A friend of mine wrote a screaming email to me the other day. Lots of caps. You know the type.
WHERE IS THAT THING YOU WROTE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH FAILURE AND SETBACK? I’m having a terrible day, everything I touch goes wrong and I CAN’T FIND THAT ADVICE!
I had to laugh. We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes right and it spoils our mood and puts us in a temper that guarantees even more things go wrong.
She wanted the ‘thing’ I’m about to share with you now. Keep it bookmarked—it might come in handy one day.
I don’t like failing
It makes me feel bad. So I will do everything I can to avoid it. If you think about it, we grow up with the message to get it right, make good grades no matter what, and that failure is definitely NOT a good thing. If you fail too much then watch out, YOU are a failure, a loser. Hang up your spurs kid, you got an F. Don’t do that again.
Maybe instead we should be encouraged to make mistakes, to take risks, fail and learn from it? Wouldn’t this help us all to be more creative? After all, every successful person will tell tales of failure on his or her way to the top, to success, creativity and fulfillment.
I recently came across an interesting take on this subject in a book by Tim Ferriss, called Tools of Titans. Tim is a kind of alternative success guru and he likes to unpack how successful people operate.
In the book Jocko Willink, Retired Navy Seal Commander, was asked how he dealt with failure. His reply—“How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeat, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with all those situations, and that is: “good.”
One word. Easy to remember, unless like my friend, you’re in meltdown.
So, in other words
—Didn’t get that job? Good. Opportunity to look for a better one.
—Got injured? Good. You needed a break.
—Unexpected problems? Good. You have the opportunity to figure out a solution and learn something awesome.
His staff ruefully relay that indeed he does give this response to every situation. And they learned that they may as well say it to themselves first before they go to him with any complaints.
And it worked brilliantly. What Willink was doing was training himself and his staff to approach every situation as a learning experience: to reframe mistakes or failures into a step on the ladder to getting it right. They were a championship team.
Now I know you may be thinking you’d like to deck him one for being so annoying, but he was a Navy Seal, so um, no.
It’s as if Willink is saying—‘It may not be great, or what we would choose, but it’s OK, good. It’s what we’ve got. We’ll make this work.’
Use this in day-to-day living
This works for everyday setbacks, irritants, or failures. Not for big disasters or tragedies. Things like:
- You’ve tried something new: it didn’t work. Good. You got feedback. Try something different.
- Your electricity just went out. Good. Take a break and do something different.
- Your computer broke right when you were in an online business transaction? Good. Maybe it was a bad transaction. Good. Next time you’ll have some backup handy.
- You got food poisoning from eating street food? Well, if you’re not dead, good. Go to bed, enjoy your rest and you might lose some weight.
- Caught in a traffic jam? Good. A chance to listen to your music.
NB: Obviously it’s not recommended to use it in tragic situations, serious accidents, or death of someone or a pet. Those situations can take longer, sometimes years to see the good side, the silver lining.
A simple change in perspective can work wonders
I’ve started using this and am amazed how well it works to clear the decks and keep my balance when something goes haywire.
It shuts off my negative thinking, the story I’m building about what a bad day it is, and how I’m jinxed on technology, etc.
It’s more just observing what’s going down in a stoical way without judgment and then moving on to see how you can make the best of it.
This simple reframe takes you out of the victim mode. It implies taking action, putting things right, learning from mistakes. This didn’t work? Good. Do something different next time. Suck it up Lollipop and get on with it.
If whatever happens is ‘good’ then what have you got to lose? You’re learning all the time. You’re improving all the time.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, take some chances, make lots of mistakes and reframe whatever happens as OK. You’ll be amazed how much progress you make in life and work.
It’s these little changes that can make the big differences in how we run our lives.
There is no failure, only feedback, as they say.