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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success

Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success

A reporter once asked Thomas Edison how he felt failing one thousand times. He replied:

“I didn’t fail one thousand times. The light bulb is an invention that requires 1000 steps. I have learned 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb.”

It is the learning when you fail that deserves celebration, not the failure itself. Failure without lessons learned is a failure. When you fail forward, you learn in the process of failure, which means you’ll inevitably get closer to succeeding.

Failure is not a joke; it can be expensive, embarrassing, or heart-breaking. However, the truth is that people who shun failure deny themselves the opportunity to reinvent and innovate.

We all fail at some point in life, but we get to choose whether we stay down or fail forward.

Can Setbacks Fuel Future Success?

Failure can be a great driver of success. Here are some of the main reasons why.

Failure Teaches Better Than the Best Teacher

Every failure comes life lessons that you may never learn from the world’s best university. Failure helps you prioritize what you normally ignore[1].

Perhaps you have been ignoring some bad habits because they are not big red flags yet. Failure will enable you to confront your fears and tendencies in a way you wouldn’t have if you had not failed.

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If you have not failed before, you definitely missed out on opportunities to reflect and figure out your sources of motivation. Check out the video below to learn just why failure is the key to success:

Failure Makes You Strong and Wise

The wisdom and strength that you exude when you share what life has taught are what I’m talking about here. The lessons become a significant part of your journey and success.

Consider actors preparing for a movie. Sometimes, you miss the line while acting the script, and you rehearse. Every rehearsal is an opportunity to become better. Likewise, each setback is an opportunity to develop the courage to fail forward.

Failure Makes Your Story Compelling

Your obstacles produce the most incredible story ever told—stories of how you surmount your challenges and achieve the success you desire. These kinds of stories have impact and give others hope.

It would be uninteresting to reflect at the end of life and realize you have never failed. It would most likely depict a life of mediocrity and complacency. Without failure, you cannot tell compelling stories or record noteworthy feats.

Failure Makes You Fit to Pursue Your Goals

Failing forward despite setbacks means you believe you can. It means you can move on despite obstacles.

This resolution helps you always stay fit to pursue your goals. The judgment and opinions of others can no longer sway you. You are more resolute and committed to seeing your goals come to reality.

9 Tips to Fail Forward

You can leverage failure to start learning and growing in any aspect of your life. Here are 9 proven tips to fail forward.

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1. Determine the Possible Challenges

Begin by determining the exact stumbling blocks between you and your success. When you think about your success, negativity becomes a challenge that can assault your mind.

Go ahead and list all the factors that could cause you to fail. Write them in your journal. When you are done, you have a list of potential limitations to your success.

Now, take them one after the other and reflect on the best ways to overcome them. Activate your action plan, and attack each limitation until you clear all and achieve your next level of success.

2. Develop a Strategy

When you keep aiming at a goal, and you keep failing, refuse self-denigrating thoughts. Instead, assess and change your strategy. You don’t have to change your goals as long as they are SMART goals; you only need to change your approach.

Figure out what you’re missing and design a system to avoid future mistakes. Find an accountability partner or a mentor to share input and ideas on your strategy. Commit at least 10-15 hours refining your strategy, and keep positive people around you to help you avoid negativity.

3. Educate Yourself

It would be great if you could research about what lies ahead of you. Find out if someone has passed through it and learn from their experience.

Thomas Edison made 1000 attempts; how did he manage to fail forward? What can I do to overcome anxiety and depression that comes with failing?

Equip yourself to surmount challenges when they arise.

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4. Seek Advice

Isolation is a killer of success. Don’t isolate yourself from people that can help you. Talk to someone about the circumstances.

If you had the opportunity to meet Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison, what questions would you ask? Perhaps, how Lincoln led the nation through one of the most significant moments in the history of the United States despite his inner troubles. How Edison failed forward until his dream of a light bulb for humanity came to reality.

Ask your contacts to point out limitations and the mistakes they made. Leverage this experience to shorten your learning curves. You can also enroll in courses designed to help you overcome obstacles.

5. Reflect on Your Why

Someone once said if your why is big enough, the how will show up. Take some minutes to write and reflect on why you want to overcome obstacles and achieve your next level of success. Think yourself into the new feeling, esteem, and lifestyle you desire. This is called visualization, and it can be a great tool to help you fail forward.

Fail forward through self reflection

    You can learn more about finding your why in this article.

    6. Live Life With No Regrets

    Value each day and refuse to live your life by default, but by design[2]. Manage your time effectively, and live every second of your life deliberately.

    Pursue your goals, take calculated risks, and know that every risk comes with failure. Embrace each chance you have to fail forward because it will mean one less regret you have later.

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    7. Celebrate Your Small Wins

    Every achievement takes you one step closer to your success. While waiting for the final day, take out time to celebrate those small victories.

    Perhaps you have completed your weekly to-do list; you can pamper yourself. You may visit the cinema, attend a yoga class, or visit the spa. That way, you will generate momentum to surmount the next obstacles.

    8. Learn From Each Day

    Every day is an opportunity to show up in the school of life. Show up to learn from life’s instructor—failure. Open yourself to events and experiences as they present you the opportunity to learn.

    Your greatest teacher in life is failure. The more you fail forward, the less you become afraid of failing as you would have transcended your setbacks and emerged stronger.

    9. Accept Reality

    When you fail, admit it, and accept that life must continue. That’s what failing forward is all about.

    Acceptance helps you to make progress. It helps you to gain liberty so you can figure out the next step to take.

    The Bottom Line

    Above all, maintain a positive attitude. Your attitude is fundamental to your outcome. Always preempt obstacles, and don’t let life happen to you without taking the time to fail forward.

    Don’t stop, and celebrate every little achievement.

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    More Tips on How to Fail Forward

    Featured photo credit: Josh Marshall via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

    17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

    If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

    Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

    You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

    Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

    Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

    You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

    1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

    Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

    When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

    • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
    • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
    • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

    2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

    A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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    Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

    3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

    As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

    Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

    4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

    Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

    Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

    If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

    5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

    If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

    Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

    6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

    Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

    Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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    7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

    The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

    Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

    8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

    Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

    Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

    9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

    The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

    Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

    Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

    10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

    Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

    And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

    You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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    How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

    11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

    A short and sweet lesson for you:

    You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

    Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

    12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

    A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

    Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

    13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

    Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

    Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

    • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
    • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
    • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

    14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

    Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

    The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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    Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

    15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

    There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

    Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

    16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

    In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

    Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

    17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

    The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

    Keep your mission in mind.

    Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

    Final thoughts

    Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

    What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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