Business psychology

Failure or feedback? Why you can never fail

- June 9, 2008 2 MIN READ

Whilst on her way to a job interview, a friend of mine engaged in some negative self-talk. Thoughts like ‘I’m not qualified enough’ ‘the other candidates will be better’ and ‘I won’t get this job!’ burnt donuts in her mind.

Then she saw a quote on a car’s bumper sticker. It read: ‘What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’

That quote changed everything. From then on, she no longer entertained any unhelpful thoughts and after an exhaustive recruiting process, she got the job.

Considering that she was convinced she wouldn’t get the job, what changed when she read the bumper sticker?

The answer is simple: her perception of the word failure.

Failure is generally perceived as the unsuccessful end of an attempt, when in fact it is the occasionally painful beginning of new growth. If you start perceiving failure as new information to help you improve, then regardless of the outcome, every valiant attempt at a positive pursuit is a successful one.

If failure is seen as feedback, then how can you ever fail? Let’s look at this new perception in action: 

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  • I failed my exam = I have feedback that I need to study more.
  • I failed to make a sale = I have feedback that I need to improve my selling technique.
  • My marketing plan has failed = I have feedback that I may need the help of a marketing consultant.

When you’re no longer afraid of failing you are no longer afraid to live. You will embrace rich and rewarding opportunities armed with the knowledge that if it doesn’t work out as planned, you will grow from the success of trying. And you’ll do things differently next time round!

I know of a soloist motivational speaker who at one point had to sell his beloved car because he couldn’t pay the bills. While some people would have thought he was a failure, he didn’t see it that way. He took the opportunity to gain priceless feedback, learn from it and implement new actions. He learnt the hard way how to make his business work; he believed and he persisted and he’s now a very wealthy man, as measured in dollars and happiness.

So there you have it. You cannot change the dictionary meaning of failure, but you can change your perception of the word as it relates to your life. One perception promotes resilience, the other creates dejection. I know which one I’d rather choose.

Are you ready to choose feedback over failure? And if so, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What ‘feedback’ have you gained lately? Please feel free to share.