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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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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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