Submitted by Evan Jaksha
Failure is the bane of the individual who is striving for success. Failure is unavoidable in life where it can leave many bruised and some even dead.
Success, when achieved, is easy to bask in. Living in the Parade of Success with large bank accounts, receiving great accolades and enjoying the social aspects of success is easy. Compared to failure, it does not take much to enjoy and reflect on success. Failure, the antithesis of success, is a completely different story but as dark as it can be, it can also have light if you know what to look for.
With failure comes no money, no parades and no great accolades from those around you. Making a wrong decision can often find some individuals losing a great deal of money, flipping their finances upside-down and filing for Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy. Their self-worth can become so terribly injured they fall into the depths of depression awash in alcohol and drugs. The accolades and praise of success are then replaced with negative gossip creating a climate of an “association of failure” which only promulgates a vicious cycle of more failure, depression, alcohol and drugs.
Since failure is with everyone daily, how can we have successful individuals in society? Why is there success, at any level in business, athletics, the professions and research when failure is still a part of the successful?
What have the successful done differently to pull success from the jaws of failure, i.e., the preverbal “Phoenix rising from the ashes?” Success and failure actually have very similar life-outcomes on the horizontal plane of life. The only thing that separates them is often the subtlest of differences. That distance could be that extra inch to push a basketball into a hoop during a championship game, continuing a conversation with a friend or a business associate rather than stopping, that extra push before crossing the finish line of a race. Success and failure between a first and second place runner in an Olympic 100 yard dash is often separated by a mere 100th of a second. This demonstrates the need to give 100% or what some coaches will ask for is 110%!
Quitting on that 99th cold-call is met with failure, whereas the associate that stayed for that 100th call is met with a successful sale. That is often how close success and failure are measured – in one more cold-call, a millisecond or an extra inch. Both success and failure not only contain seven-letters but we can also find hidden within those seven-letters another eight-letter word. That eight-letter word is “attitude.”
Since failure is experienced by everyone daily, it appears that attitude is the game-changer. Attitude can be negative or positive. A negative attitude can crush an individual while a positive attitude can elevate the same individual into the stratosphere.
Those with a negative attitude often approach failure as a permanent death-nail to their situation and sometimes, their lives. The opposite is true for those with a positive attitude who will see the same failures as “opportunity.” An opportunity to grow into success.
When asking the positive attitude individual “How do you handle failure?” the answer will sometimes be with a bit of bravado, “What’s that?” or “Never heard about that” or “I don’t know what that word means.” These individuals are not saying they have not experienced failure or truly know what it means, but rather they are not giving failure a place in their lives. Basically, they are saying that failure does not deserve to be a part of their lives.
When positive attitude individuals approach failure they take the opportunity-attitude to improve, improvise and invent something new where failure does not take advantage of them, but rather they take advantage of failure. To them failure becomes the servant to success. Military Special Forces are very well known for their Never-Give-Up attitude, but they too have some mission failures, or at least, less than ideal outcomes. The difference again is their attitude as to how they approach a less-than-ideal mission. Every mission has an After-Action Report where everything is evaluated so the next mission gets better and the next gets even better. Taking an After-Action attitude to our own failures would be a positive-attitude growth lesson just like our Special Forces do.
Even though it is not uncommon for those Military Special Forces to have that positive mental approach to failure, it can also be found in the civilian world of athletes. Athletes have similar civilian, non-military, goals where time, accuracy and strength are pivotal to their success. They, too, have to acquire this mental skill to “recognize” failure and not “internalize” failure. By recognizing failure, success can become an on-going aspect to their lives. It has been said, “It is not how often an individual falls down but rather how quickly they get up.” How an individual recovers from failure creates a pattern of success.
Failure has both a physical and a mental component to it. When there is physical failure, it may take some more physical effort to correct. When there is a strict mental component of failure, then an individual has far greater control and ability to reverse failure into success. Mentally internalizing failure can have a crushing effect. The secret is to “recognize” failure rather than “internalizing” failure so an individual is in control rather than the failure being in control.
Mental recognition of failure allows the individual to be 100% in control allowing them to grow, to move on, to improve. Recognizing and controlling failure is the motivational self-talk that helps to avoid the crippling effect of failure, allowing for a healthy recovery into success.
Now, you may ask, “How can a 17 year old high school student comment about failure when he has hardly started life?” That is a great question; but one that if more 17 year olds would address and correct early in their lives there may be less depression, anger, self-esteem issues and even suicide.
To date, in my short 17 years, I have failed with less-than-ideal academic grades. I have disappointed my mother and father in other issues and also lost friends in the social arena. In the future, my hope for a Military Academy appointment may initially end in failure, or maybe that girl will turn me down for that school dance, but regardless of the outcome, success or failure, it will be my attitude that will keep me pushing on, through and over to ensure future success.
It is important to recognize that individuals who want to be successful must be in control of their failures, not the other way around. It may sound trite but we are in control of our lives, our successes, our destiny. More times than not, it is our approach and resolution to failure that determines our destiny. Where are you?