The 4-Letter Word That Overcomes Failure

NEXTNo matter how hard you try, you will make some mistakes in life.  That’s a given.

When you make a mistake, there are three things you can do. One, you can resolve to never make another mistake, which is fine, but impractical.  Two, you can refuse to take any more risks that might not work out, which is foolish.

Of course, I advocate a third option.  It’s the option that all true leaders and truly successful people take.  When a day has gone badly or a piece of work has fallen apart, they…


1. Focus on a four-letter word.

Brace yourself, because you may be shocked to see me use this dirty, four-letter word. But here goes…

The dirty four-letter word is, “NEXT.” When a project fails or a mistake happens, successful people just say, “next.”

Suppose you were a doctor.  If you stuck your head into the waiting room, called a sick patient into your examination room, but a few minutes later the patient died, what would you do?  Would you take the rest of the day off because it wasn’t going very well?  Would you quit?

No!  If you were a doctor, you would simply open the door to the waiting room and say “NEXT.”

Of course, if you were devoted to the pursuit of excellence and the achievement of your goals, you would go several steps beyond the use of this four-letter word.  You can read all about it in Chapter 7 of my new book, The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want out of Life and Work.

To get your copy of this amazing book, go to

For today’s purposes, however, to deal with mistakes and failures, you must also take a moment to…


2. Learn from your mistake.

You see, the only time you really fail is when you make a mistake and do not learn from it.

Handled appropriately, a mistake is merely feedback. You’re simply learning what not to do the next time around.  You’re shifting your focus from the past to the future.  And that is an almost certain path to success.

Arthur Gordon proved that.  As a businessman, Arthur made a lot of money climbing the ladder of success. But then he made a number of bad decisions, resulting in the loss of his wife, kids, health, and money. He bottomed out. He became so depressed that he contemplated suicide.

Before he took such a drastic action, however, Arthur decided to seek the consultation of the greatest psychiatrist in the United States. The psychiatrist was a well-respected, eighty-year-old fellow, who still maintained his practice.

Arthur talked about all of his problems. He told the psychiatrist about his bad decisions, his poor judgments, and the loss of his family and funds. Arthur went on for about fifteen minutes, explaining why life wasn’t worth living anymore.

All of a sudden the old psychiatrist said, “That’s enough. In the last fifteen minutes you’ve said the same phrase over and over again, and as long as you keep saying that phrase you will never get better. You keep using the two saddest words in the English language.

Arthur was curious. He wondered what the old psychiatrist meant.

The psychiatrist went on. Those two words are “If only.” He said, “You’d be amazed if you knew how many years I’ve sat in this chair and listened to thousands of people use those two words. They go on and on, starting all their sentences using those two words, until I finally stop them. I say to them, ‘if only’ you would stop saying ‘if only,’ we might be able to get somewhere.

What’s the answer?” Arthur wanted to know. “What do you do?

The psychiatrist said very simply, “You strike those two words from your vocabulary. And you substitute the two most powerful, positive words in the English language. You say ‘next time.’ This phrase faces you in the right direction, pulls you forward, and gives you lift instead of drag.

This psychiatrist’s advice wasn’t deep, complex, or theoretical. It was as simple as taking the time to learn from your failure — and then focus on the “next time.

Positive thinkers and winners do this all the time. They view every failure as a chance to learn. They believe that growth and learning can come from any situation, experience, problem, or crisis. So they’re not deflated by the failures that come their way.

Could the same thing be said about you? Do you squeeze the learnings out of your failures? Do you then focus on the “next times” of the future? Or do you dwell on the “if onlys” of the past?