Perhaps just reading the word ‘failure’ made you flinch. Any vivid, haunting memories come to mind? We identify failure with a lack of success and tend to take it very personally but most importantly, negatively. Yet such a view is not warranted. 

Failure deserves to be redefined. 

Failure deserves to not seem so demoralising. 

Failure deserves to be valued

When Thomas Edison was asked about how he felt to have repeatedly failed in designing a working light bulb, he replied freely “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10, 000 ways that won’t work.” One should strive to always have a similar attitude.

In The Immediate Aftermath

There is no avoiding pain, both in your personal and professional life. The more risks you take, the higher the chances that some of them will fail. In the immediate aftermath, the pain can be unbearable. Not getting into your dream college. Not landing that interview. Not raising enough funds for your project. Sometimes the most sensible thing is to wait for the rains to have settled or for the storm to have passed. Dealing with problems when you are tension-ridden and bursting with emotions is never a smart choice. Wait for the pain and passions to pass and confront the situation with the calmness and clarity it requires.

Pain + Reflection = Progress

For Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, pain leads to growth.

“The challenges you face will test and strengthen you. If you’re not failing, you’re not pushing your limits, and if you’re not pushing your limits, you’re not maximising your potential.”

Ray Dalio

What doesn’t kill makes you stronger, and if you reflect on that pain and learn to live with, even embrace it, you will be more successful at achieving your goals. 

Failure can be a blessing in disguise.

Take the time to think and reflect on the situation. Step back and focus on your goal, on your incentives, on your game plan. Without the right incentives and goals, even the most well thought out plan will prove unsuccessful. 

Analyse the factors, internal and external, that led to the unexpected outcomes. Know that sometimes YOU might be the impediment in the reflective process ! Practice open-mindedness and be honest with yourself. Put aside your ego and listen to criticism and feedback, which should not be seen as an attack, and realise your blind spots. 

Aspire teaches us the value of community and of an open deliberative space that is essential to the well-functioning of any community or company and more importantly, that is key to the reflective process !

What could you have done differently and most importantly, what will you do differently next time ? As seen with Thomas Edison, life can be a series of trials and errors, it is up to you to learn from the inevitable errors !

5-Step Process

Ray Dalio has a clear 5-step process to help you to bounce back after a failure.

  1. Have clear goals
  2. Identify and don’t tolerate the problems that stand in the way of your achieving those goals
  3. Accurately diagnose the problems to get at their root causes
  4. Design plans that will get you around them
  5. Do what’s necessary to push these designs through to results
Ray Dalio on Twitter: "If you can do these five things well, you will almost  certainly be successful. #principleoftheday" /  Twitter

Embrace Failure

Make pain a habit and embrace it. It is good to have something to keep you focused and keep you going. Oftentimes a closed door will do more for you than an open one. It teaches you to refocus and challenge yourself. 

Failure humbles you. 

When you fall down from your ivory tower it is easier to acknowledge what you had and what you now lack. You can learn to not take anything for granted and be grateful and appreciative of where you are now. It is resilience and persistence that will then carry you through and help you climb up again and reach new heights ! 

Failure most often is invisible whilst success is magnified. The majority of the hard work is done behind the scenes with only you knowing the effort put in physically and mentally. Yet these failures are a testament to our hard work, to our strength and pursuit of our goals. Johannes Haushofer’s enriching and comic CV of Failures is a testament to the undeniable values of failure – failure that we should aspire to embrace. 

Leave a Comment