It’s Okay to Have A Failure Mindset

Photo by Monica Henriquez

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” — Salvador Dali

I fail a lot more than I succeed. And most of the successful, passionate people I know fail a lot, too. At finding balance. Eating healthy. Making a consistent living. Keeping in touch. Spending wisely. Hitting the gym. Pursuing projects. Expanding their skillset.

I even fail at writing, the one thing I’m supposed to be good at. I was making an attempt at writing professionally for two years before I ever got anything published, and it took another year to get consistent work, in the form of a column for a now-defunct service industry magazine called What’s Up?

When the magazine went under, I figured I’d get another content writing job without too much of a problem. I sent out writing samples to a variety of digital and print publications and waited for a response.

I got four “no’s” before I got a “yes.” That’s only a 20 percent success rate.

When I published my first book, I had a similar experience, except I had a 10 percent success rate.

By now, I’ve had enough work experience to know that failure doesn’t mean I’m supposed to put down the pen (or my Macbook) and do something else with my life. Rather, it means that failure is a regular way of life.

Failure means either:

  1. The opportunity/job/project wasn’t a good fit, or
  2. I’m doing something wrong and I have to get better.

So failure isn’t all that horrible because it forces us to be more selective about what we use our time and energy on, and it makes us better.

Insert diamonds-from-coal-thanks-to-pressure metaphor, yadda yadda yadda.

There’s two ways to look at any success or failure, anyway. Say I finish writing an article‚ a supposed success, and think: “that’s the best thing I’ve ever written!” It’s published (again, success!) and then— no one cares about it.

Or maybe some people do, and I might even get a couple emails telling me so, but in my mind, not enough people care.

That’s a failure mindset. Which is the place our brains like to go when they’re jaded from successes.

What I think of as failure now (not enough reads or shares) is something I wouldn’t have worried about when I was trying to get published, because having something published would’ve been a fantastic success in itself.

Living with failure means not that we are failures, but that we are able to keep learning. And trying new things. And being okay when they don’t always work out because one failure isn’t the end of the road. It’s just another learning experience and another step toward completion of a long-term goal.

The next time you’re down because your failures are stacked up beyond your successes, remember that it’s the normal state of life. I’m with you. So is your neighbor. And your friends. And your idol. Because we all fail at the majority of things we try to do. That’s the whole point of success.

Keep pushing forward, and don’t let your fear of failure be so great that you forget to celebrate your success.

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