I used to love extreme sports as a teenager.
Leaping down stairs on my skateboard in the summer. Soaring off 50ft jumps on my snowboard during the winter. The challenge of achieving a new trick and the adrenaline that went along with it was exhilarating.
Here is a photo of me snowboarding from 2008:
Although it’s left me with some aches and pains, it also taught me a very valuable life lesson on how to fail.
Do you ever find yourself avoiding situations where you might lose? Maybe it’s something you’re not very good at. You don’t know what you’re doing. Or you feel outmatched.
So you stick to what you know and work at what you’re already good at. It’s worked well for you so far and has helped avoid any shame or embarrassment that comes from losing.
But whether it’s in sports, at work or in your personal life – you can learn how to fail, without losing.
What’s the difference between losing and failing?
Losing is caused by a fixed mindset – where everything you do is a measure of your competence. Any negative result is a permanent reflection of your capabilities or taint on your record.
But losing is easier than failing. When you’re not fully committed to something, you can brush it off, saying “I didn’t try that hard” as an excuse. And it doesn’t require the same effort or the humiliation it takes to fail.
But when you put your heart, and effort into a challenge and still fail – now that takes courage.
Failure is an opportunity to learn, a step in the right direction and takes a growth mindset approach. When you see how to fail as learning experiences, it becomes less scary.
Although it requires a certain vulnerability to fail. You have to be willing to put yourself on the line and face the consequences of not succeeding.
How will others think of you?
What will you think of yourself?
What else might you lose if you try and fail?
But if you’ve never failed, you’re not pushing yourself enough.
How will you know your true capabilities until you determine your point of failure? And remember, with a growth mindset your point of failure can be improved.
It is only in the face of failure where you may achieve success.
Learning how to fail
When you lose, you’re stuck in a fixed mindset. Losing at something once sets the tone for any future attempts. Causing you to avoid trying, for fear of losing again.
So what did I learn from my teenage year’s skateboarding and snowboarding? It’s something that has had a profound impact on how I approach challenges.
When I was attempting to learn a new trick, I rarely got it on the first, second or even third try. It would take hours of practice, falling on my face and getting back up to land it consistently. That is where I discovered how to fail.
Success is achieved through repeated failures.
The real loss came when I wasn’t willing to learn how to fail. Because nothing worth building is created on the first try.
I discovered, you only lose when you:
- Don’t try hard enough.
- Avoid situations where you may fail.
- Allow a fear of failing to create inaction.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter book proposal was declined by 12 publishers before it was accepted.
Edison invention of the light bulb took over 10,000 attempts before it worked.
Henry Ford went bankrupt twice before achieving success through Ford Motors Company.
What we can learn from these examples is how to fail.
They viewed failure as an essential step to growth. The only way you can get really good at your craft is to fail over and over again until you master what is right.
In relationships, at work and your personal life failure provides opportunities to understand. How will I handle this challenge in the future? What will I do differently? Who can I count on? What is expected of me? Why did it go wrong?
With a growth mindset, you can change your perception about losing and open doors for future successes. Here are 4 steps you can take to avoid losing and learn how to fail.
1. Pursue what you don’t believe you are capable of achieving.
2. Have a crystal clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish.
3. Deliver an honest effort in everything you do.
4. Learn from each attempt and try something different if it doesn’t work out the first time.
Don’t get caught in the trap of doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. Otherwise, you’ll be like a mouse in a hamster wheel expecting to escape if you just keep running!
Where to go from here
Understand when you may be setting yourself up to lose by taking on a fixed mindset. Watch for signs of avoidance or a willingness not to try due to a fear of losing.
When you begin to think of every challenge as an opportunity to learn how to fail, you’ll adopt a growth mindset. Remember how many times it took Edison to develop the light bulb, Henry Ford to build a successful business or JK Rowling to have her book proposal accepted.
If you’re going to measure yourself against anything, make it your past self. What can you do today to become better than yesterday?
For this weeks habit challenge, I’d like you to identify something you may have avoided in the past because of a fear of failing.
Is it public speaking, voicing your ideas at work, making your goals public, trying a new sport, or asking someone out? If you’ve approached this with a fixed mindset in the past, how can you reframe it as an opportunity to learn?
Remember, the most significant loss is not failing at your attempt, but failing to take action. Use the 4-steps described above to learn how to fail – without losing.