The Secret to Failing Well

The Secret to Failing Well

All of us struggle in life, in business, with family members, with friends, and with our own character.  Maybe your company or career is not making the path you want it to or as quickly as you would like.  Maybe the finances are thin or that critical person on your team decided to leave.  Maybe you struggle with a personal indulgence, that you know is not good for you or those around you.  Maybe you or someone important to you is not healthy, or maybe someone close to you has passed on.

All these things are significant and difficult. Some are terrible struggles.  But, what if what we see as the biggest roadblock, setback, or failure could turn out for our good.  As I look in the rearview mirror, I can see that this is so often true.  For instance…

That huge account/proposal I spent so much time on and lost several months ago helped me learn the things I need to know for new potential clients who are a better fit for our services.

The struggles of life and family and some of the learning I have gained (and am still learning) over the past years allows me to be a mentor to other men through my church.

Learning to lead a company after my close friend, business partner, and father-in-law passed away has put me on a leadership journey that drives me forward each day.  I know there is even more ahead!

The customer that has challenged us again and again in ways that has made us stretch, learn new technology, serve more selflessly, and in the end made us so much better.

I’m sure that many of you could build a similar list, and we could all go on for pages.  The key here is that the thing that stomps on us and tries to grind us into the ground could be the thing that drives us to greatness.  What was meant for bad can produce good in our lives.  This is what we love in the movies, the triumph of good over evil.  We love the story of redemption of that person who had nothing and became something, and yet so often we overlook our own potential story, when we are in a struggle.

Here are a few things I’m learning about turning bad to good:

1. Don’t wallow. It does not do any good to wallow in self-pity or self-blame. Wallowing will stop you from learning.  There is a place for sorrow, regret and apology.  There are lots of decisions and mistakes we regret, but we can’t stay in that place.  We must choose to walk on.  Sometimes the thing that has hit us is too big to understand, and we don’t even know how to deal with it.  We may not understand the “why” now or ever in this life.  What we must do is choose to walk on and let the bad go.

2. Don’t waste a failure. Most challenges require some sort of course change.  Often, we are too busy to stop and recognize that course change.  We try to justify our actions rather than examine them.  There are certain things out of our control, and we can’t change them, but we can change our reaction to them.  Most of the things we face we can impact us for the better.  If we don’t want to waste the failure, we need to dig deep with the hard questions.  What should I do different to avoid this in the future? How can I be better?  How can I challenge my team to overcome these obstacles?  How am I contributing to the roadblock that is holding us back?

3. Choose a positive outlook. It is so hard to do this in the middle of adversity, but it is so essential. The things that loom so large today will either fade into the distance or remain a monument in our lives as to what changed us and shaped us into who we are.  Facing the day in a positive way allows us to accept where we are and move forward.  If we have our heads down, we won’t see that new opportunity, that new person, or that new path to take.  Positivity creates attraction.  It attracts people and opportunity and good things.  Negativity perpetuates a state of failure.  Sometimes it helps to speak out loud that positive thing that you have set your sight on.  “I may have lost this sale today, but I will find another customer to help that will be a better fit with a bigger impact this year.”

4. Learn what you need to learn. I often ask myself, what do I need to learn to be who I need to be, to get past this roadblock? Sometimes the answer is not evident.  We dig deep, and we don’t have the understanding we need to take the next step.  In these cases, we need some external infusion of wisdom and knowledge.  It always amazes me how a podcast or a book can be like a fresh breath of air at these times.  Sometimes clarity comes just by talking to someone about their situation and their solution.  A few words or a question from a friend, a mentor, or a coach can bring to light the right learning to get us through.

5. Create a new discipline. We often recognize that we have hit a roadblock or failed in some major way.  We work through the issue, learn from our mistakes, we stop wallowing, we get positive, and we think we have learned.   The issue is that we don’t change our habits.  English poet, John Dryden said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”  If we want the ending destination to be different, we must choose to walk in a different way each day.  If I want to lose weight, I must form a habit of eating differently.  If I want to be a positive person, I must cultivate a habit of thankfulness.  What is it that is your roadblock or failure? Create a daily habit that is contrary to your current position of dissatisfaction.

6. Surround yourself with the right people. This one speaks for itself.  Life is just better with good people around you.  And if those people are speaking positive encouraging words, it will rub off on you.  I am working to be one of these people, and I hope my influence on those around me is one of encouragement.

Is it possible that those things that challenge us and even defeat us can make us better?  I am absolutely convinced of it.  Those things that drive us down, set us back, and even scare us can be a perpetuator to greater things.  Our failures and trials then are the stepping stones to a purpose filled life.  It all seems so clear and yet, you may have to remind me not too far down the road, that the adversity I see in front of me may just be a stepping stone to success.

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