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Konstantinos Mavrodis
Konstantinos Mavrodis

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Failing and how to master it

Yet another self-improvement article.

Let’s get a couple of things straight at first. I’m not intending to say what is expected and embrace failure as a means of improvement. In fact, I strongly believe that failure sucks and should be avoided at all costs. It is what stands between you and your coveted goals, what keeps you awake at night and what you are trying to persuade yourself not to fear of.

The first thing you should have in mind while making an effort, whether it is a boring school project or the implementation of your crazy start-up idea, is how to succeed and succeeding means not failing. Success is what we are all looking for and gives meaning to our lives at the end of the day. Failure does not. While, success keeps the human machine running, failure breaks it and sends it to the garage. It sounds sad, but it’s true. No-one has ever fallen into depression because of succeeding. I can’t say the same about failures though.

How to always succeed? Here is some advice: A wise man once said, if you cannot find a solution to a problem, find another problem. This a common tactic to always stay on top and avoid the consequences of failure. Someone could argue that it’s a lazy tactic or even an act of cowardice, but it’s not. It’s called pivoting and pivoting is a good thing. It keeps crazy-big technology companies crazy-big and researchers sane and always with a job.

Here is some more advice: Let’s say you have a goal, a big goal, let’s say you want to set foot on Mars for the first time in history. It is a long shot and you know it. You are probably going to fail multiple times until you make it… or maybe not! You don’t get many chances, because failing means rocket explosions and people dying. So, what can you do? It’s simple really. You set smaller goals and by gaining minor victories one by one you reach your goal. If you reach a dead end, it’s okay, you can still find another way to the end or find another end, you just have to pivot!

But failure happens. No matter how careful and prepared you are, sooner or later failure is going to be waiting for you at your front door. The rising question is what happens next? How can you handle failure in the best possible way and get the most out of it? Unfortunately, I don’t have a perfect answer, in fact I don’t believe there is one. What I do have for you, instead, are a couple of ideas that can and should make you the winner at a losing game.

Failure is a dangerous situation and as such it should be dealt with composure and respect. Here is a thought: Failure is, also, a big opportunity. Let’s say you are in the process of implementing your big plan. You take one step at a time and as long as everything runs smoothly you are succeeding. However, you are not careful enough and something goes terribly wrong. All of a sudden, you are moving away from your goal, walking in a path that you hadn’t foreseen. Failure just got you out of your comfort zone, to a state you weren’t intending to be. Take advantage of the situation and rethink everything. Make a new plan and decide what are the advantages and the disadvantages that have been brought to the table. Study the disadvantages and take action to eliminate them. Once you’ve done that, you might end up with some useful benefits that were not expected at first and become once again a winner.

I started this article preaching about how important it is to avoid failure and I’m going to end it this way. However, at this point I want to redefine failure. I think it was made clear that any bad situation can be avoided or effectively treated, that’s why it’s not really a failure. Real failure doesn’t come when you make a mistake, or when you fall down. It happens when you give up and decide not to stand up again.

They say that Thomas Edison made 1.000 attempts to successfully build the light bulb and when asked how it felt failing for 1.000 times, he replied “I didn’t fail 1.000 times, the light bulb was an invention that took 1.000 steps.”. He was right he would have failed only if he had given up. This is what you should be trying to avoid folks and keep in mind that you will fail, only if YOU decide so.

After all, mastering failure might mean not failing at all, or at least never giving up…

Top comments (3)

ghayoub profile image
Ayoub Gharbi

Very nice article I agree with you and I think failure is always depends of how the person treated it. If you think about it like a step to be better , like a knock down that will make you stronger, then you can call it a comeback not a failure x)

Thank you again :)

kmavrodis profile image
Konstantinos Mavrodis

Yeap, exactly! Thanks for reading!

zimm profile image
John 'Zimm' Zimmermann

It is easy for most to dismiss failure as being vital to growing in one's field, as many strive for some level of personal perfection in the projects and tasks that they try. The thing is, that it also easy to forget that failure is quite easily the reason many succeed. That it is the drive and cause for people to make sure they reach completion.

Sometimes, it is the result of divergent paths caused by different failure points that allow someone to succeed. Others, it is as simple as the first wall that had not been taken into account. Either way, the attempt is there and can still drive the success of the largest project to even the most simplest of tasks for someone new and always willing to learn.

In a similar vein to your mention of Edison, Wayne Gretzky's "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." quote also fits quite well. One is unable to properly learn without any actual attempts, whether each leads to success, partially or complete failure. Or even perhaps a combination. It may end up being like @Ayoub stated a "knock down" and perhaps a one step forward, two steps back kind of ordeal, but it can always lead to a stronger or at least more informed understanding

Still personally working at bettering my own grasp on this, but is a great reminder for folks. Thanks for the article.