If you want to change, you will have to fail. There’s no way around it. Well, there is one way around it: never changing. This is an option. You can never change and stay the same just as you are right now. You can have the same position in the same job for twenty years. You can never put yourself out there to make new relationships and make no new friends and never date or get married. You can never travel, live in the same apartment you do now. Is this starting to sound eerie and depressing?
That’s because humans are made for change. We’re adaptable creatures naturally prone toward progress. But we’re not perfect creatures. We don’t get it right the first time, hardly ever. So in order to progress and change, we have to experience failure.
We don’t like the word failure, but think about the potential presidential candidates right now. All of their flaws and mistakes are being aired to the public, yet, they have made it far enough in their lives and careers that they could actually be president of the United States! They failed, made progress. Failed, made progress. And look where they are.
Maybe you’re not working toward being president, but you probably are working toward something: a new position at work, being a good dad or mom, starting a business. Whatever it is, I can promise you that you will fail at some point. That’s ok. Failing is normal and inevitable. Remind yourself of that daily.
It’s not failure that will ever set you back from your goals; it’s a matter of what type of failure you are. Are you good at failing, or are you bad at it? The answer to this question determines your success.
But failure is also the birthplace of success. It precedes success. So much of life is trial and error. So it’s not failure that will ever set you back from your goals; it’s a matter of what type of failure you are. Are you good at failing, or are you bad at it? The answer to this question determines your success.
From personal and observed experience, I’ve determined that there are three simple ways to fail well. If you can do these in the face of failure, I can promise you that your failure will lead you to success:
1. Don’t Overreact
Crying and moping around for days after making a mistake isn’t going to help you; it won’t un-do the fail. The failure has happened, so remind yourself that failure is normal and inevitable. You learn your greatest lessons from failing, not succeeding. You’ve been down that road, and you found out the bridge was out, so it taught you to take a different and better path for next time.
2. Don’t Pretend Everything Is OK
This is a big one. Think about the people in your life you respect and look up to. They are probably honest. They are probably vulnerable. Nobody likes a fake person who pretends everything is fine all the time; they’re not relatable. If you pretend your failure didn’t matter to you or disappoint you, you will grow disconnected from those around you. Don’t risk isolating yourself by not being honest about how you feel in the face of failure.
3. Take Responsibility. Don’t Blame Others
When you blame someone in your life, you empower them. If you say, “It was their fault,” you are declaring that they have more control over your destiny than you do. Take responsibility. When you fail, ask these questions: Have I contributed to this failure by lack of attention to detail? Have I contributed by a lack of preparation? Did I contribute by lack of focus? Did I contribute because of naiveté?
People respect responsible leaders who ask questions like these rather than making excuses when things go wrong. Excuses keep you where you are and make you stagnant. Excuses are what I like to call a lie disguised by reason.
I’ll say it again, failure is normal and inevitable. Learn from it. Don’t overreact. Don’t pretend everything is OK, and don’t blame others. Move on and take this failure as an opportunity to find a new and better path.
Dale C. Bronner is a speaker, leadership trainer, and part owner of the multi-million dollar family-owned Bronner Brothers Manufacturing Company, which has been in the hair care business for over sixty years. Bronner is also the founder and senior pastor of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral in Atlanta, GA. His new book "Change Your Trajectory: Make the Rest of Your Life Better" (Whitaker House, September 15, 2015) is available now.