If failure is, as some say, a necessary stepping stone to making our dreams real, why does it feel so bad?  Why are we so embarrassed by it?  Why does it feel so public, so much more public than success?  But perhaps, we’re asking the wrong questions about failure. Perhaps if we realized, as did Winston Churchill, that “…success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage of continuing that counts,” we would be able to embrace the reality that failure is inevitable.

Here are some alternative questions to ask about failure.

  1.  Why do we learn from failure?  Failure teaches what works and what doesn’t. Imagine that you’re on a listing appointment and feeling really good about it. Later that day, the seller calls and thanks you for your time, but hires someone else. You ask why and the seller notes several items he felt was lacking in your presentation. How many “failures” do you think you would have?  Now, instead, think of those failures as errors that need to be revised and fine tuned.  Then, with the necessary work to correct those errors, chances are you’ll successfully secure the next listing you go on.
  2. How do we learn from failure? We learn through trial and error.  And that trial and error learning process needs a work/educational/cultural framework that encourages experimentation.
  3. What do we learn from failure?  Failure teaches us about cause and effect.  If we keep doing the same thing and making the same error, we’ll continue to have the same failure.  If we experiment and do something else that corrects the error, we’ll not make that same mistake in the future.  We may make another mistake in the future, just not that same one.
  4. How can we use failure?  We can create a positive approach to failure management in order to
    1. embrace and learn new knowledge
    2. conserve internal resources
    3. discourage external threats
    4. attract and complement external sources from multiple resources.

Failure truly is the mother of invention.  By re-evaluating and recognizing failure as a necessary step in the process of discovery and improvement, perhaps we’ll spend less time beating ourselves up for failing and more time actually doing the work that needs to be done.