Failure sucks. Nobody likes to fail. But failure is a necessary ingredient for success. Failure humbles you when you believe you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Failure, when approached well, can be your best friend.
How so? Before I tell you the secret, let me tell you how bad I was at dealing with failure when I was younger.
My mom, and a couple of teachers of mine, have told me stories about how I never liked to lose in anything I competed in when I was a kid. A teacher told me that I berated myself loudly after one particular race I didn’t win against other kids. After the race, I sat on the finish line pleading with my teacher to start the race again because I wanted to win and couldn’t accept going home without winning.
As I got older, it became more obvious to me because I’m very critical of myself. I blame myself when something goes wrong or not how I expect it to go. I’ll tell myself that I suck and whatnot. In my eyes, anything that didn’t live up to my standards was considered a failure. Not very healthy.
Some years back a friend of mine, who became my mentor / coach, told me “Jorge, remember to be nice to yourself” before ending one of our weekly calls. I knew what he meant. It took me some time to put “be nice to yourself” into practice, but eventually figured out a way to combat my auto-criticism with a more healthy approach.
What’s the secret to taking the sting out of failure?
Make failure interesting by approaching it with curiosity, instead of drama. What does this look like? In my case, when something failed I would say, “That’s interesting! Why didn’t it work? What can I learn from this?” instead of berating myself and calling myself names.
You limit yourself when you berate yourself. Instead of searching for ways to get better, you constantly put yourself down; the opposite is more impactful and actionable. So anytime you make a mistake, anytime you fail at something, approach it with curiosity; you’ll do better the next time.
Check out this short video from the Jocko Willink podcast about what to do when you fail:
Bottom line: Failure isn’t a roadblock, it’s a portal to progess. True failure happens when you don’t learn from your mistakes and keep repeating them. So when you fail at something, remember that tomorrow is another day to start better if you approach it with curiosity. That’s the secret to taking the sting out of failure.
Also published on Medium.