We already know that failure is really the first step to building new neural pathways in our brain. But that doesn’t always make the taste of defeat easy to swallow. So much of life is what we decide to do with it. When you come up against failure, you have the opportunity to give up in resignation, to give up looking for inspiration, or to fix what you did wrong and push onward towards success. The latter two are what we’re going to focus on today, because the first one is the easiest, but most destructive choice to make.
We meet failure in all areas of our lives if we are truly living. Love. Friendships. Work. Money. But how we greet failure is so instrumental in deciding how and if we enjoy life. Don’t deny yourself the initial emotions that come when hit a brick wall or you feel like you’re shattering to pieces. They’re real and they’re important. But after you’ve allowed yourself to feel them, pick yourself up and move on productively, because your failure can actually open the door to opportunity.
Failure Opportunity in Business
You have what you think is a great product. You think you’re providing a great service. But when push comes to shove, sales just haven’t been high enough to justify continuing down the same path.
That feeling sucks. You’ve poured a lot of your life, time, and possibly financial resources into your business. But the next step you take can help you make that leap from failure to success. After you’ve felt that sucky feeling, sit down and really evaluate why you failed. If no one wanted your product, do more intense market research before launching your next big idea. Look at feedback from your customers or potential customers. Look at what they didn’t like, but more importantly read between the lines to see what they were actually looking for. Maybe your business just needs tweaked to meet their needs. Or maybe you have to start from scratch to create an entirely new product that does, in fact, solve their problems. Interact, evaluate, and move on. Your failure may just inspire another project that changes the course of your life.
Failure Opportunity in the Stock Market
Guess what? Sometimes the stock market fails, falling on a short term basis. That short term can seem very long to those who have their future income tied up in it, but it does not last. Allow yourself to bemoan how much you’re losing in your 401k, but then look at all the opportunity that surrounds you. All the stocks are on sale! If you are able to buy when things are cheap, long-term you’re likely to see some serious gains. (Note that timing the market is darn near impossible. But when we go through major recessions like the one in 2008, there is plenty of opportunity out there for investors, and the price tag is marked down.)
Failure Opportunity in Career
When you work hard towards a career, you’ve likely invested years upon years in perfecting your craft. Sometimes the answer is to just work harder and get better. But sometimes, the wrong person chooses to get into the wrong thing. If you’re one of these people, you might hit a point where turning around is a good idea. I’m not saying to quit and give up on your dreams. However, if you hit a point where you clearly realize this is not the right thing for you, it might be a blessing in disguise.
For example, I started out in a major completely different than what my career path ended up being. It was projected to be very high paying, but in all honesty I wasn’t 100% loving my classes when financial aid (or lack there of) forced me to cut my studies short. I was a college drop out and felt completely defeated. I looked at more affordable schooling options, and discovered a major not offered by bigger, more expensive universities in my area. That career path ended up being not only the one I pursued, but the one that allows me to wake up everyday genuinely looking forward to going to work.
Maybe you’ve already graduated college, been working in your field, and just got plain laid off. This could be your opportunity to work for a better company. This could be your opportunity to hit the reset button and start in a new field. It’s tragic that it happened, but it could end up being the greatest thing that ever happened if you look at it as an opportunity to get what you want out of your next job rather than the death of your career.
Failure Opportunity in Personal Finance
Hit rock bottom with your finances? Not all is lost. It’s hard to get out of debt. It’s hard to balance a too-small budget. It’s hard to reconcile the cold, hard numbers that we, for some reason, allow to dictate our perception of our value to society. But going through the process does something amazing. It forces us to look at what we truly value in life. It forces us to be disciplined, committed, and innovative. It gives us real life skills that translate into other areas of our life. We can use our newly learned discipline in our careers. We can become more committed in our relationships, romantic or platonic. We can become innovative in our art, businesses, or approaches toward other problems we encounter of a less fiscal nature. After we realize what’s really important to us, we can more consciously make decisions on how we allocate our money and time. We can make decisions on how we want to live our lives as opposed to unconsciously living the life that someone else is trying to sell us.
Failure can’t defeat us. Failure can’t set us on a new, exhilarating course. Failure can’t propel us towards success. Because failure is really powerless. We are the ones in the driver’s seat. And we get to decide how we will use the tool that is failure in our own lives.