Are you Defined by Failure?

“Successful” people fail a whole lot more than they succeed. In fact, many claim that failure is necessary for success – Thomas Edison, anyone. In the past three days alone, I’ve failed to rectify a broken relationship, I’ve been called out by a good friend for my actions, and I was too aggressive and vocal in an important conversation that should have been much more collaborative.

Fail Definition Dictionary

Like you, I hate when I blow it. When I experience those failures, I really just want to crawl into a hole and disengage from society. Such a move, however, would be unhealthy emotionally, and completely unproductive.

So, how do you move beyond failure and not be defined by it? Below are a few tips to consider.

  1. Don’t be defined by failure: Failure is circumstantial and situational. Failure is not a defining characteristic of who you are. People who are personally grounded, who operate under a strong set of values and live with a passion and a purpose more easily overcome failure because they aren’t defined by it. They are defined by something much bigger – their core, their soul.
  2. Be vulnerable and own it: Be quick to admit the mistake. When you’re quick to acknowledge your failure, you can more quickly move beyond it. It’s so easy and natural to be protective and defensive. Try countering that natural tendency by doing just the opposite – being vulnerable and transparent.
  3. Develop greater passion and resilience coming out of it: Your passion is your personal spark. Rally behind your spark. When you’re feeling down and sorry for yourself, the vibe that you’re giving off to others is a defeatist vibe. Sure, allow yourself some time to sulk. But not too long. At some point, use the failure to ignite your spark and develop greater resolve behind your passion. How you recover is what other people should remember you for, not for your failure. Even more, when you intentionally work to ignite your spark, you personally move beyond failure more quickly.
  4. Consider, reflect on, and embrace this quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

These tips helped me get over my recent failures. Being defined by my values and my purpose instead of my failure helped me get back up after I had been knocked down, emotionally. Admitting my mistakes helped bring closure to my failure. After all, what more was there to say – it had all been said. Only then could I move forward. Because of my failure, I found myself adopting a new resolve and new energy to be better the next time. But even in my failure, I was thankful for learning something, being alive in the daily battles, and being tested – because those battles and tests are the things that ignite new growth.

Everyone fails. But the most extraordinary people accept their failure and grow stronger out of it. And because of it, they experience newer and greater triumphs. How you have handled failure in the past?

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Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 Leadership

1 Comment to Are you Defined by Failure?

  1. [...] We praise what we find worthy. A great take on failure. [...]

  2. Sunday Links 4.3.2011 | on April 3rd, 2011

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Mike Thompson BlogMike Thompson is the CEO of SVI, a leading organizational development company that provides leadership development services to companies such as Walmart, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, University of Phoenix and many more. Mike is also the author of McGraw Hill's new leadership book The Organizational Champion.

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