It’s guest post Monday. This post is written by Alex Barker who writes at The Leadership Dojo.
Failure ruins my life. My poor decisions ruin my happiness, joy, success and health.
I used to believe that. I avoided failure with a passion. The world went into slow motion when I failed.
But, failure is impossible to avoid. A staple leadership lesson is to “Fail forward” as John Maxwell brilliantly states. In other words, take your mistakes and learn from them.
Failure is only an awful idea if you let it.
Here is a simple 3 step guide to walk thru when you fail.
1) Remove yourself from the situation
Failure can ruin the day if you’re like me.
I was late on a major project for my job. I completely forgot about it. I remembered on the day that it was due. I frantically emailed my supervisor about the situation. I luckily turned out the sloppy project.
That night I couldn’t fall asleep. Anxiety overtook me. I was awake until 5 AM.
Failure defeats people by allowing them to stew in the pot of failure. I wallow too long in the pit of despair. And the pit only has a few ways out.
Here are ways to remove yourself from the pit of failure:
– Speak with an encouraging friend or family member
– Read a book (Isaiah 41)
– Listen to music ( I recommend something that gives you goosepimples or makes you dance. I dance to Idea of Happiness – Sebastian Remix by Van She)
– Intense prayer
– Go out to eat
– Take a long walk
– Listen to an encouraging podcast
– Write 10 things you are thankful for
– Buy a gift for someone
I was recently asked in a podcast interview, “What’s worse? Failure or never trying?”
I answered failure is worse because failure is the end of the world if your mindset isn’t accustomed to dealing with failure. But, never trying can lead to a lifetime regrets in the long run.
2) Ask yourself “What does this failure make possible?”
I broke my word to a new job a few months ago.
In short, I told a company that I would work for them, but I backed out near the last minute. I blogged about all the emotions and lessons I learned here.
Doubt plagued my mind. I felt like the ultimate failure. I was scared by what other colleagues would think of me. I thought my career of pharmacy was over in Michigan.
After my wife slapped me out of that short-term depression, I asked myself, “What does this make possible?”
Saying no to this job made the following possible:
1 – Potential to make more money
2 – Better hours with a new job (the job I said no to would likely be 50+ hours/week)
3 – Opportunity to look for a new job
4 – I didn’t have to work in Detroit
5 – My wife and I could think about having another child sooner
Ask yourself, “What does this failure make possible?” This is an excellent way to paint a failure as a success. In a positive light.
FYI – After this “failure”, I found a job that 1) paid almost 3x the original job, 2) had better hours (45-50), 3) close to my hometown, 4) allowed my wife and I to consider growing our family sooner
3) Do the next right thing
I had an amazing pastor and mentor in college. He was excellent at boiling down complex concepts to a simple phrase.
Years ago he spoke on the journey of Joseph and Mary’s parenthood. Joseph faced inconceivable challenges and culturally-defined failures.
When I say culturally-defined failures, I mean our cultural now, and back then, does not believe that a child birthed out of wedlock is successful. I have a tendency to look down at teen pregnancies. I hate admitting that.
Think about the culturally-defined failures Joseph had to live through
Pregnant fiancé, and the baby isn’t his
Fiancé is pregnant with God in flesh (what?)
An angel shows up and tells him what to do (who gets that treatment? I don’t!)
Has to give birth to God in a barn (stinky)
Move to Egypt, an enemy country, and doesn’t have any job lined up (not a great plan by human standards)
These decisions, by cultural standards from ancient times to now, are viewed as failures.
I wonder if Joseph thought, “What did I do to deserve this?”
He may have thought that, but his decisions displayed a belief that his “failures” did not define his future.
A lesson from Joseph’s story is he did the next right thing. He didn’t disobey God’s commands to him. He didn’t worry about the consequences.
When I am faced with a failure, I think about what is the next right thing for me to do. It’s so easy to think about the consequences of mistakes. That’s falling back into the pit of despair. Remove yourself from the pit by taking the next step.
Joseph took the next right steps. Those steps defined our world’s future thru Jesus.
For everyone else who isn’t the step-father of God, learn from Joseph’s example and take the next step.
Question: What is the next right thing for you?