Want to Succeed? Learn to Embrace Failure

When I think about the most successful people I’ve encountered, the one thing they have in common is that somewhere along the line they were willing to take on challenges where there was risk of failure. Failure is a building block to career success and to a fulfilling life. Granted, it’s not the ideal option. No one sets out to fail. But failure is something that everyone—especially women—must learn to embrace, with the recognition that the only real failure is not trying.

Why embrace failure? For one thing, the pursuit of perfection is exhausting—and it can be detrimental to advancing your career. No risk, no reward. More important, fear of failure really does hold women back from realizing our full potential. When we question our capabilities, it can be immobilizing, resulting in complacency and preventing us from moving forward.

Everyone fails. The difference between those who succeed and those who become crippled by a setback is that people who ultimately succeed know how to navigate that failure, learn from it, and improve. To best embrace and navigate your fear, do the following:

  • Look at failure through a different lens. If you expect perfection, failure is a lot more likely. Instead, view failure as an opportunity to learn and develop.
  • Reflect on what’s really causing your fear. To address it, you need to understand it. And avoid the tendency to self-sabotage.
  • Scenario plan. Analyze the potential outcomes if things go wrong (worst case) and if things go right (best case).
  • Prepare for all the “what-ifs” you identified in your plan.
  • Take action. Do not procrastinate.
  • See feedback as a gift. Proactively seek out feedback. And, when you do receive feedback, see it as a gift and an opportunity to learn, not as failure.

Full disclosure, I’m experiencing a healthy dose of discomfort as I type this. How will it be received? What will people think? It’s uncertain. What I do know is that I’m proud to work for a company that encourages me to take advantage of these opportunities, and there’s no doubt I’ll learn from my experience.

Someone once said to me, you can certainly say no due to the fear of failure. But anything beyond no opens you up to a world of opportunities.

Embrace failure. Go beyond no. There’s no telling where it will lead.