By Lauren Aiken
“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.” –General George S. Patton
Failure and success are cohorts. You can never have one without the other. Just look at some of history’s great innovators such as Henry Ford who lost money five times before successfully launching Ford Motor Company. Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard and failed his first attempt with his business plan, has developed a global empire. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Thomas Edison made over a thousand unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb. And, Walt Disney was fired from his position as newspaper editor because he lacked imagination.
There have been countless books and articles written about how to achieve success, but the true key to triumph lies within ourselves. For the most part, you control and shape your own destiny and choose whether to let the inevitable setbacks get the best of you, or look at them as learning opportunities.
Live and Learn
In order to move forward, we must step back to examine our failures so we can learn from our mistakes and make adjustments to our goals and strategy for achieving them. But when you fail time and time again, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook and push forward. So often we succumb to failure when we are merely inches away from succeeding.
When you are thrown off track, ask yourself what went wrong, which steps yielded unsatisfactory results and determine what you need to do to change to prevent destructive repetition.
Have No Fear
According to Walter Bradford Cannon’s “fight-or-flight response,” animals react to threats in one of two ways – fleeing the situation or staying and fighting. Humans react in a similar manner when faced with failure. We are afraid of the unknown, we are hesitant to take risks and the thought of losing makes us uneasy. Accepting failure isn’t easy, but once the initial sting wears off you can bounce back with greater focus and drive. Show that little voice in your head who’s boss by seizing the potential for growth and welcoming new challenges as they arise.
With every new experience, memorable or regretful, we emerge as a different person than we were before. Experiences strengthen our character and ultimately catapult our careers.
Raise the Bar
Your career advancement requires that you step outside your comfort zone and become comfortable being uncomfortable for a while. Rather than wondering and pining about career success, stop dreaming and start doing. You’ll never know what you are capable of until you try, and if you first fail you’ll learn you make need to commit some time to professional development and try again. Decide to set personal and professional development goals and don’t let complacency hold you back.
Success in your career is like the success of learning to ride a bike. The more time you commit to it, learning what needs to be adjusted results in success. After every fall and with each decision to try again the better and braver you become. Courage isn’t found at the finish line it develops during the race.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Don’t get discouraged when things don’t play out according to plan. Some of life’s greatest adventures stem from the bumps and bruises we encounter along the way. Maybe you didn’t get the executive position you applied for, but now you’ll have more time to brainstorm that entrepreneurial venture you’ve had on the backburner. Perhaps you were laid off during the economic crisis? Use the “vacation time” to reevaluate your career goals and commit to personal and professional development.
Failure is only a beginning and offers up opportunity to learn. Take it, be ready to adjust, change and adapt a new approach. Celebrate each milestone in your journey and success will follow.
When you fail, you learn. When you learn, you change. And when you change, you improve and develop a healthy pattern that can only lead you closer to the prize.