Never Let Failures Determine your Future

When it comes to living and leading everyone will have times when they fail. The important thing to remember is that success or failure is never forever. When it comes to dealing with failure, make your future bigger than your failures. Look at some of these people of influence who never let failures determine their future:

Abraham Lincoln’s first business as owner of a dry goods store was a flop. He was later appointed postmaster in his township and had the worst efficiency record in the county.

Franklin D. Roosevelt began his career in public service after flunking out of Columbia Law School. He then decided to run for governor of New York.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was rejected three times for command positions before being appointed Supreme Allied Commander in 1942.

Harry Truman opened a hat and shirt shop at age 35 that went bankrupt after just two years. Truman worked 15 years to pay off the debt.

Here are 5 principles to help you move forward after failing:

1. Know failure happens- The first thing to remember is that failures happen, even to the best of us. Since no person or leader can avoid failure one of the things we can do is to know and expect it to happen.

2. Acknowledge the failure- When the leader or the team that the leader is leading fails, it’s the leaders duty to accept responsibility. The leader needs to point to finger at themselves while avoiding blaming the situation or others. It’s about taking ownership of what has happened whether the failure was due to the leader or a follower.

3. Maintain a positive attitude- This is so important when it comes to moving past failure successfully. The key is to make sure your attitude and behavior is positive. The way we react to failure greatly determines the outcome of what happens after the failure.

4. Learn from the failure- If we want to successfully move forward after a failure then we need to learn from what has happened. This can allow us to make necessary changes and avoid the same thing from happening in the future. Failing forward happens when we learn from what has happened.

5. Move past the failure- After following the above steps then move past the failure and focus on the future. It can be easy or tempting to stay in the middle of the failure but if we want to move from failure to success then getting over the failure is a must.

Questions: What others principles would you apply. How do you move forward after a failure?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post. I honestly think that the top people are the ones who have screwed up big and learned from their mistakes (as opposed to the ones who let themselves be defined by it or become bitter about it).

    • I totally agree with you Rob. The key is to learn and keep moving forward. Thanks for sharing.

  • Crucial stuff, Dan! I think too often we get hung up on points 1-2, and can’t move on to the productive parts (3-5). I totally agree with you- our past doesn’t define us (and thank God for that!).

    • Stephen,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad for God’s grace and mercy. It’s needed in the middle of a failure.

  • You really hit on a touchy subject for me. Our society, starting in school, begins to be taught that success is getting everything right… Is it any wonder that most of the “A” students end up in mediocrity? It’s the hands on mistakes that teach us the most.

    I like to refer people back to riding a bike. There was failure before there was success, and pain to boot! It’s the same in life, you want it, you gotta keep getting back on the bike. The ones to scared to fail never truly succeed.

    • Isn’t that the amazing thing Floyd? We’ve become a society that fears and loathes making any sort of mistake. The cushy and warm feelings are what we’re “supposed” to feel. Not the pain of a skinned knee or bruised ego.

      We need to re-teach ourselves, and begin raising children, with this type of mindset. Let them know it’s okay to fail and move on.

      • Well said Joe! “The cushy and warm feelings,” that society thinks we’re entitled to is what makes a weak and sheep minded society. I agree we do need to re-teach our children. The best things in life are the things we struggled, bled, sweat, and cried over to get.

  • Dan, thank you for your insight. This is a great topic. The key is moving past the mistake and learning from it, otherwise it will only happen again!
    One of my favorite quotes on this subject is “Those of us who never make mistakes wind up working for those of us that do.” I forget where I heard that one, but it’s gold!

    • Scott,

      What a great quote. It’s so dangerous to fear making mistakes that we don’t risk or strive to accoplish our dreams. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Sometimes I think failure really isn’t failure, I think it’s more or less stumbling blocks in our learning experiences. Failure results in how we react when things inevitably fall through.

    When I have “failed” in my own life, I chose to apply the principle of “Don’t give up.”

    When we make the choice not to give up, we no longer allow our perceived failure to prevent future growth.

    • Julie,

      “Making the choice to not give up” is so important. You have a great mindset.

      I think many people try and avoid failing or making mistakes because they think it’s a bad thing. While in fact it can be a growth opportunity. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  • You’ve only lost if you allow failure to cause you to quit. We all experience temporary failures on the path toward our goals, don’t let them stop you.

    Great Post!

    • I’m with you Lee. It’s not really failure until you throw in the towels. And, even then, it’s not always a failure.

  • One of the favorite books is Maxwell’s Failing Forward. I say let failure be an opportunity to show you which direction to go.

    • Larry,

      That’s a great book. I read it about 4 years ago and I should read it again.

      Great point about letting ‘Failure show you the direction to go in.” Thanks for sharing.

  • I think learning from the failure is such a crucial point. I’ve failed more times than I can count in so many different ways – and as long we learn, we keep moving forward.

    • Loren,

      If we want to be moving forward then failing is a part of the process. It’s a great personal growth process: keep failing and making mistakes, learning from it, and moving forward.

      Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Sometimes learning what doesn’t work helps quite a bit! Lincoln failed at a lot before he was pres, he lost a bunch of elections too!

    • Tyler,

      Great point. It shows we might see a lot of failures before seeing any sign of success. Lincoln is a great example of this. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Dan, after failure I would probably break down where I went wrong. What was the trigger that caused the failure and try not to do that again. I love this story of Abraham Lincoln because I don’t think many people know how many times he failed. Most people only know him as President of the United States. And you know what that goes to show you? It really never matters how many times you fail, just how many times you get back up. Thank you for this post.

    • Lincoln Parks,

      Great additional thoughts. It would help to “break down what happened” and “find the triggers that caused the failure.”

      It shows that we will mostly be remembered for our successes and not our failures. Often though getting to success requires failing and making a whole lot of mistakes.

      Thank you for sharing and adding to the conversation.

  • Excellent post. It was a great reminder. I learned the principles you listed several years ago. I made a terrible business decision that cost me a lot of heartache and money. I tried to make it work, but it was not until I acknowledged I had failed that I was able to move forward. I am not going to lie it was hard to maintain a positive attitude during that stretch. Eventually I was able to perceive my situation differently. I have had the opportunity to share that experience with hundreds of people and help them to not make the same mistakes. I have had other failures, but I have learned to deal with them and move on because life doesn’t stop.

    • Bernard,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with a failure. It’s great to hear you made it through it and now are sharing it to others.

      Powerful things start happening when we share personal failures with others. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • I’d add #1 – Expect Failure.

    Each time I do something for the first time, I end up figuring out at least a few things I’ll do different the next time. This means that every time I do something for the first time, there is some sort of failure attached to. I’ve learned to accept, and even embrace, this reality. By doing so, the other 5 items you listed are experienced more significantly!

    • Kent,

      I totally agree with you, it’s essential to “Expect Failure” to happen.

      Thank you for sharing some insightful insights. I appreciate it.

  • Yes, failing forward is a huge key to becoming successful. Those failure lessons burn a little deeper in our minds, and correct our course for the next project.

    Of course we must learn from the failure for it to be effective.

    The only people without failures are those who never started.

    • Cole,

      Such a true statement, “only people without failures are those who never stated.” When I see successful people who have achieved a lot I also see someone who has failed. Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

  • Dan, one principle about failure that I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that failure doesn’t define you. So many people cannot see it as only a failure but a certification that they themselves are a failure. If we view ourselves as a failure, we cannot learn or move past failures.

    God did not create failures. We were created from conception to do good works. As we realize this is who we are, we can then see mistakes as training ground. People who know who they are can take calculated risks. Risks by nature may fail, but they also allow us to reach new heights.

    As the Olympics are about to start in a couple months, let us be reminded of how many falls, defeats, and injuries have happened along the way for each athlete that made it there. These are the best athletes in the world. They didn’t let failure define them, but believed they had what it takes to be the best.

    • Kevin,

      Great point. A failure defiantly does not define us, only if we chose not to let us. I think it helps to remember your statement, “God did not create failures,” when going through a failure or mistake. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation.