When I was a child I liked to win. Who am I kidding? I still love to win. I am one of the most competitive people I know. It runs through my blood as water flows in a river. I am one of those people that believed it was a bad idea to give out consolation prizes to children on teams and if your child could not beat you at board games then they had to keep trying until they learned to. The keyword there is “was”. I am not completely on the everybody gets a trophy team, yet I have softened my approach some over the years. The truth is not everyone wins all the time. Failure also is an opportunity to grow. Personally and professionally, failure is a sign that you are living BIG and thinking outside the box.

The Myth that Everybody Wins

It is all about mindset. I get it! When the little league game is over, as parents, we so badly want everyone to leave happy. The question I always had is “why is it bad if my child is sad they lost?”. They did, and that is sad. The sadness will not last forever. We can still get ice cream, but does it make sense to give everyone a championship trophy?

Shielded from Failure

Who does the shielding? Sometimes it is loved ones, parents, teachers, and coaches. Other times we shield ourselves. One thing to consider is that retreating and avoiding the less pleasant parts of life delays the inevitable and robs people the opportunity to learn resilience and coping sooner rather than later. The ability to cope varies from person to person and at the point of confronting disappointment, failure, grief, and adversity, the ability to transcend and overcome these moments is birthed. It was not until I realized that I was not equipped to handle failure until late adulthood that I knew I must not shield my children from this fate as well.

Do You Worry About Failing

“I DO”. I am a work in process. I know I am getting better because when I think about the way I used to view failure and the way I see it now, my perspective has changed. When I ask myself the following questions, I answer yes much less often:

  • Do I worry about what other people think most of the time?
  • Do I make many of my decisions based on how others will feel?
  • Am I worried about looking like I am not smart or I am incompetent?
  • Do I tell people to expect the worse in case I don’t succeed?
  • When things do not go the way I wanted do I blame myself or have a hard time getting over it?
  • Do you get physical symptoms related to the task that you are fearful about failing (I.e. headaches, stomach aches, insomnia)?

This list is not all-inclusive, but it does give a place to start. If you answered yes to just one question, then there is a possibility that deep down, fear may be motivating some of your decisions.

What Next

There are some things you can do. Hallelujah!

Susan Peppercorn in Harvard Business Review writes about 4 strategies that are worth giving a try.

  1. Redefine failure. An example of this is when I started my podcast my first goal was to launch it and have a series of shows ready to go on the first day. A more realistic goal was to release a trailer until I was better prepared for the release.
  2. Set approach goals (not avoidance goals). These are goals focused on what you want to happen instead of what you don’t want to happen. Focus on the positive. I have interviewed for jobs I did not get and then went back to work at refining my skills and later landing the job or an even better one.
  3. Create a “fear list.” Think of this as looking at a situation realistically. Sometimes we make-up stories about what could go wrong. Taking the perspective of reality can reshape this and can also give you an idea of what could go right.
  4. Focus on learning. In every situation, there is always something to learn. This is not the everyone wins mindset. This is a growth mindset.

Failure is not an endpoint, it is an opportunity. Reframe it and embrace the journey.

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

Arianna Huffington