Turning Failure Into Success

Most people start to tighten up and become less effective when concerned about failure.

However, many of the great and influential lives throughout history have been shaped by what others may perceive as a string of failures. Some important figures include Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and the creator of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, JK Rowling to name just a few.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb was one of the most successful innovators in American history.

What others called failure, Edison called learning. In response to a reporter’s question about how many times he failed to produce an effective light bulb, he famously replied, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.“

Along  with all of his other “successful” inventions there were many “failures” including the talking doll and the electric pen. If you have ever enjoyed a talking doll or had a tattoo you might want to thank Edison because his “failures” paved the way for later innovators to refine these products. The electric pen is considered the forerunner of the prized needle of the contemporary tattoo artist.

In his book Edison and the Rise of Innovation, the author Leonardo DeGraaf says, “Edison’s not a guy that looks back. Even for his biggest failures he didn’t spend a lot of time wringing his hands and saying ‘Oh my God, we spent a fortune on that.’ He said, ‘we had fun spending it.’”

Unfortunately fear of failure is a massive source of trouble for many in our society. It involves the fear of not getting the outcome we want or getting what we don’t want.

Most of us can look back on an experience in our life that we really didn’t want at the time. Perhaps it was a fear related to losing a relationship, job, or opportunity. However, in hindsight, we see the benefits that have flowed from that experience. Other doors opened or we were required to develop qualities or skills that have helped us a lot in our life. Perhaps we feel fortunate not to be in the relationship or job that once we were afraid to lose!

It is clear that our mind at the time didn’t know what was best for it! What we thought was “bad” was really “good” for us. Our mindset or awareness at the time was the problem. Just this recognition may help us let go of the habit of judging experience and dividing our world into “good” or “bad”.

If we have to judge an experience let’s use more helpful criteria. For example, how much an experience helps us to learn, grow and evolve into the person our heart most desires.

We create our life with awareness. How we look determines what we see. If we are in the habit of perceiving failure, we are looking at the half-empty glass and closing down to possibilities. If we cultivate the habit of seeing the half full glass we are opening to possibilities.

Make it a goal to cultivate an awareness that is always open to possibilities, where every experience provides an opportunity for learning, growth, and evolution. Not only will you then stay open and at ease but you will be in a more optimal state to achieve your desired outcome.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

  1. Change the way you talk to yourself or others by replacing the language of failure with the language of opportunity for learning.
  2. Develop the habit of reframing and asking skillful strategic questions whenever it isn’t working out the way you hoped or planned. Eg:
    • What is the learning here?
    • What opportunities does this change bring about?
    • If I/we were doing this again what could we do to improve and be more effective?
    • How can I/ we grow and evolve through this experience?
    • How can this situation help me/us be more who we want to be and achieve what our hearts desire?
    • Can we support each other and grow stronger and closer through this experience?
  3. Take stock and focus on who and what you are grateful for. Let others know that you value and appreciate having them in your life.
  4. Wholeheartedly focus on the required tasks to achieve any goal and simultaneously surrender the outcome
  5. Practice yoga and meditation regularly
  6. Give more attention to who you want to become through your work, relationships or performance in art or sport, rather than what you want to achieve
  7. Prioritise fun, play, appreciation, encouragement, and connection with others
  8. Seek out beauty in nature and make silence and stillness great friends