Turning a Negative into a Positive: Learning from Failure and Moving Toward Success

“Failure is not an option.” This iconic quote, attributed to Gene Krantz, flight director of Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle missions and made famous in the movie Apollo 13, resonates with many of us. Who wants to fail? If failure does occur, who is eager to trumpet the news, or dwell on the experience – especially if it pertains to our business or career?

This stereotypical attitude about failure, which is to sweep it under the rug and put it behind us as quickly as possible (if we even acknowledge it in the first place), may be a natural human reaction, but we would argue that responding in this manner actually compounds the negative aspect of failure.

The fact of the matter is, everyone experiences failure. Look around at the most successful people you know. No matter who they are or how much success they’ve attained, they have failures in their past – and probably in their future, too! Are you aware that Walt Disney, William Durant (Founder of GM) and Henry Ford had all gone bankrupt at least once in their lives!

Failure is a shared human experience. Learning from our failures is the key to eventual success. How do you learn from these situations and take the experience forward into a more successful future?

  • Know when to admit defeat – don’t be too afraid to say, “This isn’t working.” The first step to moving on is acknowledging that the present situation is not working

 

  • Don’t candy-coat the situation – you need to be honest with yourself and with your team members regarding what went wrong.

 

  • No finger-pointing – the point is to move forward constructively; blaming yourself or others creates division, defensiveness and resentment. None of these things are thefoundation of a prosperous future – and they certainly are not indicative of great leadership!

 

  • Push through the fear – it’s natural to feel apprehensive about sifting through a negative experience and starting over, but not doing so really isn’t an option if you want to move on productively.

 

  • Teamwork – if you’re licking your wounds following a personal career failure, lean on your mentors and trusted business friends for truth-telling, accountability and encouragement; if you’re a business owner or manager, cultivate these same attributes among your team members.

 

  • Failing at an endeavor certainly is not something we strive for, but it does happen, even when we’ve given our best. The good news is, failure does not define us, our career, or our businesslife. Learning from the experience, moving forward, and rebuilding are what matter in the end.Failure is an option – just work through it and keep moving forward!

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