You can deal with failure!

From the book It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud and John Townsend:


We have all heard it said that two things in life are certain: death and taxes. While that is true, there is also another certainty: failure. It is absolutely a given. It is the nature of everything. In fact, without failure we never succeed.

Think of the things that you do well. You probably walk okay, for example. And when you eat, you probably get most of your food in mouth. But that was not always so, was it? If we had the video of your life, we would see you as a toddler going through walking and eating processes that look very little like your current level of performance. A lot of your steps would have ended with you on your face. A lot of your pasta would also have ended up on your cheeks and chin. If today you still walk and eat like you did then, second dates are likely to be rarities for you. But walking and eating do not present problems in your dating life today. The reason? You have got failure in those areas out of your system. You have done something called “learning.”

The process went like this: you tried, and you didn’t get it right. You walked three or four steps, then sat down hard on your padded area. You had a bad outcome. Your parents told you, “No problem. Try again. You tried again and got a little closer to the goal before you hit the carpet. Your parents helped you up and you walked ten feet this time–all the way to the couch. Your parents cheered. You made similar progress on the eating front. After many noodles filling to the table, the floor, and down your shirt, you finally got most of the pasta inside your mouth and managed to keep it there. Your parents clapped and said, “Way to go!” Before long those awkward tasks became second nature. You walked and ate without conscious effort and no one made a big deal of it. In fact, you got to the point where you were performing those tasks so well that your parents were even trying to curb them: “Don’t eat that candy before dinner, and don’t leave the yard.” Success brings its own set of problems.

The point is that whatever is now second nature to you was at one time a very, very, daunting task, and you failed the first times that you tried it.

Failing at those tasks did not mean anything to you other than “try again”. Failure brought no personal Interpretation as to your lovability or capability or feelings about yourself or the world at large. Failure meant simply that the task was yet to be learned. Everything you now do as second nature has gone through that process. You did not do it well the first time, and yet you did it again and again until you figured it out. That is the nature of life. We try, we don’t get it right, and we try again until we do. Then when the task is learned, we forget about the process of it and just do it, enjoying the result of the ability we have finally mastered.

There are people who date for fun, for example. They don’t think once about rejection or the date not working out well. They just do it and enjoy it. The reason is that they have learned how, and now it is second nature. The jitters of adolescence, the shyness, and the misgivings are all in the past. They have become seasoned veterans.

In fact, the second woman, the one who learned to date well and ended up married, told me, “The change came when I began to be unaffected by rejection. I had always let rejection do me in. But the more I got with the program, the less it bothered me because I knew I was on a path, and one rejection was merely a step to the next step. Rejection actually became kind of funny sometimes.”

The same thing goes for people who are successful at public speaking, making sales calls, playing championship golf matches, starting new businesses, interviewing for a new job, or whatever. They have gone through the failing part and now know how to do their job. But they did not skip the failure part. Their stumbles and falls are certainly on the video. But more often than not, the ones who are not doing well are stuck because they have not moved successfully through the failure cycle. They got hung up there.

The difference between the winners and those who are not winning is not that the winners do not fail.

They both fail, but the winners see it as normal, move through it well, and get past it. The others get stuck, not because they are incapable doing whatever it is they are attempting, but because they are incapable of handling failure.

Lesson number one about failure is this: whatever you wish to do, you will fail at it in the beginning. Accept that reality. That is the nature of the world. Everything works that way. Of course you can always point to exceptions, like the person who hits a home run his first time at bat, or some other lottery winner. But those are the exceptions that prove the rule. Ninety-nine out of a hundred winners will tell you that failure was the way to success.

It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.


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