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6 Benefits of Failure That Prove That It Is Actually a Good Thing

6 Benefits of Failure That Prove That It Is Actually a Good Thing

Before we start I just want to point out that over the years, I have tried to eradicate the word failure from my vocab. It’s harsh, negative and not an accurate reflection of the situation that occurred. However I use the word failure here, as the alternative title “why not doing things as well as one hoped would turn out is actually a good thing” is a bit of a mouthful.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of failure is simply “a lack of success” which actually isn’t as hard a definition as we humans seem to translate it into. We seem to think that the definition of failure is being a let-down, unworthy, or useless. Just this fact alone highlights to me that “failure” isn’t as bad as we think, but is it any good for us?

Over the years I have failed at many things: passing my driving test the first time, my AS levels, a business venture with my dad, the cheesecake addiction and I could go on and on. But then again I have also not failed at so much more: I won two gold medals in an international martial arts competition, I successfully travelled Australia on my own, I am grade 5 in piano, and I’m finally leaning Japanese. However I seem to have a terrible habit of dwelling on the negatives rather than celebrating and relishing in the positives. I suspect I am not the only one either.

Society seems to have a huge hang up on failure, using it to define us, stop us from trying again and living the life we want. But I strongly believe that failure is in fact a good thing and that we could all do with a healthy dose of it once in a while. Here are 6 reasons why failure is actually beneficial. Use them to your advantage.

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Failure benefit #1:  It provides a reality check on where we are at

When I failed my AS levels I was devastated. I felt that I had seriously and irreversibly failed. My dream since I was 13 was to go to university and be the first of my family to attend a university. I knew that if I didn’t get good A level grades I would lose my chance. It also didn’t help what the career advisor had said that I wasn’t academic enough to go to university. However why did I fail my AS levels, if university was something I had dreamed of for the past 4 years?! Put simply, I wasn’t in the right mind frame. I wasn’t happy and that was having bad effect on my study. Sometimes failing at something, even if you truly desire it, is an indication that something elsewhere isn’t right. Use failure as a light to reveal what is really going on with your situation.

Failure benefit #2: The lessons learned are priceless

A few years ago, my parents and I bought a guesthouse and bar in Cambodia with a friend of my dad’s as a partner in the venture – the expat’s dream of sun, sea and serving drinks to happy holiday makers and fellow expats who have escaped the rat race. Bliss. However, 9 months down the line and we had lost our investment and sold our share. We cut our losses and got out. The dream was gone. It has always been my ambition since I was 15 to open my own businesses, mainly a tea room, so buying the bar was an exciting venture and adventure. How did our dream go wrong so quickly?

In hindsight, because we didn’t manage it as well as we could have from the very start and problem after problem meant that our profit was being eaten into like a hungry caterpillar. After the initial hurt and anger I came to realise that the lessons learned from this failure are priceless. I learned a great deal about carving out a business plan, forging a successful business partnership and how the small details in business matter. If I could turn back time, would I do this all again? Hell yes! I learned more with the failure of the guesthouse and bar then I ever would from a guru’s “how to” book. Failure gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistaken actions and do what’s right the next time round.

Failure benefit #3: This isn’t a “one shot only” world

Luckily for us, we live in a prosperous world, one where there isn’t just one opportunity to do anything. There are always second chances. Sometimes third. For Edison, there were 1,000 chances to invent the light bulb! If you fail once, then try again. Just don’t be foolish enough to make the same mistakes again. When I was younger and new to the property game (I as fortunate to be able to buy a flat to rent at 19 with an inheritance) I made the cardinal sin of being too soft, not collecting rent and being too lenient as the month’s rolled on and I hadn’t received a cheque from my tenant.

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One year later, a looming court case, an emotional rollercoaster and £5,000 down, I had well and truly failed. However, will I make this mistake again? No. I have learned, moved on, recovering my losses and now looking to buy my second property to rent. Failure teaches us to learn from our mistakes so that the next time we can avoid making the same ones. There will be another time – this world is full of second chances and opportunities, just don’t be too blinded from the hurt of your previous failure to see them.

Failure benefit #4: It builds strength of character

Anyone can be the hero when times are good but how do you measure up when the going gets tough? Do you crumble like a sandcastle or do you stand your ground and keep smiling, focusing on where you want to be? Take a moment to think about that before you consider yourself a failure. Going through a failure is a remarkable test of your character, your courage, your determination and your mind set. I truly believe that it isn’t until you’ve been through the worse that you can truly appreciate the best. Failure is kind of like a bench mark. It will show you what you are made of. Hopefully it’s steel.

Failure benefit #5: It drives you on

You can use the experience of failure to your advantage or not. The best way to use it is to help spur you on to do better next time. Use it as a tool for determination and grit to drive towards success. Don’t use it to drive you towards a box of tissues and cowering under the duvet.

Failure benefit #6: Those who have failed before made in the long run

If you think that those who “made it” were lucky or that it was handed to them on a plate, then think again. Here are some of my favourite success-over-failure stories. I hope they motivate you as much as they do me.

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Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television… three times! Whilst he did eventually attend school at another location, he did so only to drop out to become a director before finishing. He didn’t give up however and 35 years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.

Steve Jobs was technically a failure as a college dropout, a fired tech executive and an unsuccessful businessman. At 30 years old he was actually removed from the company he founded. In a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs explained, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Sylvester Stallone had it rough as a child, being taunted in school and constantly in and out of foster homes. As an adult, things didn’t improve as he was unable to earn a steady income, and even had to sell his dog for $25.00 to help pay his electricity bill. It was only 2 weeks after selling his dog that he wrote the Rocky script in nearly 20 hours straight. After being rejected over 1,500 times (that’s more than Edison’s failure!), Stallone was given a nod by United Artists for $125,000… but only if Stallone would not star in it. Stallone refused. Even when he was subsequently offered $250,000 and $325,000, he still refused as he wanted to star in it. He finally reached a compromise, starring in the film but only taking $35,000 and a percentage of profits as a concession. What was Stallone’s first purchase with his $35,000? His beloved dog, for $15,000!  But I am sure he could afford it seeing as Rocky grossed over $200,000,000 and his sequels grossed over a billion dollars!!

“When life knocks you down, try and land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up” – Les Brown

Never Quit!

Featured photo credit: Sarah Reid via flickr.com

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Alice Dartnell

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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