How to Win at Failing

Win dice

Everyone fails but not everyone wins at failing. Michael Jordan said, “I have failed over and over again. That is why I succeed.” To turn your failures into wins you need to adapt certain fundamentals including: take ownership, learning from what happened, and picking yourself up. Let’s discuss each of those areas.

1. Take ownership-

Whether the failure was small or large you need to accept and take ownership of what has happened. During a time of failure it can be easy for a leader to fall in the trap of blaming, ignoring, or denying what happened. If you blame you point the finger at someone or something else while ignoring or denying makes whatever happened worse. These traps will prevent you from successfully handling or fixing the problem or issue that lead to the initial failure. They only prevent you from not facing the reality of the situation.

It’s a leader’s responsibility, no matter how humbling it might be, to take ownership of the situation. This includes a personal failure or a failure within the team you lead. You need to honestly look in the mirror and admit your role or part in the situation that lead to the undesirable outcome. John Burroughs wisely said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” Win at failing by taking ownership of what has happened.

2. Learn from what has happened-

Valuable lessons can be found in times of failure. If you have an open mind and are willing to learn from your failures you will be on the road toward success. Anthony D’Angelo said, “In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time.” Some questions to consider and ask yourself when you fail include: What should or could I have done differently? What do I need to do to resolve the problem or issue? What needs to be done the next time this same or similar issue or problem happens. You should try to ask yourself these types of questions with an unbiased attitude.

Asking questions about the failure is only one way to learn from it. You should also consider talking with and getting counsel from team members or outside sources. Consider people you trust who will provide honest and truthful insights about the situation. If you ask them the rights questions and are open to what they say you will gain a different viewpoint or perspective about the failure. To win at failing make sure you learn from your failures by asking yourself and others good questions.

3. Pick yourself up-

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our greatest glory is not in ever failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Quickly picking yourself up and moving away from the failure and toward a better future will allow you to win at failing. You should have a system in place that consists of activities you do that lift you up during or after a failure. It could include taking more time to: spend with family, exercise, listen to motivational music or audio content, implement spiritual disciplines, enjoy a hobby, journal, ect. The key is to find what works for you so you are reenergized, motivated, and nourished. It can be easier and a little less painful to fail if you already have a system in place to recover from what happened.

How do you turn a failure into a win?

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  • Great points! When my boys mess up, I tell them to “Learn from it & move in.” Essential life lesson.

    • What a great statement! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • Reminds of John Maxwell’s book “Failing Forward”. We all have made mistakes in life it just depends on how we deal with them whether they hold us back or push us forward.

    • I love that book! I totally agree, thank you for sharing.

  • Great post, Dan. One of the things that’s helped me is to see failure itself as a victory because it means I’m trying. I went for so many years without trying because I was afraid of rejection and failure that trying in and of itself is a victory, whether I succeed or fail.

    • Great point! Trying is key not if we fail or not. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

  • Love it Dan. Perfect three steps to make a failure into a comeback. My failures have been the greatest thing in my life. It has catapulted me into a new place when I follow those three things;)

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Failure is not fun while going through it but the results can be good in the end if we have the right attitude about it.

  • Excellent Dan. Simple, intuitive, forward approach! Love the premises!

    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s something we need to always remember.