The Key to Success Is Knowing That Failing Doesn't Make You a Failure

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There is no shortage of wisdom on how to develop a success mindset. I’ve read volumes and written a bit of it myself.

But the path to success isn’t all rah-rah-lets-pop-a-cork moments. You’re going to have your share of I-stubbed-my-toe-and-fell-off-the-precipice moments too. Your mindset about those moments will do as much, or more, to determine your progress as your mindset about the celebrations ever could.

Failure is an option, it just isn’t the end of the world.

No matter how many times you chant “Failure is not an option,” your rational mind is going to whisper, “Wanna bet?” Because stuff happens, and any entrepreneur who thinks she controls all the contingencies is delusional.

It’s our mindset about the stuff that happens that makes all the difference. Going into a venture trying convince yourself that failure isn’t an acceptable option can not only hamper your creativity in planning for contingencies, it also makes it much harder to bounce back from failure if (when) it happens.

Change that mantra to “I will not allow myself to be a failure.” Now you are setting your intention on an outcome you can control, because you are the only judge that matters here. Projects fail, businesses fail, people fail to do the things they promised or wanted to do. But no one is a failure until they choose to be.

Related: Failure Is the Seed of Growth and Success

Nothing was wasted if you learned something from it.

Have you ever heard someone mourning over “all that time and money down the drain?” Calculating our losses seems to be our default setting anytime an investment doesn’t get the return we expected.

Not to deny the losses, but every balance sheet has two columns. Change that lament into a challenge to tally all the knowledge, experience, connections, and insights you’ve gained and get creative about how you can parley those assets into an investment toward whatever is next for you. Every failure comes with lessons and opportunities, it’s up to you to identify them.

You change the answers by changing the questions.

Facing failure most people ask questions like, “What do I have to do now?” or “How will I survive this?”

Change your questions to, “What do I most want to do now?” and “What can I do to make that possible?” Then do not accept any answers that you don’t like.

The first set of questions cannot possibly produce answers you like. The second set can, but only if you’re willing to stick to the puzzle until it’s solved. It’s easy to say, “I just want to crawl under my bed and not come out for a week.” But that probably isn’t an answer that makes you happy. You could say, “There is nothing I can do to make that possible.” But you won’t like that answer either. Insist on wrestling with the question until there is one thing, no matter who small, that you want to do and until there is one thing, no matter how small, that will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Then do that.

Related: Failure Is Not an Option. It's Required.

You never start over with nothing so long as you have yourself.

I’ve started over many times in my life. Every successful entrepreneur has. The one investment that will never let you down is an investment in yourself. Because that is an investment no one can take away from you.

Even if skills you’ve learned become obsolete, the experience of having learned them prepares you to learn new skills. Even if the contact you had at your prospect’s firm retires and moves to Timbuktu, having well-developed relationship building abilities will serve you well. No matter what investment you make in yourself, it will be a resource for every other investment you make during your lifetime. There is one condition – that resource is only fully available to you when you recognize it. If you don’t see how to apply your skills, gifts, talents, or list of contacts it isn’t likely that anyone else will be able to help you.

If you decide to never be a failure you are bound to be a success. But if you believe that failure is the end of the world I hope you are prepared for the world to end.

Related: Afraid of Failure? Think Like a Scientist and Get Over It.