“Learning to Fail”: How An Odd Paradox Can Help You Succeed

Failure is a hard concept to swallow.

Back in early high school, I used to be a high 90s student. I was at the top of the class, was close friends with my teachers, made honour roll every year, and lived the good life. I was that kid that went, “Oh, another 100? Meh, whatever,” and tossed it on the ever-growing pile of high marks. People looked to me for help with schoolwork, and I loved giving it. Needless to say, when you’re in that position, you feel like you can conquer anything.

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When a person in a situation like mine finally hits a roadblock, it’s tough. Your ego takes a couple of hits, your self-esteem turns down a few notches, your future looks a little dimmer and it’s really, really, really tough to recover.

That feeling of failure…is a hard one to describe. Your stomach is churning, your eyes get blurry, your chest tightens a bit, and you begin an endless mantra of “I could have done better, I could have gotten a 90, if only I hadn’t slept so late, if only I wasn’t so stupid, if only…!

What’s sad to me is that people think this is a normal attitude towards failure. “Of course it’s natural!” one person might argue. “With an attitude like that, you’ll be able to improve your weaknesses.”

“How else will you be motivated to study?” another person might say. “If you’re not driven to correct your failures, you’ll never study.”

All legitimate arguments, but there’s a bit of a problem: endurance.

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These attitudes, these opinions, this widespread idea that you’re just not good enough or that you’re lazy or unintelligent…these things prevent you from being able to overcome the next challenge. These thoughts cloud your vision so your eyes are set not on a potential solution to your problem, but instead on attacking yourself. How can someone with this mindset survive the obstacles that will inevitably happen in university?

When one approaches failure with fear in their chest, they can be likened to a branch being shaken by strong winds. With every storm it endures, the branch bends and cracks, until it eventually breaks off. This is the branch’s breaking point.

When one approaches failure with courage in their heart, they can be likened to a worker’s hands being scratched by heavy blocks. With every block the worker lifts, the hands become wounded and then are given time to heal, until the hand forms callouses. This is endurance.

When you learn how to fail, you’re able to conquer bigger, tougher, scarier obstacles …and succeed. You’re able to appreciate yourself and your talents and can gauge your weaknesses without the cloud of self-doubt.

It took a long time for me to learn how to fail properly. Countless experiences with this scary “F-word” forced me to come to terms with it. I’ll be sharing these stories with you in order to help you understand the importance of learning how to fail.

Each story will have a motif, a trait that will help you build your tolerance to failure.

The first part will touch on PERSEVERANCE. Stay tuned!



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