Earl Wilson says, “Experience is what enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.”

Winners also know that FAILURE IS NOT THE FALLING DOWN BUT THE STAYING DOWN. There is a big difference between the two.

Perhaps no one knew that any better than singer and actress Debbie Reynolds. As a young Texas girl, her family was forced to live with her grandparents during the Depression because her father could not find work.

Times were bad. Food was scarce, and space was limited. They survived by eating jack rabbit, and people slept four to a bed.

Looking for better times, her family moved to California. At age 16 Debbie won the Miss Burbank contest, which led to a part in a movie. Marriage followed, but that ended in a bitter divorce, leaving her to raise two children alone.

Her second marriage was to a millionaire shoe manufacturer, but that ended when his financial gambles caused the failure of his business. He took off, leaving Debbie with millions of dollars of debt. The banks repossessed everything, including her home.

Determined to pay off the debts and properly care for her family, she went on the road doing live theatre. It took her over 10 years to pay off the debt that her ex-husband left her, but she did it.

Of course, over the years, Debbie Reynolds has had numerous successes. She’s also faced a long string of problems that could have gotten in the way of her success, but she refused to quit.

Debbie says her secret is simple; she gets up after she falls down. She knows that failure is not the falling down but the staying down. She knows that success is getting up just one more time than you fall down.

More than 100 years ago, the British poet, William Blake, echoed the same sentiment. He wrote, “Mistakes are easy, mistakes are inevitable, but there is no mistake so great as the mistake of not going on.”

Finally, WINNERS REFRAME FAILURE. They redefine it in more positive terms. For example, Bobby Layne, the former pro-football player with the Detroit Lions, said he never lost a game. He “just ran out of time.”

And little Jamie Scott intuitively knew how to reframe failure in more positive terms. He had his heart set on being in the school play, went to the try-outs, but his Mom feared he would not be chosen.

On the day the parts were announced, Jamie rushed up to his mother, his eyes shining with pride and excitement. “Guess what, Mom? I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.”

Perhaps the best reframing of failure comes from Robert Schuller. In his book, Living Positively One Day At A Time, Schuller writes: “Failure doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you haven’t succeeded yet. Failure doesn’t mean you have accomplished nothing. It means you have learned something. Failure doesn’t mean you are a fool. It means you have a lot of faith. Failure doesn’t mean you’ve been disgraced. It means you were willing to try. Failure doesn’t mean you don’t have it. It means you must do it differently. Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior. It means you are not perfect. Failure doesn’t mean you wasted your life. It means you can start over. Failure doesn’t mean you ought to give up. It means you must try harder. Failure doesn’t mean you never made it. It means it’ll take longer. Failure doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It means He has a better idea.”

Action:  Select a recent failure in your life. Then reframe it in a more positive light. And tell yourself two things you learned from that failure. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be smarter.