Failure: Is It a Necessity On The Road To Success?

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By Karen McMahon, Contributor - May 03, 2017

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Feeling ashamed about the dissolution of your marriage? Are you looking at yourself as a failure and fearing others are doing so as well? There’s another perspective awaiting you…

Most of us are paralyzed by failure. We were given a toxic message about failing, that failing is bad and wrong.  We were taught to avoid it in school, in relationships, and in the workplace, and by doing so we could avoid the self and public disapproval that accompanied it. The pain we feel when we fail, combined with our tendency to go into blame and/or self-recrimination, keeps us off the road to success.  

On this road of avoiding failure or not admitting it’s signs, we gloss over and neither see our responsibility for being where we are nor are we able to learn from our experiences. This road stays raw, the ride bumpy, and the destination dangerous. Today there are new messages about failure, enlivening messages that tell us not only is it unavoidable to fail, it is integral on the path to success.

These new messages tell us that our failures are the paving stones to success as long as we pick ourselves up and go forth with expanded understanding and wisdom. Kathryn Schulz, one of the authors sharing a new perspective on failure writes in Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error; “Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list…It is our meta-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong.

Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.” Kathryn believes that we are designed to learn from our actions, those that work the way we want and those that don’t.  To play it safe is to stifle our ability to learn and grow.

Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people…don’t want to go there…"

The above statement is by Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. Instead of risking failure, they choose to play it safe, to fly below the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they generally never attempt anything great at which they could possibly fail (or succeed)..” How many relationships, positions, and ventures have ended because of this fallacy?

While the two authors above speak to corporate culture, the same holds true for personal culture, whether overcoming a failed relationship, a tanked business venture, or navigating a health challenge. To achieve your goals, to make what at first seems highly unlikely possible, you must embrace your failures, learn from them, and treat yourself with grand compassion and love as you rise from the ashes, brush off the dirt and move forward one step at a time.  

It’s scary not knowing how one step will lead to the next, or if these new steps will lead to where you want to go, yet staying on the ground really isn’t worthy of who you are and what you are capable of.

Of course, assess the steps you are thinking of taking next carefully.  Simply hoping for the best is not a viable strategy.  Be willing to look in the mirror, do the work, and create strategies and take actions that are specific, measurable, reasonable, and achievable given what is already on your plate.  

Hold yourself accountable in real time.  Allow yourself to assess your skills and talents realistically, with kindness. Use your talents to your advantage and seek out new skills that will allow you to navigate your path with more resiliency, balance, and bounce in your step, and with eyes wide open. Use your failures to inform your ability to achieve successes, one small step at a time.

Take the new empowering messages about failure to heart. Make your failed marriage a stepping-stone on the path to relationships rewarding beyond your dreams.

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