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How to Deal With Failure

Last updated on February 18, 2012

At the bottom of all our experiences, we have one thing in common; we have all failed our way to success. The poor and the rich are both familiar with the intimacies of failure.

One of the leading American 20th-century dramatist Arthur Miller's most renowned work, Death of a salesman (1949), tells the story of a traveling salesman Willie Loman, who experiences frustration and failure as he reflects upon his life. This great play is now a must see for all professional salesmen and women. It reveals the emotions that Loman went through. Sadly for Loman, he killed himself because he could not deal with failure.

Failure can destroy if permitted. Yet when you critically look at matters, failure is an energy that is released into the stratosphere by spiritual forces to obscure our true potential. If you have a negative attitude, you will give failure permanent residence. If you say to yourself, "I am better than my circumstances", then you will give failure an eviction notice.

You may say to me, "Mubita, I am not a failure; I have never failed in my life." Well good for you. The bad news is you are officially a failure because you have failed to recognize the fact that you have failed before. We have all failed before.

Less Brown in his book "It's not over until you win" says, you must be so determined to win that you fail your way to success. He argues that if you fail, fail forward. John Maxwell in his book "The attitude of winning" chastises the leader to be determined to win no matter the setback. He argues that everyone who has ever succeeded at anything, failed first.

When I wrote my seventh book, "The roadmap to true leadership", I added a chapter in there called how to reach your point of no return. Most people, who give up after a minor setback, are generally people who have nothing to lose. There are some of us who have so much to lose if we ever give up. We have come so far that we have reached our points of no return. We are so close to where we are going that there is no sense in turning back now. Therefore, the attitude with which you must address failure must not be that of repugnance, aversion of disgust. Rather you must embrace failure with the sweet arms of a student of life.

You must say to failure, "Hey man. Great to see you. What lessons do you bring me this time?" As absurd as it may sound, failure is actually great. If you fail at something, it means you are such a teachable soul that life has sent you a gift wrapped in unwelcome wrapping paper.

I met a single mother of four children recently who narrated to me how they had failed in their previous business. I listened attentively and then I said to them, "that was not failure. That was life telling you to manage your finances a little better." She went back and tried it again. It worked. A young businessman was struggling with some critical business decision. They cried and told me how devastating it was for them. We pulled some lessons from there and today, this young man is doing very well.

Never despise failure. Sometimes it is great to have a few former failures in your life. It keeps you focused.

Finally, learn to prepare for success through failure. If you are planning a venture, you must ask yourself this question; "what if it does not work as planned? What if we sell only so much instead of that much?" That is the best way to debunk failure. Failure is a bad thing only if you let it. If you strap your boots and keep going, soon you will hit gold. After all, what is the worst thing that can happen to you? Fail? Come on, let's talk about something different. Leadership is about success. But there are times when leadership is about dealing with failure in a healthy manner without self-condemnation. Leadership is the art of apportioning success to failure.

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