Professional speaker, Bill Wooditch, teaches that learning from our mistakes is the only way to make sure we don’t make the same ones twice and how failure teaches more lessons than success.
The most underrated route to success is failure. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone, at some point, fails. But how do you take a clear, focused approach to build on the foundations of failure? Examining our failures rationally isn’t an easy thing to do. The reality is that failure hurts, and it’s usually the fear of failing that prevents you from trying in the first place. But you can’t achieve and sustain success until you learn how to overcome fear’s attempts to stop you in your tracks. If you want to achieve more in life, you have to be willing to fail more.
Anything in life of merit or value comes at a cost, and often with the clear and present possibility of failure. Reluctance to engage in activities that include the potential of failure means you’re playing it safe—and you play it safe because you fear. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. But once you understand your fear of failure, you can then weigh the course of action necessary to achieve your goals.
The best way to fight the fear of failure is to expose yourself to it. Become acquainted with the feeling. By expecting fear, you lessen its power. By accepting failure, you’re prepared for it. Once you realize that it’s the fear of failure that is stopping you, you have an obligation to move forward in spite of it. As Elizabeth Elliot says, “Sometimes…fear does not subside and…one must choose to do it afraid.”
Ask yourself: Is failure your end or your beginning? To fail forward, you have to distance yourself from emotions. You’re only human—you will feel emotions first—but you need to react strategically, not emotionally. In order to shift from emotions to strategic thought, attempt first to limit and then to stop the “failure-loop” that often plays-out in your head. Logic will be your guide to dispassionately analyze what went wrong. Then, armed with real data, you can make the adaptations necessary to improve the outcome on the next try. Own your mistakes but know the distinction between your self-worth and failure as a condition or event. You are not a failure and don’t ever let yourself think of failure as being synonymous with you.
When you think of Mark Cuban, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King, do you think of failures? No—these are leaders in their respective fields. But each of them has leveraged failure into massive success:
- The Dallas Mavericks Owner and Star of “Shark Tank,” Mark Cuban, was fired from his first 3 jobs.
- The author whose book series has been translated into 73 languages and sold millions of copies, J.K. Rowling, has said, “By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
- The author awarded with a National Medal of Arts from the US National Endowment for the Arts, Stephen King, was initially rejected 30 times before Carrie was published.
As Napoleon Hill said, “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” All failed numerous times in their careers before achieving the success that most of us dream of attaining. And all would likely agree that failure teaches more lessons than success.
Success is like the stages of a rocket—each level burns off at a certain point and must be replaced by a stronger push to reach an even higher stratosphere. You reach the next level of success when you learn how to respond to failure. Your next level of achievement will be contingent upon your ability to learn from the lessons of failure and apply them for growth.
BILL WOODITCH is the author of Fail More: Embrace, Learn, and Adapt to Failure As a Way to Success and the founder and CEO of The Wooditch Group, a risk-management and corporate insurance firm with annual sales of $100 million. As a professional speaker, he works with Fortune 500 companies like AIG, Old Republic, Zurich, and Bank of America and mentors those who are hungry for success, teaching them skills to harness the lessons of failure to create new opportunities.