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How To Leverage Your Biggest Failure Into Your Biggest Success

How To Leverage Your Biggest Failure Into Your Biggest Success

Swallowed pride. Back to the drawing board. Didn’t work out this time. Your biggest failure can feel like a sore defeat. But if you know how to decipher what went terribly wrong, you have just flung open the door to what could go incredibly right.

Here are 9 questions to ask yourself in order to leverage your biggest failure into your biggest success yet:

1. What drove my decision making?

When you look back at what went wrong, you can see a series of decisions that led to your downfall. What drove those decisions? Were you operating out of negative feelings or positive ones? Many times when we are fearful, angry or stressed we make decisions based on immediate impulses that don’t keep the long game in mind.

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Next time you have a big decision to make, notice whether you are veering toward an emotional state of anxiety or calmness. If it’s the former, wait to make any moves until you can come to the decision with less aggravation.

2. Who were you communicating with when you made important choices?

Who we let in to our mental sphere when we are working for a big win is important. We can’t just arbitrarily let voices into our heads that shouldn’t be there. That includes anyone who drains your energy and anyone who manipulates your energy.

The drainers are easy to spot because you feel zapped of mojo in their presence, but the manipulators are a little harder to detect. They build you up when perhaps you need honesty, they instill belief where maybe you need the bottom line, they want something out of you now so they don’t consider the big picture. Replace these energy suckers with people who have either been where you stand before, have only your best interest at heart or are removed enough from the situation to give you some clarity.

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3. How did you approach the project, event or situation?

Hindsight is always crystal clear, isn’t it? There is a small voice that says, I had a bad feeling about that. The good news is, when you can look at your biggest failure and notice when that instinct creeped up in your head, it’s easier to recognize it the next time. The pain of missing out on the value of your own intuition is a powerful guide to accessing that intuition the next time around.

4. When did you let instinct drive you?

On the other side of that coin, when were you able to let instinct lead your way? Maybe the total outcome of the project failed but there were glimmers of clarity. What were those moments? Was it when you pivoted your stance on a company ideal, stepped down from a position or went ahead without getting clearance? Those moments of instinct, even when all the pieces didn’t add up to success, are wins. When you remember how it felt to be led by your gut, your gut gets bolder.

5. When did you know you failed?

The moment failure smacks you in the face. You don’t forget it. If you put it all on the line and it was truly the biggest disappointment, humiliation or failure in your life so far, you know exactly where you were and how you knew when it was over.

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Maybe someone told you but you never saw it coming – in which case, you’ve just learned that you need to spend some time developing deeper consciousness so you can absorb the signals from the world around you. Or perhaps you saw it coming from a mile away and still didn’t act. In this case, you’ve learned that you are more aware than your lack of actions would admit and need to give yourself permission to proceed. Either way, understanding your relationship to your failure will be critical the next time you assess a high stakes situation.

6. Would it look different if you succeeded?

What if your failure wasn’t so big after all, in fact, what if it all went as planned? What would have been different? Would you have had a better team in place? Worked alone? Pivoted to a whole new concept? Resisted investing as much money? Consider how you would have succeeded. Only on the other side of failure can we truly see how we got from point A to point B. Maybe our greatest failure is just one tiny tweak away from being our biggest success. Can you pinpoint what that is and leverage it? If you can, you’ve got something great on your hands.

7. Where would you be now if you had succeeded?

Ask yourself what success looked like to you. Was it a status, a financial gain, a partnership? At the base of any of those tangible ideas of success is a feeling you hope to attain. For most people, that feeling is happiness – but get even more specific. Was it comfort, joy, affirmation, pride, excitement? Those feelings can be attained from a host of outcomes. Sometimes success only alludes us because we are pre-packaging our idea of those feelings instead of really chasing what will cultivate that feeling in us.

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Define how success would have made you feel and then look for the areas of your life where that feeling comes up again and again. There is an easiness in those places. Go grow there.

8. What was the best thing to come out of your failure?

What was a happy accident? What was the one thing you would have never known if you had never gone after something huge and failed? What surprised you? Use these nuggets of hard-won wisdom to calibrate for the next time. Use those happy, surprising accidents as guideposts for what you won’t give up this time around. Your failures are valuable, so don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

9. What will you never do again?

Draw that line in the sand. Say, never again. I will not make that mistake twice. This should feel good. This is authenticity and strength. Knowing where your limits are gets you closer to your center, grounds you in your instinct and makes the world move faster and smoother around you. Go ahead, say it: never again. And see the possibilities open up for next time.

More by this author

Courtney Romano

Courtney is an actress, NASM-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and wellness coach.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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