Is It Really A Failure? Tell Your Story Backwards

     Mistakes? How do you perceive them? Do you avoid them or learn from them? How you react to life circumstances that seem like mistakes? Your responses to these questions tell a lot about your approach towards success. I have not come across a successful person yet who did not have their fair share of mistakes and yes, failure. In fact the most successful people in general have the most failures. Why is this? Because taking risks reaps the greatest reward, this reward might not be solely monetarily. What you learn from and how you respond to failure often leads to the next, bigger, better, success. Afraid to fail? Avoid it all costs? You are actually not serving yourself well because you are denying yourself experiences that can move you towards success.

      As I mentioned in the past I am a recovering perfectionist and avoided failure or anything that looked like failure at all costs. What I learned was that the fear of failure was actually holding me back from moving forward in my life and career. I was at a standstill for many years. If you follow the fear, it becomes a pattern. But patterns, like habits, can be changed.

     So how did I change the pattern? I learned to tell my story backwards. It sounds strange, but has unbelievable results.  I started looking at situations in my life I was pleased with. Then I traced those situations as far back as possible and recalled all the steps that it took to get to the ideal situation. When I looked back, I saw there were many obstacles and “perceived” problems along the way, which looked like mistakes and failure. But out of these “failures” came new paths and solutions that led to my ultimate goal. Cheryl Richardson, renowned Life Coach, said it best “I see every obstacle as a steppingstone that leads me to an even better outcome”. When you learn to take lessons from all of your life’s experiences you can create your own outcome. Waving the white flag and surrending to the defeat will just leave you stuck which leads to frustration or worst yet, sitting on the sidelines just waiting for life to get better.

     So I already hear the cynics, of which I once was, looking for the proof. A few years ago I picked up the book “Rich Woman”, written by Kim Kiyosaki, business partner and wife of Guy Kiyosaki, famous for the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book. Kiyosaki very honestly describes the difficulties she and her husband faced when building their businesses. Mistakes were made, things failed, and at one point they were totally broke. Instead of giving in and going against what they wanted to accomplish, they pressed on and turned their misfortunes into a huge, profitable company. Too many times people respond to their present experiences from fears stemming from past experiences. They use the fear as an excuse because pushing past it requires a lot more work. If you learn to use fear as an asset, you grow in your professional and personal life, because when you do push past it the outcome feels like pure freedom. 

     Cathie Black, Hearst Magazines CEO, wrote a book called “Basic Black”. In it she discussed pushing past failure and changing what we make it mean. She discusses the importance of taking risks and how it benefited her throughout her career. At one point she left a good position at an east coast magazine to move to California to work on a start up magazine. The start up didn’t produce enough interest and was shut down in only six months. Instead of running back to New York and grasping for any job that was available, Black took a few months off to ski and think about her options. When she was ready she jumped right back into the publishing world and continued her move up the career ladder. She took a risk, learned from it, and moved on. We have the choice of how much power we hand over to our perceived failures.

      It is important to note that none of these individuals came from privilege or wealth. They had ordinary childhoods and parents who worked for a living. What allowed them to succeed is their ability to face fear and failure head on and make it an opportunity, not a deterrent to success. So how is failure playing out in your story?

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