#17. Dealing with failure

One of the inevitable hurdles that we all have to overcome on the road to success is failure. Failure is something rarely talked about and yet it is a part of the journey to success. A friend once said ‘everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die’. I’ve been musing over this one for a while now and I thought I would put a different spin on it: everyone wants to be a success, but no one wants to fail in the process. We all want that straight perfect trajectory, yet the reality is a bunch of ups and downs, a jagged edged zigzag of a journey. Alot of what differentiates  success stories is not the lack of failure, but success in spite of failure. To put it another way

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall – Nelson Mandela

So how do we deal with failure?

1. Acknowledge your role in the failure – no blame game

The easiest thing to do when we fail is to blame others. And while someone else probably had some role to play in the process, ultimately our way of overcoming is to acknowledge our own personal role in it. You could blame the system, racism, sexism and any other -ism on the planet but in reality, you dis-empower yourself by doing that. If you keep holding on to the fact that the ‘system’ did it or your boss did it, or your parents or whomever, then you’ll never learn the invaluable lesson that that failure was there to teach you. A lot of the times we are just too proud to admit that we messed up. But remember pride comes before a fall. This is the yuckiest part but once you’re do so it gets better.

2. The 5 minute maximum pity party – 5MMPP

After acknowledging the failure, a sea of self-pity often checks in. You hate yourself. How could you do this, again. It is easy to stay here. But this is a place that we have to leave, and FAST. Give yourself a 5 minute maximum pity party. Set your timer. Wallow, cry, feel bad about it. Five. minutes. maximum. aka the 5MMPP If you can do it in less time even better. Do NOT under any circumstances stay longer here – it’s a danger zone. Feelings are natural but don’t play into them.

3. Bring it to the Lord

My grandma used to love to sing the Luo version of the song “What a friend we have in Jesus”. In your academic walk/journey to success and as you go through the valley seasons, you will find such solace in bringing it to the Lord. Afterall, who else understands exactly what you are going through, even more than yourself. And who sees what the future is going to hold and how your story will unfold? Sometimes we think we have to show up before God perfect and ready to serve Him. But when we are down He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”  – Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV).

4. Forgive yourself

Taking it to the Lord in prayer is important. And beyond that learning to forgive yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. I know that just sounded like lyrics to a Whitney song, but it’s true. We are often our harshest critic and we might even forgive others, yet not our selves. To overcome failure and keep moving forward, we have to release ourselves from the burden of self condemnation. It’s not easy but its worth it. Unforgiveness is poisonous, especially when it is against our own self. Forgive.

5. Let. It. Go.

I remember growing up to the school of thought that said I will forgive but I will never forget. So you failed, ok. Time to move on. The only way to move forward is to let it go. Let the past be the past and move forward. I remember failing courses in undergrad (yep – been there done that) and eventually getting to the point that I forgave myself, but I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t even look at my transcript without a ton of bricks coming down on me. Isn’t that sad. It took years of walking around with the ton of bricks before I said to myself I am going to stare those F’s in the face and then let them go. And I did just that. And the question I kept asking myself was why didn’t I do that earlier – such a weight lifted off my shoulders. Let it go. just let it go. It simply requires you to open your hands and release the pain, the hurt, the disappointment. Just, let it go.

6. Learn from the mistake : both what you would’ve done differently and what needs to change

The funny thing about the school of life is that there is no skipping of lessons. If you didn’t learn from the mistake, it will come back in the form of a different experience often with a stronger determination that you learn. Forgiveness and letting go both sound so fluffy, but all that doesn’t mean a thing if you didn’t learn from your mistake. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. There is something wrong with making the same mistakes over and over again. When we fail, we have to have the courage to ask ourselves what could I have done differently? And what needs to change? Asking those questions requires courage. Following through with the actions that the answers to those questions require, call for determination. But that determination will help you grow further in yourself and towards the full person that God created you to be.

7. Believe in yourself again

After failing, it is so easy to not hope again. You might be willing to forgive yourself but you need to also be willing to trust that you can do it again with God’s help. Remember you are not alone – the Lord promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. And that He is with us. As long as God is with you, you have a reason to believe again.

7. Be willing to try again

Trying again after failure is hard. Every bone in your body is probably screaming I don’t want to fail again. BUT it is always better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. You have to be willing to give it another shot, to put yourself out there again. There are no guarantees and there are no safety nets. But one thing is for sure, if you keep moving and keep trying, you will eventually get to where God has destined for you to get to.

8. Read about other people’s journeys

My absolute favourite genre of books is biographies. I love to learn about other people’s journeys to success. Often their big break came just after a major failure. Oprah was fired from her first TV job because she was unfit for TV.  Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven. Steve Jobs was considered a below par student. David in the bible failed countless times and yet was still called a man after God’s own heart. Learning how other people overcame is an encouragement to not give up and to keep going.

At the end of the day, it is not how many times you fall that counts, its the number of times you get back up again that will truly determine your success story.

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5 thoughts on “#17. Dealing with failure

  1. Pingback: Video: Sara Blakely failed her LSAT, and success thereafter « BeingmrsdrD

  2. She’s just bloody amazing, isn’t she?

    • Mrs Dr.D

      Sara Blakely? She sure is! I watched her story on Inc.com and that’s what made me say wow…quite an inspiration! Thanks for reading/commenting!

  3. Pingback: It’s Not an End Game « L.E.G.A.C.Y.

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