I watched as my nephew tried to stand on his feet at nine months old. He fell down and returned to crawling before trying to stand again. A few minutes later, he ignored his fears as he pulled himself back onto his feet, wobbled with his first step, and then fell again.
What if infants feared failure? Most of us would probably still be crawling around on all fours. Our fear of failure is irrational; it is supported by an illusion that failure means we are worthless.
The reality is that we cannot fail; we can only produce results. Psychologists recommend we respond to these results with questions such as “What have I learned?” What did I discover that I didn’t start out to discover?” “What worked, or what didn’t work?” Mistakes are portals for discovery. When you try something and produce a result that you did not intend, but find interesting, pursue it.
It is a paradox of life that we have to learn to fail in order to succeed.
People can fail and still be successful because they don’t give up. Here are 5 traits that distinguish successful people from average performers:
1. Keep At It
- When average performers fail at something, they try something new.
- When successful people fail at something, they attack the same problem again and again until they succeed.
Rather than run from the failure that is keeping you from success, learn from it and embrace it. Others encounter an adversity, and then give up, moving to other projects until they find something at which they finally succeed. People with mental toughness keep at it until they find the answer to the problem.
2. Bounce Back
Great leaders, whatever organization or walk of life they are from, always go back to the same failure to explain their success. The failure, without exception, was traumatic and personally very difficult. It made them feel as though they’d hit rock bottom and filled with desperation. As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”
3. Choose Your Attitude
The odds are good that if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. Since adversity in life is a given, our success and happiness depend upon our ability to grow because of it. One of the most important decisions you make every day is the attitude with which you greet the world and the obstacles that come with it. Every day, you choose your own happiness.
4. Flexible Mindset
People have one of two belief systems about how the mind works. We have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that each time they attempt something it’s a reflection of their intelligence. A fixed mindset sees things in a winner/loser frame and therefore tends to see little that can be done to change the outcome.
But people who are taught that the brain is elastic and that they can become smarter and more competent—that the brain grows, like a muscle, when you work it hard—are less afraid to fail, they succeed more.
5. Be Patient
Success is a slow-cooker, not a microwave. Often showing patience is boring—most of us are stimulated by drama, immediate gratification, and creativity. But patience is a skill, not an inherited trait. Catch your mind from ranting that you shouldn’t be in this situation—you may have lost the battle, but not the war. Keep your eyes on the process, the results will take care of themselves.
The number one skill in life is having the mental toughness to not give up. Failure is life’s great teacher so don’t give up. While it may take a little effort to find it, as Viktor Frankl wisely reminds us, it is always possible to wrench something good out of misfortune.
“Failure is where success likes to hide—in plain sight.” ~ Scott Adams
What failures in your life have moved you in a better direction? What failures turned out ‘not’ to be failures after all?
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