It seems that as I get older, I start questioning what I know and what I've been taught more and more.
One particularly big blind spot is that school never taught us how to deal with failure.
This seems mad! One of the hardest truths to deal with as you get older is just how often you stumble, fall, or completely crash and burn.
The biggest indicator of success doesn't seem to be your ability to do things right constantly.
Instead, how quickly you can overcome any setbacks and get back on course to your goals and targets are
This makes sense. Achilles was the greatest fighter in every sense. Strong, agile, and intelligent. But, one measly arrow in his leg and he fell apart like a house of cards.
He never got over this hurdle and was forever-after known for his single failure. Not his many successes.
Society as a whole recognizes this.
Hollywood seems obsessed with it; almost every movie is about the protagonist having to overcome some hurdle to succeed.
Sylvester Stallone said it best as Rocky Balboa in the original Rocky movie:
“It's not about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”
So the question is how do you get to get back up after that hay-maker punch? How do you keep getting back up time and time again when the whole world seems set against you?
Below are three strategies that I have been using to get me through some of the most ego-bruising of days or weeks and allowed me to "keep moving forward."
Look forward to failing
Most people look at failure and rejection the wrong way. They hit one little roadblock and give up straight away. Luckily you aren't one of those people.
Instead of dreading failure, crave it.
You might be asking "Ian what are you crazy how could I ever learn to crave failure and rejection?"
Most people will stop trying the moment they get rejected. By not being discouraged you've separated yourself from 99% of people.
Every further hurdle along the same path weeds out more competition until there is only a handful of people, instead of the hundreds that may have started.
Failure isn't the end but the first hurdle that most people never get over.
By not being discouraged by rejection and instead focusing on the specific reason you got rejected you have the formula to limit your competition and increase your skillset at the same time.
Systematically work on any trouble areas and you'll find your chances of succeeding increase exponentially.
Plan to fail
It's so common it's become a cliche, but how often have you told yourself that you "never wanted" to do whatever it was that you failed at?
If you never wanted to do it then why did you try in the first place?
Be honest and realize the dialogue is just your bruised ego playing up and you always wanted to succeed. You just got embarrassed when you failed.
When I apply for something these days I always assume I'll fail.
Instead of using that as an excuse to not try in the first place, I plan my actions of what I'll do if/when I fail. Once again having a plan for not only HOW you are going to try again, but keep trying every time. Separates you from most people.
Not only that but having a plan makes failure an integral part of your future success.
How many top achievers openly brag about all their failures?
They consider failure crucial to their successes.
Michael Jordan is considered one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the sport. This is his take on his career:
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
Plan for failure and you are planning for success.
Don't listen to everyone
I'm guilty of giving and receiving this all the time.
For some reason, people love to give unsolicited advice. Especially if that advice is why you shouldn't do something.
Next time you receive negative feedback, ask yourself where that advice is coming from?
Is this someone you respect or are they an expert on the topic?
You will often find that the person giving advice is a novice. Worse, you may find that person has no idea what they are talking about at all. They are merely projecting their fears and shortcomings on you.
A simple way I've found to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to criticism is to ask for a solution to the problem. If a person is unwilling to provide a solution to whatever they think you are doing wrong, then they are not trying to help.
If someone can offer a solution? Thank them for trying to help, but once again dig deeper into where that advice is coming from.
I find more and more these days I have to catch myself to stop advising on things I don't know about.
Using the strategies above you should have no problems facing your next failure with a sense of purpose or even excitement.
Even cooler is you will be stepping up to a stage that is usually reserved for the biggest and most badass people in human history.
Not a bad place to be
Luckily you won't be worried about possibly failing.