Fail Boldly

Nobody says failure is fun. Not getting the grade/job/recognition you wanted hurts. But recognising that failure is an integral part of your life, and learning how to become more pragmatic about it can help you become more reflective, resilient, and more likely to succeed in the future.

Not everything you do is destined to become an overnight success. Whether scientists, writers or entrepreneurs, most successful people will have eaten their fair share of ‘failure pies’ over the years, and their drive to pick themselves up after each setback and keep going is key to their success. So, next time, instead of binning your ‘failed’ essay, look at it again, read the feedback, and really learn from this experience so that next time you do better.

We have compiled a few tips, some inspirational talks, and articles to help you embrace your failures, as part of your personal and professional growth:

  1. Ask for constructive feedback: ok, your ego may hurt a little when someone points out what you should improve. But if you only hear how great everything you do is, you will never learn to work on your weaker points. After all, you can always do better!
  2. Push yourself: try to do things outside your comfort zone. They don’t have to be big! By daring yourself to do more and not always succeeding, you will strengthen your ‘resilience muscles’.
  3. Prepare: if you are worried about failing, imagine what it would be like. How might you react? What would you find helpful? Then, when it happens, you will know how to approach it in the most productive and positive way.
  4. Take risks: again, you never know what a failed risk can inspire in you! If you mess up, be honest with yourself and others, and start over.
  5. Discourage your inner perfectionist: see mistakes as learning opportunities, not failures.
  6. Stay curious: sometimes it’s ok to choose a different path and abandon your initial plan. See this inspiring story of a former doctor, now writer and comedian. Just make sure that you change your direction for the right reasons, not because you don’t like to have to work your way around obstacles.
  7. Accept bad days: sometimes we just need to acknowledge that things are not great, and that this is a phase. Instead of giving up, use this time to reflect on your values and priorities, stay focussed on your end-goal and keep going until you have bounced back.
  8. Find a mentor or make sure you have someone in your life you admire: think about what they would do. If possible, ask them for advice, and learn from their mistakes!
  9. Have your tool box at the ready: not the metal one with hammers and nails (although these are useful too!) but the one where you store your coping strategies. Consider what helps you relax and overcome difficulties. A walk? A note in a journal? A conversation with a friend or teacher?

If it wasn’t for failure, we would not have innovation and progress today. Consider Thomas Edison who failed hundreds of times before getting his light bulb. It took a lot of futile attempts to climb Mount Everest. So, don’t be scared of failing with a capital “F” because this experience will be as much part of your education as, if not more important than, straight As. It’s often our failures that shape us as human beings and help us succeed. Go ahead – fail boldly and let us know how you get on!

If you would like to share your story with others, get in touch in the comments section.

Read this:

Listen to this:

A plethora of fascinating and very honest accounts of all sorts of failures. This podcast will help you learn from other people’s experiences.

Watch this:

Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:

  • What inspired you?
  • As a result, what do you want to do more of?
  • And what do you want to do less of?
  • What will you do next to achieve these goals?
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