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How to fail like a champ in 3 steps

By Michael Crump | 09 September 2017

How is your relationship with "failure"? There’s a relationship even more important to your wellbeing than with your "better half". It’s the one you have with the ‘f word’ – failure – and there’s every chance it’s causing you more harm than good.  

There are optimal strategies for easing Failure out of your life forever. "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts," said Winston Churchill. Failure Is Easier In Practice Than Theory. Some losses exist to be cut. Exhibit B: you can’t write a blog about the best ways to cut failure out of your life because there are none.

Failure is built-in to the human experience the way gherkin is built into a Big Mac – pull it out if you have to, but brace yourself for the lingering aftertaste. (Truman Capote was actually inside a McDonald’s when he said “failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.” Coincidence? Doubt it.)

Learning To "Fail Better" is essential. We clickbait those articles like crazy in the hope that ‘success secrets’ will spill forth like golden coins from a kind-hearted poker machine. But they don’t make poker machines with kind hearts. Or with any other kind of heart for that matter. If you want to Fail Better, here are 3 steps that will get you there…Signs like this one have a lot to answer for. 

1) Refuse To See Failure And Success As Opposites

person looking at sunrise after hiking on top of mountain

The least helpful (but most common) messages about success and failure program us with the idea that one is Good and the other Bad. That they are completely different experiences. That the terms are so mutually exclusive that you couldn’t possibly be doing both things in the same moment, at least not without tearing space-time continuum.

But failure is not the evil twin of success. As Michael Jordan’s celebrated quote suggests, the relationship is more complicated (and nourishing, and intertwined) than that: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning-shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

2) Resist Labeling Stuff

blonde hair woman smiling with sunglasses

You already know that failure is a big friend to the bumper sticker industry, with dozens of pithy sayings from the great and famous routinely winding up on coffee mugs and desktop planners locker room walls. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” You’re not wrong, Robert F. Kennedy. The best of these messages emphasise the necessity of our defeats, and stress the universality of being wrong: it’s something that everybody does.

TED talker Kathryn Schulz has even crafted a professional niche as a “wrongologist” via her book, “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error.” Given that the margin of error is a zone we pass in and out of daily, often without realising, obsessing as to whether we’re “winning” or not is a culture-wide waste of energy. Leave that stuff to Charlie Sheen. 

3) Don't Give Failure Any Power Over You

man with hands on his face facing graph

Edison’s timeless wisdom about his invention of the light bulb shows the ‘power’ of seeing failure in a new ‘light’. Failure has this thing called a handmaiden (very popular in the Middle Ages; good for handing you your comb). And the handmaiden of failure is fear, the most powerful paralytic you’ll ever have to face outside of a pharmacy or a film about the Amazon jungle (someone is going to get hit with a blowdart).

9 times out of 10, stuffing up is not really a big deal – it’s being afraid to stuff up in the first place that leads us into states of inertia. And inertia can turn failure from a learning experience (groovy) into an ongoing habit (not cool). Basically, if you want to fail like a champ, give yourself permission to do it: embracing failure is the conscious decision that breaks the fear-paralysis-failure circuit. Giving failure a hug is the best way to neutralise its power to hurt you.

We want to hear from you – What does failure mean to you? Did you ever perpetuate a negative situation because you were in denial about its failure? Do you take your fails personally – or put them to work for you as just another type of resource? Let us know below. 

Don't be afraid of failure!

Studying online is a great way to tackle your fear of failure. Because your learning is self-paced, many people find that the pressure disappears and they can concentrate on their study goals in their own time. Upskilled offers around 100 online courses in everything from information technology to community services. Check out the range of courses available online here.

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