The Difference Between Failing and Being a Failure

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“I feel like such a failure!”  I have heard these words uttered far too often from people who are giving their all to something.  Salespeople, managers, parents, spouses, and pretty much anyone who has ever tried anything has failed at one time or another.  However, being a failure is completely different than failing.  Failing is a natural step on the journey to success.  Being a failure is a mindset, and an acceptance or belief that your efforts will only end in failure.  People do not dispute the value of learning from mistakes, yet few professionals are good at it.  Here are 5 ways you can learn after failing and overcome a perpetual failure mindset:

Identify the reason you failed

Consistently take time to reflect on your actions and results.  Examine the reasons you fail, and ask others for their input.  For example, if you consistently get a “no” from your prospects, ask one of them what you could do better to earn their business.  They might surprise you with candid, helpful feedback that will help you grow.  Even as you achieve success, ask your customers what you can do better.  When searching for reasons you failed, examine your sales plan, what you did before your meeting, your execution, and your follow up.  Use this knowledge to anticipate future challenges and adjust your approach.

Try something new

Most people who start out in sales begin with repeated failures and few successes.  They take a while to find their stride, and begin to enjoy some success.  Fast forward a few years, and most people reach the point of diminishing returns.  No matter how much they increase their effort, they cannot surpass their production levels from previous years.  Some professionals feel stuck in a rut, and begin to unknowingly foster a failure mindset.

Take a look at what activities you do that lead to success, and find ways to increase those activities.  Identify the time wasters in your schedule, and delegate them to someone else or eliminate them altogether.   If your current strategy is not getting the desired results, learn new ways to refine your approach.  For example, attend seminars or workshops to grow your skills.  Learn more about your prospects, or try to sell to a new market segment.  Build a strategic network and cultivate meaningful relationships inside and outside of your organization.  Become a student of successful people, and pay close attention to their habits.


Build resilience

Becoming a failure happens when you allow discouragement to settle in your thoughts and believe that you will never succeed.  Come to the realization that you will fail on your way to success.  Let me rephrase that:  realize that you will fail repeatedly on the way to success.  Develop thick skin, and understand that every “no” presents an opportunity to grow and brings you one step closer to a “yes.”

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Embrace risk

Do not become so afraid of failure that you avoid risks altogether.  Avoiding risk ultimately leads to a life of failure anyway!  No great success has been achieved without some level of risk.  Understand that as you embrace risk, you must also embrace failure.  Failing is only a natural part of growth.

Focus on what you can control instead of placing blame

Unfortunately, failing and blame go hand in hand for most people.  As soon as an organization or project fails, people want to know where to assign the blame.  Identifying the cause of a problem to learn from it is different than placing blame.  Finding a scapegoat does not help anyone learn from mistakes, and creates a culture of blame since everyone becomes afraid to fail.  Admitting your mistakes is a crucial part of building a strong team.  When you fail, search for things you can control and take responsibility for them.  Your teammates will feel more comfortable taking responsibility for their mistakes, and you can all grow together.

Failing is a step on the path to success; failure is a crippling mindset. Click To Tweet

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