Failure is a tricky thing to deal with. It never goes according to plan and catches us off guard when we least expect it. However just like success, failure offers an opportunity for us to grow, so can we best navigate it?
Use failure as a trampoline
As toddlers, we handle failure pretty well. We fall, we cry, we get up and try again. With age, however, success and failure become distinguishably classified, each with their own protocols, visualisations, emotions and consequences. It is the reason why we consequently calculate ‘failure’ with loss, negative images and even fear.
It doesn’t have to be like that. Throughout history we have seen failures go on to become some of the world’s greatest success stories. Failure presents some people with the perfect arena to test new ideas, with undeterred ambition and a stern belief that their worth is bigger than that one moment. They gave it their-all, to achieve the unthinkable. Take for example, President Abraham Lincoln.
Born in poverty, Lincoln was an inquisitive self-taught learner. Declared bankrupt as a storekeeper in his twenties, Lincoln kept on going, becoming the President of America in 1860 – before winning the American Civil War in 1865. Ironically, Lincoln’s legacy lives on in a peculiar way, as the face of the $5 dollar bill – being traded in a store right now.
Lincoln’s calling was not to be a storekeeper – but only though a series of trials and tribulations was he able to discover is ultimate fate.
When we fail, we need to feel something, but it doesn’t have to be a negative, lingering affair. Just like when we were toddlers, it should have a brief trampoline-like effect, which allows us to bounce back and move on to better things.
Think positive, it’s the only way
Dr Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist, works with severely brain damaged patients. Through positive thought processes she is able to rehabilitate her patients to achieve dreams beyond their wildest expectations. She believes “75 per cent to 95 per cent of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life,” and only through positive thinking can we rewire our brain, fire-up our neurons and even transform our genes.
All we need to do is adopt positive lifestyle habits, like eating healthy, exercising and most importantly thinking positivity; a daily practice open to us all, and the big secret to many world’s best success stories.
Isolation for Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi was meant to drive them to the edge, but through patience, sacrifice and a positive-thought process, they outlived their sentences and helped liberate millions of people. Just like they always envisioned, but perhaps not how they planned. It may sound impossible, surreal even, but our thought life can help determine our fate. Even if it seems we have very little control. We just have to believe.
Allow space for happy accidents to happen
John Lennon once said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
We often think that the reason for failure is lack of planning, yet even the most polished, eloquent, expensive plans fail. There are millions of reasons why an idea can fail, but sometimes over planning kills the spontaneity for stillness and creativity to occur.
Take for example chemist Spencer Silver, who invented a glue solution not sticky enough for 3M laboratories in 1968, that, only after meeting work colleague Arthur Fry, led to the launch of the humble post-it note in the late 70s.
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While we can never predict happy accidents, being present to the world around us can help catapult disruptive solutions that can change the world beyond our own imagination.
Failures are simply lessons learnt, an amour we must wear to seize the next day with full gusto! No one can predict the future, but as entrepreneurs we must never give up on the impossible.