Redefining Failure as Merely a Setback with Opportunities

Welcome to the second half of 2020! Ordinarily the first of July allows us to pause for the fourth of July Holiday and evaluate our successes in the first half of the year and plan for how we will endeavor to accomplish even more in the second half of the year. But none of us have ever experienced a year like this one so far.

Matching the frustration and unpredictability of the first six months of 2020, we have no greater clarity into what will happen in the back half of the year from an economic, political, and pandemic perspective, among other things.  

Before you decide to look past this post because you feel I am taking a negative stance on the current state of affairs, or heaven forbid because I (gasp) mentioned the world Politics, I invite you to read on because I intend, as always to help give you the aims, attitudes, and actions you can use to propel yourself towards your goals and dreams.

I hope along with me and many others you are learning to adjust and find opportunities in and around the challenging world we are all living in. Sure, there are difficulties, obstacles, and yes, failures all around us. But failure has never been the end of the story and it certainly isn’t now.

In fact, I don’t even like the word failure because it sounds so, well, final. I much prefer the term setback. With failure, there are a lot of perceived negative consequences as a result. With a setback, you evaluate, adjust, and move on to the next trial. You don’t give up. You learn. And get a lot closer to a breakthrough.

Zig Ziglar used to say, “A failure is an event, not a person.” I always liked that saying, however, recently I have been thinking that focusing on failure in any way leads us into a negative mindset. The way to get from there to a positive mindset and self-confidence even in the face of failure is to focus on the learning.

The story of Thomas Edison goes that before he invented the lightbulb he had over 100 “failures” that didn’t work. When questioned about failing 100 times, Edison’s reply was, “I did not fail 100 times, I learned 100 ways to not male a lightbulb.” That is the mindset we all need to develop going into the rest of 2020 and beyond. 

There is much written and spoken about “failing forward,” failing often,” and “failing quickly.” I will not debate the merit of those points, however, I will tell you that I am convinced that the key to any kind of failure is how you look at it in your mind and how quickly you can move on from it. 

I strongly recommend that you do some kind of evaluation process as quickly as possible after a setback and ask yourself the following questions, for starters. “What went right?” “What went wrong?” “What can I improve?” “What do I need to keep doing?” “What do I need to stop doing?” “Who can I consult with?” 

The faster you do this, the better you will learn. The faster you will be back at it trying to move forward. And the faster you will be ready for a comeback. Why? Because when you treat a setback as a setup for a comeback you can’t wait to jump back into working on a solution with the newfound knowledge and determination you have developed.

That is how you change your mindset – and your vocabulary. Treat failure as a setback, not as something to be avoided at all costs. I welcome your comments, questions, and reactions to this post. Please subscribe so you get my new post each week and share it with your networks and friends.

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