Do you know which All-Star basketball player didn’t make the Varsity team his sophomore year in high school?
That would be Michael Jordan. He turned that “loss” of not making the team, into his driving fuel… his spark. He decided that this moment was going to define him, that he could either quit the game altogether or step his game up 1000% and become one of the hardest working athletes of his generation. And now, he’s a legend.
Thomas Edison famously “failed” 10,000 times before he and his team of inventors created the light bulb that worked. He welcomed failure with joy. It meant that he was one step closer to success, with more knowledge and know-how on what does and doesn’t work.
Both Jordan and Edison, and any other world-class achiever for that matter, recognized and applied the power of what sports psychologists call Deliberate Practice.
They figured out the necessary skills to be successful at their craft, took action in acquiring those skills, got honest feedback, and then set the bar higher.
They were always in practice and constantly challenging themselves to get better; expecting “failure” as an inevitable result of raising the bar and stepping into uncharted territory.
They repeated this cycle of Deliberate Practice over and over again, using “failure” as their fuel to stretch themselves and reach higher knowing that challenges meant exponential growth and skill acquisition.
Unfortunately, our society celebrates the “wins” and rarely mentions the hard work, setbacks, and seeming “failures” that these men and women of greatness had to endure.
This leads to a society that believes in “overnight success” and avoiding failure at all costs. We’re so afraid of the idea of failing, that we quit when we are just getting started, or sometimes never even start at all.
But knowing that these “greats” failed, and rose to success with hard work, sweat, and tireless determination means we can too. We can invest the time and energy and really give something our all, or we can simply quit when the going gets tough (and it ALWAYS does). But then, we may just miss out on our own “Air Jordan” moment in life.
Here are my 7 tips to transform your “failures” into fuel:
1. Expect it.
Failures are a part of life. They are an essential element to moving forward and going after what you want. If you’re not failing, it means you’re not in action or being bold enough! So, expect failures. Welcome them in. It means you’re growing, stretching and trying new things.
2. How are you responsible?
Take a gigantic step back from the situation, and honestly ask yourself what role you played in it. Were you not present enough? Did you not show up fully or give it your all? Were you playing the victim and waiting for others to do the work rather than taking initiative? The bottom line is, we’re all at fault SOMEHOW, and to move forward, we must be willing to call ourselves out.
3. Find the lesson.
Every “failure” is a lesson waiting to be discovered. If something went wrong, ask yourself what you learned from it. Find the breakthrough in the breakdown, and take away a golden nugget that will only make you better in the long run.
4. Add fuel to the flame.
Let that setback be your driving force to move closer to what will work in your life. Try a different way, put more into it. Let it recommit you to being your best, showing up fully and playing with all you’ve got.
5. Release and receive.
To create room for the things we want in life, we must be willing to release what hasn’t been working (a.k.a. our “failures”), so we have room to invite in what will work.
If there’s no room for all that goodness to be received, it will always be waiting for you, off in the distance, until your past failures are released.
6. Get honest feedback & apply.
Have someone on your side that you can count on for honest feedback. Find out what you could’ve done better, what needs a little sharpening, and what areas you may have missed. We all have blind spots, and we need someone else to shine a light on them. Once you know what to focus on, apply apply apply!
7. How can you better your best?
Never get too comfortable in your last success… that is failure. Always push for a new record, a new benchmark, and a new “top.” Pushing your comfort zone, stretching and challenging yourself is key to fuelling the flame. It gives you something to work towards, which will ignite your passion and drive.
So next time you find that you’re beating yourself up for “not being perfect,” know that you’re at a signpost on the road to success. Reframe your thoughts on failure and watch how it starts to shift your results.
Let’s transition our “failures” into fuel, and allow them to be the teachers they are so that we can move forward better, stronger, and faster. Failure isn’t game over… it’s GAME ON.