The Power of Failure: What is It Exactly and What Do We Learn from It?

If you are looking for a way to learn how to deal with setbacks, you might want to read this to study the psychology of failure.

The power of failure is all about embracing what isn’t perfect. It’s about not being afraid to make mistakes, and learning from them instead. And it’s also about realizing that our failures are what help us grow the most.

People who have failed more are often regarded as more successful, because they’ve learned how to deal with their failures and use them as an opportunity for growth.

Failure has gotten a bad reputation. In this blog post, I want to address failure as opportunity.

Because when we say the word failure, it sounds negative. I’ve “failed” in nearly everything I attempted, from getting into trouble as a child and sitting in the principals, to break ups, financial hardships, substance abuse and relationships.

There were times I wanted to give up. Looking back however, I’m thankful for these painful experiences. Sound masochistic? Let me explain.

Introduction: The Meaning of Failure It’s difficult to define the meaning of failure in a way that all people can understand and also in a way that makes sense. It is much easier to list the definitions of success, but when it comes to defining failure, there are many ways in which one could interpret this word.

One definition of failure is when you do not meet your goals or when you do not deliver on what you set out to do. This could be a result of a lack of preparation or preparation that was too limited to be successful.

This could also be because you did not have the necessary resources to complete what needs to get done. If these things happen, then it would be safe to say that someone has failed at their goal and they should try again after making corrections or fixing their mistakes.

Failure is opportunity in disguise in the most profound way possible. How else do you think people learn when something doesn’t work out for them? By experiencing a series or single event that doesn’t have the desirable outcome you expected.

It is through the struggles of our pain that we become stronger and ultimately masters of our lives.

It’s what we do when the pain comes, that is the challenge.

I had one thing going for me which gave me the edge in becoming more successful in my life and I get asked many times what the secret to that is. I always respond with the same answer that makes people’s eyes roll: improvement.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I smoked a pack of cigarettes per day and drank recreationally or if I was bored and a small shirt looked like a poncho on me. I was into martial arts when I was younger and read fitness magazines, I dabbled into the gym world but never took things seriously and lived a directionless life for years. Needless to say, I had some work to do.

I yearned for adventure and delved into the belly of this never ending chase of pleasure and fun. Not a bad thing, but not great when you have things you want to achieve.

I’m a representation of one of the most unlikely people to be fit. I went from small t-shirt wearing, cigarette smoking and directionless vagabond to an owner of nine fitness certifications, ten thousand hours of personal training client sessions, eight Spartan races, five Tough Mudders, a marathon and owner gyms. And to a size medium shirt.

Not too bad.

It was the day I felt the excruciating pain of my life choices and decisions simply by going for a run with my friend George.

That run changed me, because it made me feel the pain I was causing myself and my body. You never understand something until you experience it.

The fire in my lungs, the dizziness of not being able to stand up after the run, sore muscles and sheer exhaustiveness from that small jog revealed everything I needed to know: I had allowed my low standards of living and poor self image take over and lived a life below my potential. I knew I was better than that and I wanted to change, but how?

I started with what I knew, I ran. Physically and metaphorically but more so I ran towards the pain instead of away from it like I always had. In fact, I sought it out.

I began to inquire what pain was and my relationship with it, why workouts were so tough in the beginning and what they were trying to teach me. If you’ve ever done a set of exercises, you know the struggle of the burn you feel in the core of your muscle belly. It’s not a great experience per say, but it’s temporary and highly rewarding.

It’s the repeating of these repetitions and sets that lead to the acquisition and realization of your physique and potential. I became a student of pain, and when I felt it, I chose to learn from it and improve my ways to minimize or prevent pain from happening by becoming conditioned in fitness, and in life.

Life isn’t that much different. The painful occurrences you experience are the repetitions, sets and cycles of life you need to go through that are necessary for your growth and success.

As children we experienced them as growing pains. It’s our relationship we develop with this phenomena that can impact us in a positive or negative way.

True masters of their craft are curious about pain and don’t shy away from it, they lean into what it is and why they feel it, then they derive the benefits, much like extracting the small gold nuggets from a pile of muddy dirt.

It is within our DNA to remain in survival and only improve as need be. However history has shown that every business, person, culture or species has adopted and adapted its ways in an ever changing world by improving. To not only survive, but thrive in the never ending spiral towards the trajectory of progress.

So what makes failure good enough? Perhaps it’s when it has a purpose and offers you something in return for all the pain and frustration it causes you.

Maybe we should stop thinking of failure as a bad thing altogether and turn it into your biggest motivator to try again next time with more wherewithal than before. Because now, you’re wiser, better and stronger than you were before and you learned something. That is the key to success.

The Top Ways to Learn From Failure

Re-frame Failure Change your relationship with supposed shortcomings and downfalls. Are they really that bad?

Pause and reflect, then ask yourself: how can I use this as a challenge to improve? What are the actionable steps I can take to prevent this from happening again? What are the learning principles to takeaway? What things didn’t I observe or do that lead me to this outcome?

Answering these can shed light on why things turned out the way they did, which leads to insight and application in the prevention of them in your future.

Upside Many times we get so caught up in the turmoil of it all that we don’t allow ourselves to have an altered perspective.

Sometimes, not getting what you want is the best gift in the world for you. What is the upside of this tragedy? What can be the good that comes from this that I can’t see? There’s a story of the Chinese Farmer narrated by Alan Watts on YouTube.

It questions the philosophy of events that happen to us, that they are neither good nor bad, they just are. It’s our relationship with them and the telling of time and the future. Simply by viewing things in the light of "maybe" maybe its good, maybe its bad.

We'll never know. It's the acceptance and understanding of time, change and what may seem like misfortune, can really be a blessing.

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” -Dalai Lama

Ownership We often look outside the window of life when things don’t go our way, then blame the weather, the world and people for where we are and why we ended up in the situations we’re in.

Here’s a small secret: the answer is seldom outside the window. It’s in the mirror.

Change the things with yourself that are in your control and take responsibility for your role in your problems. Let go of things that aren’t in your control or in the past, what matters is you and what you are willing to do, now.

“Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success.” -Gary W. Keller

Initiative In a small story I read of a highway patrol officer in his observations of accidents and when they occurred, people who steered away from the collision or impact had significantly more chances of survival.

In his most eloquent choice of words: “when an accident is happening or about to happen in front of you: don’t freeze. MOVE.”

I paused when I read that because it was so simple.

Don’t freeze and head directly into a dangerous event when it is happening or about to happen. Move out of the way.

Steer your vessel away or around and go in the direction of your goal. Unfortunate events will happen, they’re a normal part of life. Take control and make the moves that propel you forward.

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