Maannn, I can’t believe that! How did that happen?
Why is this happening to me?
I hate it when things don’t go my way! #$!#!%% Ugh!
If only….Bob did this and Sam did that and Susie wasn’t so unfair. Then I’d be successful. Ugh!
Things never go my way, maybe I should just give up.
Sound like someone you know?
Ever felt like this yourself?
Sure we all have. I know I have.
I’m pretty sure even the most optimistic person on the planet has felt like this at one time or another.
The key is how fast we learn the lesson and bounce back from moments like these so we don’t become permanent residences in Failureville
Think about the last time you were really upset or failed at something.
Or were you too pissed off, upset, angry, hurt, rejected, or busy blaming someone else to learn the lesson?
It’s those moments when we don’t get the bounces optimism and a new way of looking at the situation can catapult us out of Failureville and back into the winner’s circle.
Turn failure into feedback
There is always something we could have done differently and when we take 100% accountability for everything we do, we are in control of our lives.
Every time something doesn’t go our way, we can use the negative feedback as a way to improve next time. These are what Jack Canfield calls, “improvement opportunities.”
Trying to remember a simple question and repeating it to myself has helped me get through a lot of difficult moments and frame them as learning opportunities.
Ready for it? Here it is:
What’s the lesson here?
Boom! That’s it. Nothing fancy or special, and you’ve probably heard it before.
Practice applying it to every aspect of life.
Even when we don’t feel like it.
Think about these scenarios:
Lost a job. What’s the lesson here?
Fell and got injured skiing. What’s the lesson here?
Bought tickets for the big game from a scalper and they turned out to be fake. What’s the lesson here?
Got dumped. What’s the lesson here?
Business partner is hording information and driving me nuts. What’s the lesson here?
Somebody I love just died. What’s the lesson here?
Lost my house to a foreclosure. What’s the lesson here?
Why don’t I have any good friends? What’s the lesson here?
I’m unhappy with my life. What’s the lesson here?
I’m in terrible shape. What’s the lesson here?
Can’t get a date. What’s the lesson here?
(INSERT) the worst problem I’m facing right now. What’s the lesson there?
Every one of these examples contains a lesson. See if you can go back and quickly point of the lessons or pivots to avoid this happening in the future.
It’s an easy question to remember but approaching life’s setbacks with this simple question (“what’s the lesson here?”) can dramatically shift our mindset and create a more positive future for us.
Think of failure as data.
Life is filled with trial and error.
The more we fail the more opportunities we have to learn and gather data. If we have an optimistic attitude, we will continue to try in the future. The more we try, the more we will succeed.
“Colder, Colder, Colder, Warmer”
Did you ever play the game as a kid or with your kids, where you had to find someone or something and your friend or teacher would say “warmer” when you were moving towards the goal and “colder” when you moved farther away from it?
Think of life’s setbacks and temporary failures as “colder” responses.
Without “colder” responses we’d be totally lost if they (friend or teacher) just stood there silent until we moved in the right direction.
“Colder” is the cue and feedback we need to adjust our direction until we hear a “warmer” and start traveling in the right direction again.
Has anyone ever played that game (without cheating) and not heard “colder” at least once?
Of course not. Everyone fails and needs feedback to get better.
If we’re not making mistakes we’re living a pretty boring life.
Embrace the temporary failures. ”Colder” is our friend.
It doesn’t mean we have to like it, if you’re like me, I know you like winning a lot more than losing.
I don’t even like losing in video games, but recognize there is a valuable lesson in every defeat.
If we learn the lesson, losing’s not as bad.
Can you imagine a child getting upset with the person saying “colder” and blaming them?
Has that ever happened to you?
That’s exactly what most people do in real life.
Mad at your boss or company because you got fired?
Mad at your significant other because they want to break up with you?
Mad at the bank because you can’t pay your mortgage?
Mad at the landlord for wanting you to pay rent on time?
Mad at your teacher for getting upset with you for talking in class?
Mad at a college for not letting you in?
Mad at your opponent for beating you?
Mad at the recruiter because you didn’t get the job?
Mad at the other person they just selected over you at work for the promotion?
Mad at life for the bad hand of cards you were dealt.
Save it. Instead approach each of those scenarios or whatever scenarios life throws at us with the question.
What’s the lesson here?
Look at the lessons in each of those situations. Can you identify them? What could we learn from each of those situation?
Usually the lesson is crystal clear and obvious.
But what if we can’t find the lesson we’re supposed to learn. Then what?
Start digging. And keep at it until you find something because making mistakes is part of life, but making the same mistakes over and over again means we missed the lesson the first time.
If the feedback isn’t obvious at first, I find sitting down with a pen and paper to do some brainstorming usually does the trick.
Make a list of 20 things to learn from the failure.
A good 15 minute brainstorm can radically shift the way we look at something and open us up to possibilities we didn’t know existed.
If that’s not successful, try asking someone you trust for feedback.
Find someone you trust to tell you the truth and tell them not to be afraid of hurting your feelings. That you want honest feedback. Then tell them what happened ask for their thoughts.
What’s the lesson here?
If you don’t know someone who will tell you the honest truth, send me a message or leave a comment below and I’ll give you my honest feedback and be your truth teller.
I don’t know where I first heard it but I love the saying, only those who care enough will care enough to tell you the truth.
Whatever happens or whatever they say, don’t take it personally and don’t shoot the messenger.
Remember when life or someone says “no” it’s not personal. It’s just their preference at the time, perhaps due to circumstances we’re not ever aware of.
Don’t take it personally.
Think about this….
If you offered me a stick of chewing gum and I say “no,” would you feel rejected?
Of course not! I’m not saying no to you, I’m saying no to the gum.
Keep that in mind.
If you are in sales, and a prospect you were sure was going to buy says no. They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting your product or service. It’s not personal.
Got dumped in your relationship? This time it might actually be you but the feedback is invaluable. If you ask for feedback they will (hopefully) tell you what you are doing to drive them away and what you need to do more of to keep them around. If you still want to be with this person it’s time to step up your game. Otherwise, I’m sure you’ll look back one day and realize it was a blessing in disguise.
Didn’t get the job you were after? There are thousands of other opportunities. What made this one so special? Perhaps that job would have taken so much of your time it would have cost you the relationships, health and freedom that bring you so much happiness. A better job or opportunity is right around the corner.
Whatever happens, don’t take it personally, get the feedback from the failure or truth teller and move on in a positive direction.
The primary benefit of failing (yes, there are benefits) is the chance to come back with a stronger, smarter approach next time.
The sooner we bounce back. The more attempts at life we can take. The more attempts we take, the more we’re likely to fail. The more we fail. They more we’ll learn. The more we learn, the more likely we are to succeed.
Any way you slice it, it’s time to get out, press play and start taking more action!
And whatever happens out there, don’t give up. Remember, we need to hear “colder” every now and then to point us in the right direction.
Give up now and we’ll have something to regret for the rest of our lives.
Turn Failureville into feedback and keep failing forward.
Above all, remember failure is a verb, not a noun.
As always, thank you for reading!
Keep learning and stay positive!
PS. What techniques do you use to turn failures into feedback?
I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
The more specific you are in your comments the better, as your comments could have a positive impact on someone else reading this who is struggling to overcome the same challenges.