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John Maxwell Team

John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    Fail Your Way To Success



    Failure is typically considered a bad experience. We don’t perform as expected. We’re unsuccessful at attaining a goal. Our health or wealth deteriorates. We’re unfairly blamed for something we didn’t do. We lose someone or something that we love. But the reality is that all of us experience inadequacy, frustration, defeat and botch things up, multiple times in our lives. The question is, what do we learn from our failures, particularly the significant ones? Do we pick ourselves up and push forward, or does it paralyze us? Do we blame others and look for someone to save us, or do we use it as a tool to shape our future?

    Failure is a hot topic this month with the launch of 2 new books. Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn by leadership guru John Maxwell explores the question of “What do we learn when we fail?” Experiencing failure is a given in everyone’s life, but we often don’t want to talk about it, we just try to endure it.  Maxwell believes that the common saying “experience is the best teacher” is more accurately phrased as “evaluated experience is the best teacher”. His book shares lessons on humility, hope, reality, responsibility, improvement, problems, bad experiences, change, teachability, adversity and maturity, as key traits of learners who succeed in the face of problems, failure, and losses.


    Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams wrote How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. In an interview with Gary Rosen in the Wall Street Journal Weekend Review, Adams advises readers not to follow their passion because it may not be very rational. For instance, a sports enthusiast who decides to open a sports paraphernalia store because he’s passionate about it, may not have a good business plan.  So don’t get passionate beyond the initial stage with something that isn’t working. Instead, try lots of things that won’t kill you, bankrupt you, etc. until something works. Adams failed at inventions, computer programs, and other initiatives, but every time he did something he learned from it, and that skill came in handy. Everything he did was all designed to give him experience that would become a stronger base.


    Experiencing Failure

    While we all experience failure, we generally want to experience it in private with minimal publicity.  After all, it’s embarrassing, especially when it looks like so many others around us are winning. Because it impacts our self-image, it can leave us in fear of greater failure if we see ourselves as losers, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or, we can decide to focus on avoiding that same mistake in the future. We can convert failure to a positive experience, using focus and faith. Focus on what you learned and what you did right. Have faith in God and yourself to change as a result of what you’ve learned.

    The bigger the failure the greater effort it takes to get out of it, and the more we learn. Failure is all relative.  What we perceive to be failure may simply require us to redefine success. The most successful people are those who learn from their (and others’) mistakes, refuse to let those mistakes define them (don’t wallow in them), use them as stepping stones, and share them with others.

    Failure isn’t always your fault, but it may be your responsibility. For example, if you hire someone who later steals from you, it’s not your fault that this person is a thief, but it is your responsibility to hire people who seem to be trustworthy.  So you can learn to screen candidates more thoroughly, and put more security measures in place in hopes that it won’t happen again.  Or maybe you were responsible for a project, and someone on your team lied and failed to perform their assignment as part of that project. Because you’re the leader, you bear the responsibility for that failure, even though you didn’t personally do something wrong. Things may happen that are unfair. There may be a horrible miscarriage of justice, a failure that’s pinned on you. But the situation is now out of your control, and you are carrying the blame. You still have a choice to deal with sour lemons, or to make lemonade. You can’t control the decisions others have made, but you can control how you respond.

    Benefits of Failure

    So as you reflect on your failures, reflect on these accomplishments.

    • Failure is a badge of courage.  If we’ve never failed, we’ve never attempted anything worthwhile.
    • Failure informs us on our weaknesses and directs us to our strengths.
    • Failure gives us something to laugh about so that we can have fun with ourselves.
    • Failure gives us something to cry about so that we can appreciate the happy times.
    • Failure closes doors that don’t fit our purpose and helps point us to opportunities best suited for us.
    • Failure keeps us humble, recognizing that we’re not infallible.
    • Failure helps us appreciate success.
    • Failure highlights our wrong decisions so that we can learn how to make right ones.
    • Failure helps us identify what we need to learn.
    • Failure helps us identify what we can teach others.
    • Failure helps us avoid more failure.

    So the next time you experience failure…(maybe later today?)…don’t kick yourself, curse others, or spiral into depression. Instead, find a quiet spot and spend time meditating on what exactly went wrong, how you would handle it differently next time, what you’re learning from it, and how you can recover from the negative impact of it. Write that lesson down, then move forward, resolved not to repeat it.

    Copyright 2013 Priscilla Archangel



    Purchase John Maxwell’s book here and select Products.

    Watch Scott Adams’ interview here.


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