What is the opposite of success? It is popular to think that failure is the answer to this question. The thesaurus shows that as well. However, this is not the realistic answer.
Failure and success are synonyms, not antonyms. We need failure to reach our successes. While figuring out the light bulb, even Thomas Edison admitted, “I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Rather than being embarrassed by failure, think differently about its benefits and embrace it. John Maxwell teaches this seven-step process to receive a return on our failure.
Keep failure and success together. Failure is a stepping stone toward success. If we have no failures, we are not taking enough action to reach our goals. Success with failure gives resilience. Failure with success gives humility.
Understand the difference between good misses and bad misses. A good miss is where we fail forward and make adjustments along the way. A bad miss is failing backward; we make excuses and do not change. Portia Nelson shows both bad and good misses well in her “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”
I. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
II. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I still don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. It isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
III. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there, I still fall in. It’s habit. It’s my fault. I know where I am. I get out immediately.
IV. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
V. I walk down a different street.
1977 Portia Nelson, “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery.”
Embrace hard. Life is difficult. Once we accept this, life is no longer difficult. If we embrace easy, then failure is our enemy. If we embrace hard, then failure is our ally.
Anticipate failure. This habit will facilitate preparation
As a Cessna pilot, my instructor drilled me with emergency procedures. While flying on a calm, clear day, he would simulate engine failure by cutting the power. I needed to successfully land the airplane with zero energy from the engine. This repetition created habits in my thinking so that I was prepared if a real emergency ever happened.
Unfortunately, I was never mentally prepared for bouncy-ball landings. One afternoon when the winds were just right (or wrong), my little red Cessna 150 bounced when the wheels hit the runway. That one bounce created the bouncy-ball effect. Each time the wheels touched down again, the momentum created a bigger bounce. The only thing that I knew to do was give full power and get the airplane back in the air. Thankfully the aircraft regained stability. This move allowed me forgiveness to regroup and reapproach the runway. The wheels rolled on the runway during the next landing instead of bouncing. I rolled the airplane right into the hangar and called it a day.
Develop a process to receive a return on my failure
I do not like to think about negative situations; however, the landing failure prepared my mind for future landing challenges. My process as a pilot now was to role play emergency procedures in my mind. By playing different scenarios in my mind, I was able to think through a successful solution before an emergency existed.
Encourage others with my failure
Understand that if we have the correct response to failure, it will develop character in our lives. Do not regret any failures. Do not wish to redo them. If we did our failures over then we would lose the lesson and lose our character development.
Before you go to bed tonight, ask yourself these two questions:
• How did I fail today?
• What is my process to receive a return on my failure?
If your answer to the first question is “nothing,” then maybe you did not risk anything today. Perhaps you stayed too close to your comfort zone. Be brave, venture into the unknown, and embrace failure as it arrives.
Remember, failure is a step toward success. Adjust your systems to build on your failures until you reach your desired success.