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You Have to Fail If You Want to Succeed

Setbacks can't define who you are unless you let them, and here's how to make sure that doesn't happen.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Years ago, when I started my first business, I quickly realized that to become successful, I had to get out of my comfort zone…had to be innovative and creative and do things differently than everyone else. Put simply, I had to step out and take risks, and that meant that I'd be making mistakes, sometimes big, fat, hairy and expensive ones! This became doubly true when I started my coaching business; I can't tell you the number of times I totally bombed and had to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again.

I'm not masochistic. I definitely didn't enjoy those failures, but I learned over time not to be afraid of them, either — to use them to my advantage and grow from them. Slowly, it became clear to me that handling failure in a healthy way is one of the keys to success as an entrepreneur.

Here are some associated insights I've acquired.

Failure is just something that happens: It's not you

Think of yourself as a little kid. When you first tried to walk and fell on your butt, you didn't immediately say, "Okay, obviously I am not the kind of person who can walk." You just pulled yourself up and kept trying until you figured the walking thing out. Unfortunately, as we get older, we end up taking failure personally, as if it's about who we are. It isn't: it's just what happens on the road to something bigger.

Related: Be Grateful Your Business Isn't an Overnight Success

Failure is not the enemy

People who are not comfortable with failure see it as a monster waiting around the corner to destroy them. In their minds, it's as if failure is stronger than they are. But it isn't out to get you: It's neutral, just a happening, and it isn't stronger. I don't think we're ever dealt a hand we aren't equipped to deal with, whether we know it or not. The only way an unfortunate event wins is if you don't tap resulting strength and try again.

Each failure can make you stronger and wiser

This commonly heard expression is perfectly true, but only applies if you accept your share of responsibility for defeats. If you blame them entirely on someone or something external, you won't derive good lessons. Think about the kid learning to walk again: If he blamed gravity or a droopy diaper for falls, he'd never get better at walking, but a child knows instinctively that it didn't work because of something he did or didn't do. At the very least, each fall taught him how not to do it. Just like that kid, whenever you fail, you get to begin again, but with more knowledge and resilience.

Related: 10 Lessons About Failure That Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Failure isn't a stop sign

This is so important; a failure, even a big one, is not a sign that you should give up. When what you're doing doesn't work, it just means a correction is needed — whether a huge detour or a small course change. I like the way that Tony Robbins talks about it — that there is no failure, only results. With that perspective, instead of getting dramatic about bombing, you can simply say, "Here's what we tried and here is the result we got. To get a different result, we need to try approaching it a different way. End of story."

Failing is better than regretting

I can't even imagine where I would be right now if I'd quit either of my businesses after a few failures, or even worse if I'd never tried at all and just stayed in my comfort zone. Personally, I think regret is one of the worst emotions. Yes, at times I was miserable when something I tried completely flopped, but I got over it. And even if I hadn't attained the success I have now, I'd still feel good about myself because I kept trying. Failing doesn't define who you are unless you let it.

Paraphrasing Mr. Spock, may you "Fail big and prosper!"

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

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