To Achieve Success, Acknowledge Your Failures

If you could eavesdrop on the conversations of successful people, you’d hear a lot about hard work, smart decisions, insightful investments and other details that got them to the top. You’re less likely to hear about their setbacks, wrong turns, and multiple re-starts, although you can be sure they occurred.

To paraphrase a favorite saying: failure happens—to everyone. But rather than shamefully ignoring our failures, we actually improve our odds of future success by fully acknowledging and embracing them to both ourselves and others.

Document Your Disasters

A recent Harvard Business Review article by business consultant and author Bill Taylor showcases some very accomplished people who had the courage to list their failures on Twitter and other outlets for all the world to see. They did it to remind everyone that mistakes are often the greatest catalyst for success, and acknowledging them helps you let go of what you did and refocus on what you can now do.

“In a world defined by hypercompetition and intense pressure, where business breakthroughs and career advancement demand a willingness to take risks and defy convention, the notion that any person can achieve meaningful success without experiencing setbacks and disappointments seems hopelessly naïve. A willingness to chronicle your failures helps to create the kind of resilience that allows you to get beyond them,” says Taylor.

Own Up To Mistakes

Looking our own mistakes in the eye is a good first step, but an on-going fear of future failures can still prevent us from achieving the success we desire. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, writes in a recent Forbes article, “Fear of failure is worse than failure itself because it condemns you to a life of unrealized potential.”

Having the courage to acknowledge our mistakes not only to ourselves but also to our bosses or team members shows that we’re not too proud to ask for support and learn from our errors. This accountability helps others to trust our integrity while also boosting our confidence to handle failures more effectively when they happen. The positive feedback reduces fear.

Keep Success And Failure In Perspective

Remember that failure doesn’t happen because of something we are; it’s because of something we did. We are not our failures any more than we are our successes, although we like to believe that second one!

Here are some great quotes that can help us all keep a positive outlook as we acknowledge our failures.

  • “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”– Eloise Ristad
  • “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”– Johnny Cash
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.”– Zig Ziglar

And finally:

  • “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”– Winston Churchill

Remember: the next mistake you make could be the first step to something awesome. It’s all in how you handle it.


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