Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” This quote perfectly encapsulates the idea of failing forward, which is a concept championed by John Maxwell in his book Failing Forward. This concept recognizes that all progress is through failure, learning, and adjusting. Failing forward means that a person embraces failing as stepping stones to future success. To fail forward means that you have chosen to value every failure for the lessons learned and then apply those lessons in future efforts, even if those efforts might also result in failure. When you are failing forward, each failure moves you closer to ultimate success. But how do you apply this idea to your life? Here are a few ideas.
Have no regrets. When we fail, it’s easy to look back and wish we had done things differently. But dwelling on our mistakes and missed opportunities will only hold us back. Our time on the planet averages 30,000 days. This is an alarmingly small number when you are determined to make every second count. It’s surprising how something as simple as focusing on time or lack of it can reignite your commitment to achieving your goals, big or small.
Don’t be a victim. When you try something and it doesn’t work, it can be easy to wring your hands and adopt a “woe-is-me” attitude, but that won’t help you move forward. Blaming others or your circumstances for failures takes away your power to control your own destiny. Instead, you need to correct your strategy. Examine where your efforts went wrong and get systems in place to prevent those errors from occuring again.
Define Yourself By Your Successes. If you are doing hard things, you will fail. You’ll fail often. You will sometimes fail spectacularly. Do not let those failures become how you define yourself. When you are talking about yourself, always start with and focus on your successes.
Learn From Failure. Make a list of the reasons why you failed. When it comes to achieving success, everyone has aspirations and goals they wish to see realized. So, if you fail, you must revisit those causes and adjust. Having a strong “Why” – a vivid dream or a defined destination – will carry you through inevitable failures to continue forward. Take a look at them and tell yourself, “ I still want this dream to come true!” Then, keep going. Failure will be compared to an atomic bomb, destroying your goals and dreams in its aftermath if you don’t have a compelling motive to achieve. Nothing, however, will be able to stop you if you have a compelling reason.
Embracing the idea of failing forward does not mean that you are striving to fail. It doesn’t even mean that you enjoy failing. It simply means that you understand that failure is part of the journey to success and that you won’t let the fear of failing stop you from taking right-sized risks. Likewise, it means that you will not allow the pain and embarrassment of actually failing to be the end of your journey to success. As John Maxwell said, “When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a lifelong epidemic.” Everyone fails and the only reason that some people fail less is that they do less.