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  • Writer's picture Lauren Malach

Three Ways to Reframe Failure

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Fail Better Next Time

Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

My son is learning to walk. He toddles around like a drunk, wobbling, zig-zagging.

He falls. He gets up. He falls. He gets up.

Falling doesn’t upset him.

As I watch him it occurs to me that falling is a necessary “step” in his skill development.

As children we are naturally curious and resilient. We don’t consider failure an obstacle.

Yet, as we grow, we learn that failure is undesirable. Unacceptable.

Many of my clients consider failure or the fear of failure to be a major obstacle in pursuing their goals and dreams.

And yet, I challenge you to find a successful person who hasn’t overcome failures or setbacks in the pursuit of their goals.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, was denied by 217 of the 242 people he asked to invest in his first euro-style coffee house venture. At age 22, Walt Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper for "not being creative enough." One of his early ventures, Laugh-o-gram Studios, went bankrupt. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.

The Wright Brothers were so disadvantaged in the race toward human flight that they weren’t even considered underdogs.

Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash

They had no venture capital, weren’t engineers and had no technical training. Their prototypes crashed over and over again before they took flight.

I don't know if it's our culture- so focused always on the outcome and success- but our fear of failure is holding us back. When we reframe failure and consider it through another viewpoint, it becomes less daunting and I'll dare to say... liberating.

Here are some ways to reframe failure:

Get Curious

Adopting the mindset of a learner is how we get curious.

When we judge ourselves (as a failure, as a loser, as comparably worse than others or contrarily as the best, always right) we are not wearing the learner’s lens.

Instead of telling yourself all the reasons why you suck, ask yourself:

What can I learn? How can I move forward? Who can help me? What strengths do I have that can help me?

Hold The Big Picture In Mind

Ask yourself this: What do I really really really want? What are my larger goals? How can I hold those in mind and take action toward them?

For my clients the big pictures vary: I want to lead on my own terms. I want to integrate my life with my work. I want time and financial freedom. I want to love my work. I want to have good working relationships. I want to figure out my next step.

Consider Failure As Necessary

As an inventor, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."

How much iteration do you think the first MacBook or Iphone had?

How many tumbles do the top Olympic figure skaters endure in finally landing their triple axels?

Think of your setback as a necessity on the road to success.

Ask yourself: How can I learn or grow from this setback? How can I challenge myself to grow from this? What can I learn that will help me improve next time?

These are just a few ways to reframe failure. What has worked for you? Send me a note to let me know ( or comment below.

Next time you’re beating yourself up for a setback, click though this list of celebrities who went from failure to success

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