On Failure (& why you’re amazing, worthy & capable right now)

Image Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking about failure and success lately.

Failure can feel so uncomfortable and disheartening.

Yet, we constantly hear from incredibly successful people that failure is an important step on the road to success – in business and in life.

Failure usually feels scary and intimidating.

It can cause even the greatest of leaders to second-guess themselves.

It can create doubt.

It can leave you feeling stuck.

Fear of failure can stop you in your tracks, which is why we’ve got to learn to carry that fear with us and have the courage to turn up anyway.

As Susan David says in her book Emotional Agility “Courage is fear walking”.

One truth I’ve learnt that I find helpful when fear of failure is stopping me, is to remember that.

You are not your results

I can’t recall when I first heard this, but I do remember it took me a while to get my head around. Once I did – it was incredibly freeing.

You see, you are not the results you produce.

Some days you might ‘win’ and other days you’ll fall short. And that’s ok.

Regardless of your result today – whether you win or lose, whether you pass or fail, whether they say “yes” or “not yet”, whether the deal goes through or not, whether you meet the bar or not – you are still you.

You are amazing just the way you are.

You are still worthy and valuable and important, regardless of what you do or do not do.

Your results don’t define you.

If you allow your results to define you – you’re in for a roller coaster ride! I have been there (and can still slip back there when I don’t pay attention to this).

Imposter syndrome gets me just like it gets to most people at times, when I worry that I’m not good enough, especially when launching something new. While it’s exciting and on one hand I can see its potential, there are always doubts lurking in the background.

Olympic Reflections

It was so interesting watching highlights from the Olympics and hearing about people like American Gymnast Simone Biles who made the difficult decision to withdraw from events (and who copped a lot of negative feedback as a result.) Yet she did what was right for her and went on to have the courage to step up and compete again and ended up winning a bronze medal on the balance beam. She said that bronze meant so much to her after all of challenges she’d faced.

I also loved hearing New Zealander, Dame Valerie Adams share how her bronze medal this year meant more to her than her previous golds, seeing as she’s had two children since the last Olympics and has had to overcome different challenges as a mother and athlete. She said she was so proud bringing the bronze home to both to Aotearoa and to her kids.

Bumps along the way

One of the challenges in life is that nothing is guaranteed and we don’t win all the time. 

Things don’t always work out as we hope or expect.

The more that you correlate your self-image and self-worth with the results you achieve, the more you set yourself up for true failure.

The sort of failure that can stop you from getting back in the arena.

So, today I want to remind you that you are amazing. You are talented, unique and capable, regardless of whatever you do or don’t achieve.

With that in mind, hold onto your fear and get walking. Have courage to try new things, share new ideas, test things out.

Set big, hairy, audacious goals and go after them. Just remember that it’s unlikely to be plain sailing. There are often hiccups and learning bumps along the way.

Things may not always work out, but when they don’t that’s when incredible learning comes.

When you can maintain an optimistic outlook rather than believing a single failure is pervasive (meaning you’ll fail at everything), personal (all your fault), and permanent (you’ll never ever succeed) you will be able to bounce back.

Stand back up again

As the Japanese proverb says “Nana korobi, ya oki”  “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

Personally I was reflecting on this recently when I had to deliver a live presentation online to a blank screen of secret judges. (Sounds a bit clandestine doesn’t it) but it was all legitimate – I’ve been working towards attaining my Accredited Speaker designation, the highest speaking recognition awarded by Toastmasters International.

As part of the process I had to submit a huge amount of information, speaking engagement lists, specialty areas, video recordings of past talks and have my clients submit direct testimonials. Having made it to stage two, the final part of the process was to present live – normally to an audience of thousands at the International Convention, but this year online to my webcam.

I gave it my best shot and now await the results, which will be announced in a few weeks once the live recording of the session is aired publically. To be honest, I really don’t know whether I met the bar or not.

There are only 88 people in the world to hold this accreditation. Last year only one person was added to that list.

When I did my live presentation there were two other speakers alongside me doing the same thing and they were both amazing, (and I wish them all the best and hope we all go through this year).

It was only afterwards that I found out they’d applied the year before and not quite met the requirements with their presentations.

Seeing as what I saw them deliver was of such high calibre, it made me question whether I would be at a high enough level this year myself.

As I reflected on it, I came to the conclusion that there will be one of two great outcomes

  • either I will receive the designation this year, which will be a gift that I’ll be thrilled to celebrate,
  • or if I don’t pass, I’ll receive feedback about what to work on for next year and THAT will be a gift.

It will be a huge gift in fact, as it will certainly give me more learnings and opportunities to grow.

So while I’d love to succeed this time around (what athlete wouldn’t want to win gold right!?) I’m feeling more prepared that if the answer is “come back next time Lauren” – it’ll be ok. There will be huge positives to gain from working on developing my skills even further, going through the process again and ultimately I’m sure it’ll make me a better speaker.

So for now I’m waiting patiently and remembering that “I am not my results.”

You are not your results

To the athlete that didn’t attain the goal you set for this year – you are not your results.

To the entrepreneur whose business hasn’t taken off the way you’d thought – you are not your results.

To the parent watching your child make a poor decision – you are not your results.

To the leader who can’t seem to motivate your team – you are not your results.

To the person with a goal that hasn’t yet been reached – you are not your results.

Achieving a goal doesn’t make you more amazing, worthy or capable.  You already are all of those things.

When you remind yourself of this, it can fuel the courage to step up, stand out and persevere when challenges come and ultimately will help you achieve better results.

Remember courage is fear walking.

I take my hat off to Simone, to Valerie and to everyone that’s ever tried to succeed at something and had failures along the way.

Let’s stick together, ditch the comparison game, and cheer each other on as we run our own races.

Wishing you all the best with that.

Lauren Parsons is a wellbeing specialist who can help equip and inspire you and your organisation to thrive!

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