How to Turn Failure into Success

Thomas Edison first light bulb

Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times to make a light bulb, but each time the filament burned out shortly after turning the light on. Finally on October 19, 1879, he tried a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. It stayed lit for 48 hours and 40 minutes. Asked as to how he could fail 10,000 times, Edison replied, "I didn't fail 10,000 times, I just found 10,000 ways that don't work"

While failure feels bad, you can end up on top with the right attitude. Accept your mistakes and learn how to approach problems differently. Listen to feedback and try new ideas. The important thing is ask yourself how you learn from your failures.

Moving On From Mistakes

Accept Your Mistakes

Accept that things did not work out as planned. Even if you worked especially hard on something, it's important to acknowledge and accept that it didn't work. Don't become obsessed at improving something that is done or not working.

For example, if you started a business that folded, accept that it didn't work out. It's not worth spending lots of money on something that isn't successful or that does not have a viable future.

Don't blame other people for your failures. Take responsibility, even if it hurts you. Say that you made mistakes, yet determine to improve for next time.

Don't let a previous failure stop you from trying a new venture in the future.

Take a Break

You may not want to jump right back into your project after a failure, and that's okay. If you're burned out or need some time to clear your head, take some time off. For some people, this may mean closing a project for some time while for others it may mean taking a vacation or road trip. You might start a different job or move onto a different project for the time being and wait to come back to your failed project.

Do what feels best to you. Rest and refresh yourself so that you can approach the project with new eyes in the future. Remember that leaving it for a while is not the same thing as quitting. But if you find that business is not for you, then that is okay too.

Investigate What Went Wrong

It might feel painful at first, but spend some time assessing why you failed. What went wrong or didn't work? For example, if you failed a test, think about how you studied for it. When did you start studying and how long did you study? Did you learn and memorize the information effectively? Do you need to study or learn in a different way? Answering these questions can help you learn from the experience and do better on your next exam.

Write down all the things that went wrong or may be the cause of a problem. Then, go through and pinpoint each weak area and come up with a different solution.

Learn Your Lessons

Don't analyze every little problem that went wrong or everything you "should" have done in the past. Instead, focus on what you've learned from these mistakes so that these lessons can propel you forward. With each mistake you make, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?"

For example, If you buy something expensive that you're unhappy with yet you cannot return it, don't ruminate on how unhappy you are or how big of a mistake you made. Instead, use this as an opportunity to only shop at places that accept returns.

Reframe Your Failure

View Failure as Part of a Process

Failure does not have to be the end. Think of it as the start or middle of a process. For example, if you try to date someone new and get rejected, it doesn't mean that you'll never date someone. Keep at it and recognize that failure is normal and part of having new experiences and being human.

See success as the destination and failure as a stepping stone on the way. Most successful people have had numerous failures, but they picked up and moved forward.

See Yourself as a Risk Taker

Instead of seeing yourself as a failure, see yourself as a risk taker. Failure means that you tried something that didn't work, so now you have the opportunity to try something new or different. It's the perfect opportunity to give something new a go.

For example, if you want to exercise but don't seem to ever make it to the gym, see this as a new challenge. Find another activity that does motivate you, even if it scares you. Try yoga, rock climbing, or salsa dancing. You might find an activity that you love!

Recognize That You Are Not a Failure

Don't evaluate your self-worth through the lens of your failure. Who you are is much larger than one failure you've experienced. Just because you've struggled with one thing does not mean you've failed in all areas of your life. If you feel down, think about where you derive your sense of worth.

What are the things you like about yourself or the traits that make you, you? Perhaps you are kind, thoughtful, sincere, or a hard worker. See yourself through these lenses, not through the lens of failure.

Experiencing failure and bouncing back from it takes courage. Recognize the courage you possess to get through this one instance of failure.

Celebrate Your Failures

If you get turned down for a job (or three), don't get down on yourself for your perceived failure. Instead, congratulate yourself for putting yourself out there and making an effort. Buy yourself a treat and say to yourself, "I'm one step closer to my goal."

As you experience failure, you'll likely feel more comfortable and confident in building your skills. For example, you may become great at interviews or more comfortable talking to potential employers. Celebrate these skills, too.

Making Improvements

Envision a New Beginning

View rebuilding after a failure as a new beginning. For example, if you had a business that folded, get excited about starting a new one. Think about the things you love and how you can build a great foundation this time around. Don't see starting over as a setback. Instead, see it as an exciting opportunity.

Get excited about the changes you can make and the new opportunities ahead. For example, create a new company or project name to make it feel fresh.

Listen to Feedback

If you receive feedback on your performance or project, take it to heart. See it as helpful, not personal or negatively critical. Find out what parts other people think are working and which parts are not working. Find any themes in the feedback, then go in and re-work your project.

For example, if you're performing a musical piece, ask for feedback on how to improve. You may gain some valuable tips and come out on top.

Ask successful people what factors have led to success. Listen for any themes you continuously come across.

Look for Alternative Solutions

Use this opportunity to improve what you already have. Think about where the problems may be and find alternative ways to approach them. Face the problems with a clear mind and ask, "How can I improve this?" Remember: Perseverance holds the key to success.

Start with what is working, then improve what isn't.

If you're working on a project and come to a snag, don't focus just on where you perceive the snag. Look at the big picture and find ways you can modify parts or the whole. For example, if you're trying to publish a book and continuously get rejected, add some plot twists or other characters and integrate them with the rest of the book.

Try New Ideas

Take your disappointments as an opportunity to try new things. This is when you can become creative and approach the situation from a new angle or perspective. After all, you're more likely to learn from failure than success.

For example, if you fail at creating a moving robot, find a different way to build it or put it together. Change the mechanisms to function differently or recreate the design. You might find a simpler or more unique way that you enjoy more.

You may find that starting from scratch can be helpful. You might incorporate old ideas back in later, but starting with a clean slate can help you find new methods. It also gives you the opportunity to bypass the block you were experiencing.

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