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Overcoming Business Failure and False Success


When Abraham Lincoln was just 27, he suffered from a nervous breakdown … then was rejected after proposing marriage for the first time. Two years later he was defeated when he ran for Illinois Speaker of the House.

If failure is threatening to bring you down, remember you may be only one more try away from success.

Likewise, when he ran for Congress, he lost again, and was also defeated on two Senate runs and a try for vice president. Even after persevering and being elected president, the Chicago Times called one of his speeches “silly, flat and dishwatery.”

The speech was “The Gettysburg Address.”

The moral of the story, of course, is that behind just about every great success story is often a slew of failures. But failure can, in fact, be a best friend to your future success, as long as you are able to persevere and come out even better.

Writer and poet Samuel Beckett put it quite eloquently when he said:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

As tech entrepreneur Mark Leslie, founder of Veritas, explained of one of his early failures, it’s either “be bitter or better” …

How to Harness Failure and Turn it Into Success

Taking risks is one of the only ways to get ahead in life, and with risk comes a chance of failure. But remember that one of the worst feelings of all in life is not having failed, but wondering “what if.”

As George Bernard Shaw said:

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

Of course, our society encourages innovation, but punishes failure. So in order to move past your failure, you first must be willing to fail in the first place … and may actually just want to accept that fact that you probably will fail at some point.

Failure is not shameful, nor is it a sign of a weakness. Rather, it is part of going after your dreams and ultimately achieving them. As Carlin Flora writes in Psychology Today:

“Unless we learn to embrace failure (whether it's led by an unavoidable mishap, a moral lapse, or a risk miscalculated), we remain snugly tucked inside our comfort zone. The pressure to be perfect leaves us tip-toeing around family members or coasting on automatic pilot at work, feeling safe but stagnated—and not quite alive.”

So the next time something doesn’t go quite as you planned in life, use these tips to turn your failure into a success:

  • When you do fail, embrace it. Turn the failure into a positive by figuring out where you went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next endeavor.

  • Don't take failure personally. According to University of Washington psychologist Jonathon Brown, if you lack self-esteem you may over-generalize your failures and conclude that you are less competent than others. However, the best way to build your self-esteem is to pick yourself up after you have fallen down.

  • Realize that successful people fail, and have likely failed many times to get where they are.

  • Picture yourself failing and imagine the consequences that could follow. You will likely find that they're not as bad as they seem. Then, go back to picturing yourself succeeding.

  • Learn from your failures. Every mistake is an opportunity for you to gain new wisdom that you can use to get ahead next time.

  • If you fail, make it a point to keep going and try again. Don't let failure stop you.

  • Talk about how you're feeling. Expressing your feelings about failures to a trusted friend or family member may help you gain the confidence you're looking for.

  • Realize that your next try may be the winner! But if you give up now, you’ll never know …

When You Realize Your Success is Not Making You Fulfilled …

Have you achieved the success you’ve always wanted, only to find that something is missing? This type of false success occurs when your goals no longer match your top values in life.

In the video below, Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan shares how he came to realize he needed to make some important life changes:

If you are at a place in your life where your success is not making you happy, it’s time to free yourself to become truly successful, in the way that will ultimately make you fulfilled.

To do this, you need to find focus. Life is full of distractions and temptations that will pull you away from your purpose if you’re not careful. However, we’ve detailed essential strategies for you to find your true calling and stay focused in this past article.

We highly recommend you read through that article in its entirety, but to give you a tip you can use right now to achieve your goals and live the happy life you’ve always dreamed of, simply decide what’s most important to you, then center your life around it.

Recommended Reading

Finding Focus in 2010: How to Prioritize When Everything Is a Priority

Surviving the Tiger of Infidelity Personally & in Business


Psychology Today October 26, 2004

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