4 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way
Growing up, I didn’t fail much. School was easy. I was good at sports. I hit a home-run my first at bat in Little League. I was taller than my peers.
I felt self-confident even though I hadn’t earned the right to be confident.
I still cringe inside when I recall striking out in the playoffs during my last at bat. I began my baseball career with a homerun and ended it with three swings.
Since then, I’ve disappointed myself many times. But my biggest failure isn’t one specific failure.
My biggest failure is ignoring the lessons of failure.
4 lessons I learned the hard way:
#1. Meaningful success is hard.
You don’t bounce back from failure. You grind back.
I interviewed scores of potential teachers in my former life as a Workforce Development Consultant. Some were clueless.
Novices make light of tough challenges because they haven’t failed enough.
Inexperience underestimates the time, effort, and grit it takes to excel.
#2. Respect the work and talent of others.
- You aren’t the center of the universe.
- Stop nitpicking everyone.
- Honor others.
#3. Seek help.
Before failure, you might appreciate friends. But after failure, you know you need others.
#4. Practice humility even if you don’t feel humble.
- Ask questions.
- Seek feedback.
- Pursue constant improvement.
I’m not interested in reflecting on failure because when I think of failure, I feel embarrassment and regret.
I still feel embarrassed when I think of my first presentation. I had enough confidence to stand up front. But I had so much confidence that I hadn’t prepared properly.
- Regret closes your mind to reflection.
- Lack of reflection leads to repetition.
You repeat failure when you don’t learn from failure.
When failure comes knocking, invite him for tea. What is he teaching you?
Failure teaches you what matters.
What have you learned from failure?
Which of these lessons could you practice today?
BONUS: Netflix is offering a new series on March 1, 2019 – LOSERS. It’s about the lessons of failure.
What have you learned from failure? We tend to be to critical of ourselves, learn by the mistake and grow, practice more, and learn more! Sonner or later we get it right!
Which of these lessons could you practice today?
The world does not revolve around us! Understanding our place in the whole picture.
Thanks Tim. It occurs to me that when we don’t use failure as a learning opportunity we could tend to be too critical of ourselves. You bring up an interesting point that’s worthy of reflection.
I guess failure is a good teacher and we all need good teachers!
Yes indeed. Thanks Donald
What have you learned from failure?
That most of the time, you’re a good as your last failure – track records don’t count for much;
That if you fail, nobody cares how hard you worked – only results count;
That when you fail, who you report to matters – who you know beats hat you can do.
Thanks Mitch. So true in fear-based organizations. Learning isn’t valued.
BTW, who you know is important. We neglect this principle to our own detriment. Performance matters, but sometimes who you know matters more. So include relationship building in your skill set.
Dan, Now you have burst my balloon. You mean I am not the center of the universe? When did I get fired?
Thanks Tony. It seems you missed that memo! Have a great day.
I think it’s common, initially when you fail, to look outside of yourself at the way the universe (aka all your involved colleagues and staff) failed you. Then, after a breath — ok — what was my responsibility in this? A more sobering and less satisfying conversation than the first – but there you have it. And I do agree with Mitch — the culture of your work or personal life will influence how that failure was perceived: a big failure, or a valiant effort.
Thanks Mary Ellen. Your comment stings. It is more fun to blame others for my failure. Perhaps when it comes to failure, we need to limit our use of “YOU” and “THEY”.
Your comment points out the challenge of reflecting on failure. It does little good when we spend most of our time pointing fingers.
Inexperience underestimates the time, effort, and grit it takes to excel. … Thank you for saying a lot in just one sentence.
Thanks Pat. 🙂
Really appreciate this line; “Inexperience underestimates the time, effort, and grit it takes to excel.” It’s so easy to overlook the sweat and tears it took someone to get to the position they’re in. The question for me is do I honor those in positions of authority or do I take the time to find out what they’ve learned along the way?
Thanks Mike. There’s a reason why people succeed. They often worker harder than we think because they make things look easy. We should remember that anyone who makes something look easy has spent hours of hard working getting there.
Failure taught me to listen to others. I wasn’t asking questions but assuming responses.
Thanks Steve. If we listen to failure, it’s telling us to listen to others.
Here are my thoughts about failure.
When thinking of failure I immediately think of the words from J.K. Rollings…”It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
What is failure so important?
Failure, as much as it hurts, is an important part of life. In fact, failure is necessary.
I have failed more times than I’d like to admit. And I’m not talking about small failures; I’m talking about the kind of failures that rock your world, completely altering the landscape of your relationships, finances, and mental-wellbeing.
And, if you’re anything like me, then you’ve also most likely failed many times over. I can’t say that I particularly enjoy failing, but failure, through its life-altering lessons, makes us into better persons.
In fact, failure is life’s great teacher; it’s nature’s chisel that chips away at all the excess, stripping down egos as it molds and shapes us through divine intentions.
Without failure, we’d be less capable of compassion, empathy, kindness, and great achievement; we would be less likely to reach for the moon and the stars.
But, for those that have known true failure, and have bounced back from it, understand that failure in life is necessary for success. Sure, failing hurts. In fact, it cuts deep like a razor, slicing its way to our inner core. Yet, it’s necessary.
Thanks Paul. There’s something inspiring about your comment. I think it’s the idea that failure, although painful, has deep value.
Love… “In fact, failure is life’s great teacher; it’s nature’s chisel that chips away at all the excess, stripping down egos as it molds and shapes us through divine intentions.”
I’m taking the chisel metaphor to the bank.
I need this for my office wall…“In fact, failure is life’s great teacher; it’s nature’s chisel that chips away at all the excess, stripping down egos as it molds and shapes us through divine intentions.”
I totally agree Paul!
Resiliency, the ability to overcome our failures effectively is an important competency we all need to cultivate. Rising Strong, by Brene Brown does a great job of covering the topic. She suggests building into our onboarding practice lessons on how to overcome mistakes and failures. Without taking risks there is no forward momentum, no growth. Taking risks always involves failing sometimes.
Thanks Stephanie. I’m glad you mention Rising Strong. I’ve enjoyed all of Brene’ Brown’s work. Great suggestion. Tell people how to handle failure before they fail.
I struck out my last high school at-bat, too. Now, in my 42nd year as an English teacher and 38th as a Head Baseball Coach, I strike out every day. But I get so many chances in the batter’s box, failure doesn’t bother me as much. Still hurts, but I don’t suffer as before. Less bothered by my imperfection and shortcomings, when I fail, I do my best to “forgive myself and forge ahead.” Be a solution-finder as opposed to a bitter self-critic. Still learning, still a work in progress, Dan. Keeps me humble.
Thanks Tom. It’s great to get to a place where failure is part of the journey, rather than a commentary on who we are. Love the spirit of your comment. Cheers
What have you learned from failure? He’s always going to be there, no one man or woman is perfect, we can only do our best, learn from our failures and successes and move on to the next challenge. You know you really don’t fail if you learn from failures, you get knowledge and ideas for the next time.
Thanks Roger. It’s encouraging to get to a place where failure is a learning experience. Sadly, in some organizations, failure isn’t tolerated. It seems that everyone is either perfect or a failure.
Love the way you put it. you don’t fail if you learn.
I appreciate reading everyone’s comments about dropping ego, being compassionate and empathetic, and also about being resilient rather than beating ourselves up.
I like to think of failure as just bumps in the road – every road has bumps. Hit a bump, learn from it and then put that into practice the next time, but keep getting up and moving forward each time. And I remind myself to allow others the same with their bumps along the way, even if they’re losing their mind over it.
Life is too precious to be brutal and rip each other up when something goes wrong. I’m not the smartest or best person in the room, but I try to be caring and help us all support each other and make progress together. Long as nobody’s a monster (monsters are a very rare exception), we can make good things happen.
Thanks Mary. I feel the resolve and compassion in your comment. It occurs to me that if we cannot show patience for our own failures, we cannot show patience for the failure of others.
I have repeatedly failed after short successes. I always find a way to keep rowing upstream. At some point you’re biggest success is humility, empathy and an appreciation of what you always had…….family. That’s the success
Thanks George. You bring up an import idea. Failure shows us what’s important.
Learning from my failures and others so that I can lessen the impact of failure if possible.
Thanks Gerry. Although failure has value, it’s not something to be desired.
I have seen enough rejection letters and failed enough times to understand the importance of going through the process. But to reflect and learn from it is key. You can’t just keep failing and expect different results through the same methods. That’s insanity! The slow grind to success is so hard to see when it comes to not understanding the bigger picture. There’s an overall plan and with it are bumps in the road. Got to keep moving forward in the right direction.
Great article! For me it’s weird but the most meaningful lessons, are those of failures. I guess it makes it stick longer than ones of success. I’ve learned resiliency, to be optimistic and kind, and it’s never the end until it’s the end. You always have to keep your head high and continue to push for greatness! I practice being kind to everyone because you never know what failure means to the next person or what they are going to. Sometimes you just need kind words and encouragement to get through those tough moment that only the person inside your head know you are going through
I’ve learned from failture to lower my ego. Too often I think I got it all figured out. Then I mess up, and am reminded that I too am human and make mistakes.
I once published a post on my Facebook account that said, “How do we make each moment better than the previous without having to go back into our past?.
..” When people make mistakes, most times they try as much as possible not to ever think of that part of their lives, thereby locking up the act of reflection and amendment. You cannot truly move on if you haven’t even understood what had gone wrong the first time. The point I’m trying to make: It is not such a taboo to go back in thoughts of the past where you had failed, let the fact that you survived whatever it was be enough courage and conceiving of how strong you truly are, but in order not to find yourself repeating same mistake, you need to reflect. Reflect not in regret, because as you would be busy regretting a mistake you can’t ever be able to fix, you might be neglecting something you need to do or fix in the present, and when the future comes you find yourself still depressed over yet another mistake. Think, learn, move on. No regrets.