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Failure and Setbacks

I like to see myself as successful.

When I tell my story – I’m the hero.  An underdog, well traveled, experienced in adversity, conqueror of all hard times.  That story eventually brings us to today, and whichever that day is I’m supposed to be great.

Except when I’m not, because on occasion I’m not successful.  Especially when I’m very aware of the fact that I’ve failed, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I’m not very great then.

The rest of this post is how I work through that.

You Can’t Fix It

When you fail, you fail.  Sometimes there’s the ability to save some face, but realistically what’s done is done.  There’s no “fixing” something that’s at least mostly broken.

It’s particularly brutal when you’re aware as it’s happening.  When the damage is done you’re left with a very honest picture of yourself that is very contrary to the one that you had just moments before.

At that point hubris is gone.  Perhaps you’ve “been humbled”, but truly think that humility is a choice that you get to make at this point.  Or you ignore what just happened and lie to yourself.


Realistically, failure is probably the best time to learn about yourself.  When I fail, it’s a lesson that I’m not actually as good as I thought I was at something.  I may have made incorrect decisions or I may lack a certain skills set.  In some cases I fail because I simply don’t gel with people in a way that’s mutually successful.  But reflecting on this gives me an opportunity to put specificity to failure.  Such as, I failed because I did not adequately prepare in these three ways: x, y, and z.

As I said before, failure is a time to accept humility.  It’s hard for me to believe sometimes, but I’m not actually good at everything.  Some things I’m not good at, or at least have a lack of practice.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes that meets the wrong place and wrong time.  Being honest with yourself and saying “yeah… I’m actually not great at this.” is the first step to improving.  Once you know that information, you can choose to improve if you want.  Unfortunately, you just can’t go back and fix the situation you wanted to be better.

Using Your Bootstraps

So what comes the next day after you’ve failed?  I know I face an extreme lack of motivation.  I’m really good at telling myself that I suck at life and nothing’s worth doing anymore.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth is that I’m good at plenty of things — just maybe not the thing I failed at yesterday.  I do need to take time to reflect on my failure, but I need to exercise that quickly and move onto the things that I know I can do.

Maybe this means starting the journey to improve.  Or it could mean jumping right back into my wheelhouse and focusing on the things I know I’m already good at and digging deeper into more creativity.

Either way, the important thing is to pick yourself up and remind yourself that failure is momentary.  The lessons you can learn from failure, however, can shape you forever.  Just remember that it’s also up to you to make sure that those lessons are good and positive.  Take those moments with you and make them into the greater parts of your future story.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.