From Failure to Success: 10 Strategies for Moving from Set Back To Win


Be the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment, own it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan was supposed to win the gold. He fell and fell again and again and although the gold was within his grasp the medal eluded him. He won the silver. That’s nothing to sneeze at however Chan said he was profoundly disappointed in himself.

The Olympics, much like the Oscars, are a series of wins and losses and some may even say victories and failures. And oftentimes we learn more from failing then from succeeding.

How can you target your determination after a set back for a greater win?

1. Refocus –when you have a set back you can easily be taken off your game. You may mull over your misstep, become caught up in what was right and wrong, what others did or didn’t do and may begin even blaming other for their part or lack of in whatever happened. During times of failure the faster you can get your head back in the game the better.

2. Relook at your “failure” – failure is a perspective. Did Patrick Chan actually fail at anything? He slipped, he fell. His scores were low. That’s the truth. What the world could make it mean is something else – “What a royal screw up!” “Can we even let this guy skate again?” All of these defeating perspectives only tear us down more than build us up. Chan may have felt like a failure, and yet as an Olympic athlete the man is unstoppable. When you acknowledge what you did that didn’t work, you stay in the game. Acknowledging gives you a boost.

3. Establish new priorities – a failure may show you that your priorities were a little off or not exactly as precise as they could have been.

4. Re-examine your yes’ – did you say yes to a project or any element of a project when your gut told you no? When someone higher up asks you to do something you may get into a false sense of belief that you need to automatically say yes. You don’t have to say yes because someone higher up asked. Could lead to a colossal misstep.

5. Re-examine your no’s – did you say no to a project or any element of a project when your gut told you yes? Did you say no for political reasons? Did you say no because you were afraid to say yes? Did you really examine all the options before you said no? Sometimes you say no for political self-preservation. You want to be mindful that your no’s are not based on fear, they are based on facts.

6. Re-examine your likeability – did you misstep because you wanted to be liked too much

7. Recommit – when failing you can easily stop the commitment you made to yourself. To the raise you wanted, the promotion you desired, working in another country, moving positions from sales to marketing or marketing to programming. Whatever the “it” for you is, recommit to your goals. A failure could simply mean a greater learning to get you to your goals faster.

8. Isolationism vs. selective inclusionism – did you isolate during your misstep or did you include others? No matter which side of the fence you were, re-look at how you can be more inclusive. Who can you include in your next master plan, how can they help you to re-engineer your thinking or positioning?

9. Re-learn – maybe there is something fundamentally you need to learn – a new skill that you realized you may need to strengthen.

10. Invite a more rigorous feedback loop – demanding more rigorous feedback from those around us could prepare you for an impending failure or give you a list of things to consider before making decisions. The aim is to bring failures up early before it leads to catastrophe.

No matter how big you screw up there oftentimes is a fix for it. Wrapping yourself around this mindset will allow you to develop a more creative work culture. People will trust you more when they see how you handle mistakes. Handle them with care and support and people will feel they can be free to risk and fall. When there is more freedom to screw up then the better the environment to take risks.



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