You must fail a time or two before you truly accomplish the extraordinary. If this assumption is correct, what is it that separates the ongoing failures from those who break through to success? The defining ingredient is you and your attitude.

There are three potential associations we make when we experience failure:

  1. The failure is a result of inadequate ability; it is my fault.
  2. The failure is a result of external circumstances; it has nothing to do with me.
  3. The failure represents a new experience and an opportunity to apply my abilities differently.

The first reaction feeds our internal self-doubts. The resulting thought process encourages us to accept failure as the end result and return to a more comfortable endeavor, damaged self-esteem in tow.

The second reaction also reflects insecurities as we blame others or the situation in order to protect a fragile self concept. Our involvement always has an impact. While external circumstances may have been a decisive force in the outcome, this view prevents learning and leads to repeat failures.

By listening in on your own internal dialogue as you experience a personal failure, you can begin to catch yourself in the act of blaming either yourself or others. Attempt to revise your self-talk to reflect the third reaction type. Your outcome was not exactly what you had planned on, but you now have a valuable opportunity to learn all you can from the experience and make a more informed attempt.

Insulate yourself with unconditional relationships. These are the friends and family who see you as valuable regardless of your failures and who will pick you up when you are feeling the worst. Above all, remember that everyone makes mistakes and that they can be stepping stones to success:

Henry Ford started five businesses that failed before he launched a successful car company. Ford was personally worth around $188 Billion in today’s dollars.

RH Macy outdid Ford with seven failed businesses (and bankruptcy) prior to opening Macy’s Department Store. Macy’s now has more than 800 stores in the U.S. alone. 

Bill Gates’ first venture was Traf-O-Data. Designed to create data from the traffic counters on roadways, it failed because it had too many bugs. Gates went on to create Microsoft and was the single wealthiest American in 2011.

Soichiro Honda was rejected by Toyota and unemployed for months before he founded Honda Motor Company. Honda is worth more than $100 Billion today.

Oprah Winfrey was fired as a reporter because she was “unfit for television.” Oprah is now worth nearly $3 Billion.

Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken recipe was rejected more than a thousand times before he convinced Pete Harman to partner with him, opening the first Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62.

Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4 years old and was considered “slow.” He was a patent clerk in 1905 when he wrote four major papers that would change the course of physics forever, often called his “miracle year.” He was 26. 

Mark Victor Hansen went bankrupt before starting The Chicken Soup for the Soul series with Jack Canfield, which was rejected by over 140 publishers and then went on to sell more than 100 million copies.

Elvis Presley was rejected and advised to stick to truck driving because he would never make it as a singer. He would later become the best selling solo albums artist of all time in the U.S.

Michael Jordan, the only NBA player to sign a season contract worth more than $30 Million, was cut from his high school basketball team.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again.          Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett

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