A broken pencil and a test, graded with an F. After failing like this, check out this 5 step guide to failing and getting back up again.


Is there any word quite so haunting? It almost tastes bitter. And no one's immune to it! From Henry Ford to Jeff Bezos, even titans of industry go through ups and downs.

The worst part about failure is its paralyzing effects. Suddenly, action doesn't seem quite so important. Slacking off or procrastinating — any excuse to avoid potential failure — suddenly become even more attractive propositions. Unfortunately, anxiety about screwing up won't help, and you certainly won't grow as a person without pushing yourself.

On the other hand, failure can be fantastic. There's no better way to learn. Plus, failure challenges you: you can either give up or fight on. (We advocate the latter.)

So, we've developed this guide to failure to help you get the most out of failing. Remember, you're in very good company.

Our 5 Step Guide to Failure

Step 1: Acknowledge and accept your screw-up

Denial can be tempting, but it does you no good. Recognizing that you've made an error, or that your efforts didn't quite add up, is an important part of the process. Try not to bury your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Face your failings with a calm, dispassionate perspective. Forget fear: stay mellow. Once you get past the instinct to chastise yourself, you can start to explore what happened and why.

Step 2: Analyze and learn from your mistakes

This is the best part of failing: learning from your mistakes. Sit down with a cool head and go over what happened. Take some time to think about what went right and what went wrong at each step. Follow the arc of your personal tragedy from start to finish, noting which choices and circumstances led to where you ended up. The idea isn't to pinpoint the exact moment you messed up, but to recognize that lots of factors go into any given situtation — and to notice that small actions can have big outcomes!

Step 3: Move on!

Importantly, you want to move on after you've taken some time to reflect on lessons learned. No sense obsessing over the past, after all — but don't skip step 2! Once you've had a nice, long think, start looking forward. Let your failure go and focus on the future, where you'll apply what you've learned. "Moving on" can be tough. It's all about cutting yourself some slack and reducing stress. You can't change what happened, but you can change how you behave next time, so keep your focus on what's coming, not what's gone.

Step 4: Build your resilience

Resilience is the capacity to adapt to and recover from adversity, and it's a learnable skill, like cooking or a foreign language. You develop resilience by facing and learning from challenges. Explore your feelings throughout the "failure" process. Try to spot when you get stressed out: what does it feel like? When does it happen? How do you respond? Greater self-awareness will help you recover from your misstep, and prepare you to fail better the next time.

Step 5: Be positive and prepare to start again

If you've made it this far, done some serious thinking about your failure, and considered how you respond emotionally and physically, you're ready to reshape your mindset from negative to positive. This should be easy: after all, look how much you've learned already! Failure is the best teacher. You'll learn valuable lessons, and you don't have to stay on its good side! Remember, the worst part of failing is learning nothing from the experience.

So, it's time to start again. Muster your courage, and face your next challenge, stronger and wiser than ever. You'll still fail now and then, of course. When you do, go right back to step 1, then rinse and repeat. This is the cycle of conflict and growth. The better you can adapt, the more fun you'll have in school, work, and life.

Now get out there and fail!

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