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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.

    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

    Fail Forward: How Setbacks Can Fuel Future Success how to start over How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late 27 Best Self Improvement Books to Read No Matter How Old You Are Why Details Can’t Go Before the Big Picture How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

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    Last Updated on November 26, 2020

    14 Powerful Ways to Be Fearless

    14 Powerful Ways to Be Fearless

    We all have fear – it’s an emotion that’s as normal as breathing.

    The problem is that most people cling to their fears, and are therefore unable to move forward in their lives with necessary change.

    I have learned a lot about fear in my life as a professional musician, and I’ve learned that the only difference between people who achieve greatness and those who do not is that the former ditched their fear.  Many of the methods I have used to prepare for huge performances have helped me to conquer fear in other areas of life.

    Here’s how you can start overcoming fear:
    1. Be aware of fear in your life. Before you can begin overcoming fear, you have to admit that you have it. Perhaps fear is your “normal” state of being, and that is quite a bit to overcome all at once.  Write down some aspects of your life where have fear;  getting them down on paper is important, because trying to simply think them through never works.

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    2. Stare at fearless people.  Fill your brain with images of what you want your “future self” to look like.  Connect with as many role models as you can, whether in person, through a book, or online.  Use these examples as an energy source to combat your fear.

    3. Be objective. Take an interest in investigating your fears. Ask yourself about what thoughts generate your fear, where you feel the fear, and how you react to it. Try to be an objective observer of your own life.

    4. Be willing to look stupid.  Remember:  Wayne Gretzky fell on his tail a ton, and Itzhak Perlman has had horrible performances.  Once you are willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes, you will shed more fear than you ever imagined.  Know that making mistakes will help you obtain information you use to create the correct behaviors, and that everyone who has ever done something great has failed more than once.

    5. Adopt a mindset of gratitude. Whenever you feel fear, try to feel grateful instead. I have been performing a lot of solos recently, and it is scary!  Instead of freaking out, I have decided to be grateful for the opportunity to communicate musically with so many people, and I know that they are there to genuinely listen to me play and root me on.

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    6.  Seek out teachers.  It’s never too late to have a teacher; we are never done learning.  Seek out someone who scares you a littlenot a polite person who always makes you feel warm and fuzzy.  Seek out someone who watches you closely, is brutally honest, and gives clear directions on how you can get better at whatever scares you.

    7. Share. How often do we hold the negative in because we are afraid of how others might react?  Sharing helps, because you will realize that many people feel the same way as you do, and have stories to share as well.  Do you have a fear of success, or a fear of failure?  Sharing with someone can help you examine what you truly want from life, and where your fears come from.

    8. Embrace struggle.  Most of us instinctively avoid struggle, because it feels like failure, and that scares us, but the term “no pain, no gain” holds true.  To develop our skills, it is a necessity that we struggle, so we must embrace it.  Once we struggle, fear slowly disintegrates.

    9. Read. My personal favorite. Reading a good book related to your specific fear can open new doors on how you can get rid of it. I constantly fill my world with motivational and inspirational books on, and related to, the topic I’m dealing with.

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    10. Use visualization. Imagine yourself in a scary situation without fear. Watch people do things fearlessly that would normally freak you out.  Visualize yourself as that person.  Create a very clear picture of fearlessness in your mind.

    11. Put things in perspective. Putting your negative thoughts in perspective is a huge way to overcome fear. In the grand scheme of life, why are you afraid? While you are freaking out about something, life is moving on without you.  Sometimes it’s helpful to remember this.

    12. Release control. Of course we want to be in control, but when we relinquish it we tend to free ourselves up.  Allow yourself to make mistakesafter all, that’s where learning and growth really happens.  We learn from our failures, but to fail we need to release control.

    13. Think about the worst case scenario. What’s the worst that could happen? I have crumbled on stage in front of hundreds of people. My wife still loved me; I lived. Life goes on.

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    14. Look within. What is the root of your fear? Meditate on it. Look inside and ask yourself when the fear started: How far back does your fear go? Did you have an early failure that has stuck with you?  Explore it.  That’s what life is all about.

    Overcoming fear requires a growth mindset; an attitude that we can grow and change if we choose. Nothing is “locked in” forever; we can change.  It takes time and practice.  Hopefully the tips above will help you begin your journey to ditch fear.

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

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