8 Ways to Turn Failure into a Learning Opportunity    

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Whatever we do in life, failure is always going to be there. Nobody goes through life succeeding at everything they try, nor are people able to pick up any new skill or task and be an expert straight away. The only way to get better at something is to practice, and that’s something we’re taught from a young age. The very essence of practising something is the acknowledgement that your first attempt is a failure, but you’re dedicated to succeeding.  

We do this over and over in our lives, whether it be learning how to hit a golf ball, mastering a musical instrument, or baking the perfect scones. Almost everything we become good at, we were once not so good at. So, whether it’s in our careers, education or personal life, why do get so disheartened by failure? After all, isn’t it just practice? 

With every failure comes the opportunity for success, so let’s see how you can turn a failure into something much more successful. 

Failure is part of success 

Failure doesn’t always need to be seen as a negative thing. Sure, it doesn’t feel great if you’ve put lots of effort into something and you don’t get the outcome you hoped for. But the reality is, failure is just part of success. It’s another step on the way to achieving your goals. Famed inventor Thomas A. Edison perhaps said it best: 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

The end result is what matters, not the small stumbling blocks along the way. As long as you learn from your mistakes and failures, success is often not too far away. 

  1. Reflect on what went wrong 

To really benefit from mistakes and failures, you need to take a pretty honest look at what went wrong. Sportspeople do this every day, analysing video footage of sub-par performances to work out how they can be better next time. If you take the same approach whenever you get something wrong, you’re on the right track to turning things around. 

Whether it’s a project, a job application, a business you’re trying to launch, or any other pursuit, analysis is the key. Take the time to study what went wrong, because that’s the best way to improve on your next attempt. What could you have done better? 

It’s also a good chance to reflect on what went well, too. Sure, the end result wasn’t what you wanted, but you probably did some great things along the way. Take note of those, and incorporate them in your next attempt. 

  1. Acknowledge mistakes – you’re only human 

We mentioned above that you need to take an honest look at what went wrong. That’s not always an easy thing to do. People have different personalities, and it often shows in the face of failure. Some look for people to blame, while some go the opposite way and blame themselves too much. You need to find a balance. 

If you could have done something better, acknowledge it. It’s not the end of the world, and you’ve always got a chance to learn from a mistake. If you were legitimately let down by other people or external factors, that’s fine too. Acknowledge those, and find better ways to deal with those situations in future. 

  1. Don’t let negative thoughts creep in 

Again, don’t become too disheartened by failure. It hurts, and that’s natural. You’re even entitled to take a break and focus on something else before trying again. But a little failure doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your goals in 2021. Think of all the reasons you wanted to achieve success in the first place. They’re likely still just as valid today, so try to keep a positive frame of mind. 

This comes down to how you view failure. If you can reframe a failure as a learning opportunity or a stepping stone, it helps you move forward. Most highly successful people have failed a lot, and they credit this for their success. So, don’t let failure cloud your judgement. Take a breath, reset, and try again. 

  1. Plan the changes needed to achieve your goals 

Once you’ve analysed a failure, it’s time to learn from it and move on. The next step is to plan a way forward, taking into account everything you’ve learned from your setback. If you’re a visual person, write everything out step-by-step. The beauty of trying something again is you’ve already done a lot of the work. So, plan out all the same steps you took last time. Identify the ones that need tweaking, improvements, or a complete overhaul. Remember, the things that worked before are likely to work again, so hang onto those little wins. 

Planning is the key to making any project a success, so come up with a few working tips that make the process easier. Often, you don’t need to re-do everything. Only the parts that didn’t work before need to be changed completely. 

  1. Seek feedback from others 

Gaining feedback from other people is essential when trying to achieve success. A fresh pair of eyes can work wonders, and it also makes you feel supported along the way. Seek out mentors, friends, colleagues or anybody else you trust to give their honest opinions. They may identify things you didn’t think of. They may have some great new ideas to add to your project.  

If your failed project involved other people, ask them why something didn’t work. For example, you ran a stall at a trade show, yet hardly anybody came to see you. Seek honest feedback. Reach out to people who attended the trade show, and ask if they’ve got any useful tips that could help next time. 

  1. Use failure as a motivation 

Many people are fuelled by failure, and this why they become successful. They use failure as motivation to be better next time. It’s a common trait among sportspeople, who can’t stand to lose and do everything in their power to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Business, relationships and personal pursuits are no different. If the failure hurts you, use it as motivation to prove people wrong. 

  1. Find success in every failure 

People tend to take a very black and white view of failure. You either succeed or fail. But that’s not really how it works, especially in the business world. In every project or business idea, there is a combination of success and failure. Often, it depends on your goal setting. 

Let’s use the example of a pop-up food van setting up for the first time. If that business owner had a goal to sell out of all their food by the end of the day, and they only sold half, is that a failure? Well, technically yes, because their goals were high. But is it really a complete disaster? Not really, because they still had plenty of people try their food, they’ve built brand awareness, they will probably have people sharing and promoting them on social media. Next event they attend, they might be swarmed with customers. 

So, even when there’s a failure, there is also an element of success that goes along with it. Rarely is any project or pursuit a complete and utter failure. So, look for those little bits of success and use it to drive you further. 

  1. Try something new 

Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new. That doesn’t mean you admit defeat and throw away all the hard work you’ve already done. But after failing at one thing, it’s often invigorating to step away a d try something new for a while. This can even form part of your plan to turn failure into success. Let’s consider you’ve applied for 20 marketing jobs and you’ve been unsuccessful every time. If the feedback you’re getting is that you’re not qualified enough, try some study. Take a step back from applying for those jobs, complete some training, and try again once you’re qualified and feeling more confident.  

Remember, every failure is an opportunity to learn. 

April 7, 2022

By Kelly Olive