Five Things to Help you Succeed After Failure

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

You’ve been told since you were small that if you worked and studied, you could do or be whatever you wanted. I’m sorry, but it’s just not true.

You will try many, many things in your life, and especially in your career. And you’re not going to succeed at all of them. This doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, but it does mean that you won’t succeed every time, and you won’t succeed at everything.

So, what can you do? Well, you can learn from your failures, and you can build on those to create success. “Remember failures aren’t endings, but lessons.”, as the manifesto of my previous employer reads. Things will go wrong; you can’t prevent that. But you can try to make sure they go right next time.

How, though? It’s hard when something has just blown up in your hands, or when you’ve fallen on your face, to remember this. But here are some tips to help.

First, don’t be beaten. It’s easier to remember bad things, probably because natural selection set us up this way. If our ancestors remembered beatings, illnesses, injuries, or the death of loved ones, they were more likely to avoid the things that caused those. So, we’ve been wired to remember the bad things more easily than good ones. However, you can make an effort to remember the positive aspects of something going wrong. Didn’t win the race? You’re still stronger and faster than you were before you started training.

Second, step back. Remember when you were a kid, and you fell down and split your lip? It probably looked horrifying, with all the blood and swelling. But once you had cleaned up and had a little ice on it, it simply wasn’t that bad. A little distance allows you to gain a new perspective. If you have done something wrong, you can’t do it right until you see that. Take some time, see what went wrong, and correct what needs to be corrected. In terms of a job search, that means looking again at your resume, or figuring out how you might have interviewed better. Get criticism and advice, and heed it.

Third, remember that nobody succeeds every time. Do you remember when David Bowie and Mick Jagger covered “Dancin’ in the Street”? That was terrible (That video! What were they thinking?!) . And Shark Boy and Lava Girl? That was awful, but Robert Rodriguez also gave us El Mariachi and Desperado. If those guys can do so badly so publicly and survive, you can get past your own setbacks.

Fourth, count on people. You have support. Lean a little. Call a friend. Call your mom. Send an email asking for advice, a cup of coffee, or just an ear. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Fifth, be ready to change things up. You may not be destined to be a jet pilot or a brain surgeon. That’s okay. There are lots of things that need to be done, and there’s bound to be one that’s just right for you. You may start down a false path or two, but if you keep looking, you should be able to find the right one.

Optimism is great, but you also need to be realistic. Remember that things won’t always go your way. But if you’re resilient, you can bounce back. And when you’re ready to try again, WIL will be here to help.