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Why You Need to Learn to Love Failure (and How to Do It)

Topics: Career Advice
learn to love failure
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Making a mistake at work. Getting fired. Choosing the wrong career. Failure in some form touches even the most successful career eventually.

But a temporary setback can be just that — temporary. In fact, with the right attitude and response, failure can help propel your career forward. It’s all about seeing reversal as a necessary step in the process. Learn to love failure — or at least, to accept it — and you can learn from your mistakes and become a stronger, more resilient, more effective professional.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Our culture encourages perfectionistic tendencies, which could cause you to hold unrealistic expectations for yourself. But as your mother may have told you, no one is perfect. So, it’s not about deciding what you’ll do if you fail. Instead, it’s about knowing how to handle it when you fail.

Why Learn to Love Failure?

learn to love failure
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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

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  • It’s a part of the process of succeeding. Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk? Do they get up and do it perfectly on the first try? Or, do they fall down over and over again before they’ve mastered the skill? Practice is a part of the learning process. You can’t be a master of something the first time you’ve ever attempted it. Many famous inventors and great innovators have figured this out at some point along their path. Where would we be if they’d abandoned their dreams at the first sign of trouble?
  • You’ll be easier to work with. Learning to cope with failure will make you more resilient, which will make a better team member. Your bosses and coworkers won’t have to tread lightly when they need to present you with a problem that needs fixing. They’ll know you’ll be able to take the situation in stride.
  • It sets an example and changes the tone. You don’t work, or live, in a bubble. All of the people who spend time with you, in the office and at home, are influenced by your actions and behaviors, even if it’s just on a subtle level and without anyone really realizing it. When you learn to take failure in stride, you’re setting an example and showing others how it’s done. Plus, you’ll probably be more forgiving of others, too. People tend to be just about as hard on others as they are on themselves. You may find it’s easier for you to let others’ mistakes go once you’ve learned to be more forgiving of yourself.
  • The alternative will almost certainly be damaging to your career. Research has shown that people who are hard on themselves tend to experience more setbacks than those with a healthier self-image. You might think that self-doubt would lead workers to want to overcompensate for their perceived flaws with extra effort and tenacity. But, just the opposite tends to be true. Instead, many subconsciously look for confirmation of their negative beliefs about themselves. So, they do things that cause others to see them the way they see themselves. Therefore, learning to embrace your shortcomings is essential if you’re truly committed to realizing your full potential.

A 5-Step Process for Learning to Love Failure:

learn to love failure
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1. Face Your Failures

In order to accept your failures, you have to face them. Don’t underestimate the challenge of this crucial first step. It’s tempting to turn away from difficult situations and emotions. When you make a mistake, your first instinct might be to ignore it, blame someone else, or make excuses. But, if you really want to learn to embrace failure, you’ll need to apply a different strategy.

Keep in mind that this step is between you and you. For now, don’t worry about apologizing to anyone or even trying to repair this situation. First, you have to understand the problem. So, take some time to look at what happened and what went wrong. Be honest and real with yourself about where, when and how you messed up. Also, take a realistic look at the outcome or the consequences of your error. You have to fully survey the damage, and understand its causes, before you can do anything else.

2. learn something

Learning from failure is really the key to making peace with it. When you can see mistakes as true opportunities for growth, you’re well on your way. Do not underestimate the power of this mindset switch. What’s the sense in beating yourself up over completely understandable — and unavoidable — human experiences? That’s all mistakes are.

Once you’ve taken an honest look at your failure and accepted it, determine to learn something from it. Ask yourself what went wrong and why. How can you avoid making the same mistake again? What do you need to change in order to grow from this experience?

Finally, before moving forward, celebrate that you’ve come to this place. You’ve learned something valuable as a result of an error. That’s great news!

3. take responsibility

learn to love failure
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Once you’ve determined what went wrong, and how you can avoid the error in the future, it’s time to take responsibility for what happened. Only then can you begin to put the situation behind you and move on.

You have an awesome opportunity here. Bosses want you to own it when you make a mistake at work. Doing so demonstrates that you have courage, maturity and strong character. So many people take an opposite approach when they make a mistake. They blame others for what went wrong or otherwise avoid taking responsibility.

This doesn’t have to be a long or agonizing process. Sit down with your colleagues and be direct and honest. Explain what went wrong, what you learned from the mistake and what you’re decided to do in the future so that it doesn’t happen again.

4. Let it go

Often, it’s not the mistake itself that does the most damage. It’s the way you handle the error that can really get in your way. So, don’t beat yourself up over what happened. Don’t ruminate on the experience, playing it over and over in your mind and wishing it had been different. Once you’ve owned up to a mistake, resolved to learn from it and apologized, it’s time to let it go.

Forgive yourself for what happened. Remind yourself that moving on is an important part of the process of embracing failure. You won’t do yourself any favors by clinging to the bad memory of your failure. Instead, remind yourself of what you learned from the experience and resolve to leave it in the past.

5. Tell the tale

Talking about your mistake and what you learned from the experience can help you to move forward. Just pay close attention to the way you tell the story. This is important whether you’re talking to coworkers or someone from your personal life. Don’t say, “Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot. You won’t believe what I did.” Communicating about your experience with someone else gives you an opportunity to establish a different narrative. Something more along the lines of, “Guess what happened at work today? Man, it was hard but I really learned a lot from the experience,” is a better approach.

Telling the story of your experience might also prompt others to tell you what they’ve been through. Chances are, the person you’re talking to will have a similar story to share. Reminding them that it’s all right to make mistakes can help you further cement the idea for yourself.

Tell Us What You Think

How did you learn to love failure? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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