John Maxwell lays out a much better failure definition than we have accepted so often. I think his first two steps in "Failing Forward" are the most important of all. The rest all add value to the pathway, but we must get a strong hold on those first two.
I also think they are the hardest because we aren't all taught this important realization early in life. I've written before that many schools do not do a very good job providing sound financial literacy to secondary students. This sets many up for future difficulty when they are forced to make financial decisions that carry long term consequences. Student loan debt would be a prime example.
The same could be said about not teaching students a better failure definition and how to learn and advance when faced with this inevitable event. It will happen to all of us at some point. I believe a major component in dealing with depression is a more empowering failure definition.
Think about your school experience. It all centered around scoring. Test scores, assignment grades, participation evaluations. I'm not disagreeing with this part of the system, and I certainly believe that this is a necessary part of the education process. Life after school will be graded at all times. We won't receive a letter grade or a written report card as we did in school.
Instead our evaluation will be in the form of compensation and accomplishment. These two areas are exactly why we must understand the true meaning of failure. Those who don't gain this insight are so often stuck in a mindset of not believing the future holds value for them.
We see this in people with low feelings of self-worth, who never get close to realizing their potential. Many have great gifts that never come out because they see failure as an indictment of their lack of skill or intelligence. They become victims of their own negative views of themselves. Achievement motivation is blocked by this failure phobia before any real effort is made.
We also see it in people who reach great personal heights. But because they do not understand the real failure definition, nor an actual success realization, they cannot find happiness and satisfaction in their accomplishments. Even though millions of people might appreciate their efforts and talents, they don't find a personal gratification in what they have done.
The good news is that John Maxwell gives us a map to correct this problem. Following his ideas will help you understand how to overcome failure by recognizing a better, more empowering failure definition and how it can actually be a benefit.
So the first step from "Failing Forward" is
John Maxwell writes,"Look at the way any achiever approaches negative experiences, and you can learn a lot about how to fail forward." Do you see your thoughts on the left or right side of the following....
* Blaming others or taking responsibility
* Repeating past mistakes or learning from each mistake
* Expecting to never fail again or knowing failure is a part of the process
* Expecting to fail or maintaining a positive attitude
* Being limited by past mistakes or taking new risks
* Quitting or persevering
Of course the left side features responses from those who don't recognize that failure is simply a step in the road. Some fear failure so much that they do not even try to move forward. Some others do not understand that we learn as much or more from what doesn't work as we do from what does. Unfortunately it is this group that faces the biggest challenge when they hit that roadblock.
Because they don't understand the lessons to be learned, too often they see ultimate defeat and never recover.
Overcoming fear of failure will come to us when we take the viewpoint of the right side of that list. There will be setbacks, but they will only make us better. The "A" student in school who is so driven by a belief that failing anytime defines them as a failure, might excel in the limited setting of the classroom, but could struggle when faced with life challenges.
But the student who may not finish at the top of the class, might be the one who knows that a temporary failure is just a guidepost to tell him what doesn't work. He takes that experience and course corrects to improve and re-focus. This student already understands a better failure definition.
What isn't failure? John Maxwell writes that:
* "Failure is not avoidable." It happens to everyone. In fact it happens to very successful people more than those who hold back. The more we do, the greater chance of missteps. But there is also a better chance of success.
* "Failure is not an event." It is just another step in the journey to better things.
* "Failure is not objective." John Maxwell correctly states that you are the only person who can label an effort as failure. A better definition is a mistake. We learn from mistakes and improve.
* "Failure is not the enemy." In "Failing Forward", you'll read a quote from Herbert Brocknow who says. " The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does." This is one of the best points in the book.
* "Failure is not irreversible." Just as we learned from the page about heart disease, missteps and mistakes can be reversed. Another quote from "Failing Forward" is " It doesn't matter how much milk you spill as long as you don't lose your cow."
* "Failure is not final." It only becomes final when you quit. My hope is that you'll never quit if you continue to seek better information. This book is one of those great sources of better information.
Sometimes incredible things come out of experiences we assume aren't "winners." Please check out this page about amazing success stories that began as something far less.
"Errors become mistakes when we perceive them and respond to them incorrectly. Mistakes become failures when we continue to respond to them incorrectly."
* If you have failed, you are not a failure. Understanding failure and success means you accept the reality of missteps and in fact see them as good things. You reject rejection.
* You will no longer be paralyzed by fearing failure. You will not be afraid to try something big. You will also not tie yourself in knots because you feel that any failure defines you as such.
* You will eliminate excuses and blame. The person in the mirror takes all responsibility. You are not a victim of your environment.
Failure and success. Polar opposites? I don't think so. I look at failure as a natural requirement toward gaining success. Now, quitting and success? Those are opposites.
Here is a link to some action steps from Brian Tracy. The title is "Fight or Flight: Overcoming Your Fears."
I wonder about those people who "live lives of quiet desperation." I wonder when we read about a young person unable to comprehend the pain he or she feels that becomes so overpowering they cannot see an escape route. I wonder about the straight "A" high school student who feels overwhelmed in a life setting that isn't structured and controlled.
Is their achievement motivation wiped away by a prevalent society view of failure? Maybe if they knew how many times great innovators "failed" before coming up with an amazing discovery, they would step back and see the greatness inside themselves.
Hopefully the quotes on this page offered some inspiration. I have another page dedicated to more "failure quotes." I think you realize now that my failure definition is actually proof that we're on the way to doing great things.
In "Failing Forward", John Maxwell offers detailed instruction on how to accept mistakes as methods of improvement. He is also very forthright in focusing readers on taking responsibility. I would add this book to the required reading list of every high school student. This improved failure definition will help to free their creative genius.
When we add the Schiff brothers new classic, "How An Economy Grows And Why It Crashes", we offer our young people, (and all of us older folks), a real chance to make positive differences in our world.
Books do empower.