Who likes to fail? I don’t. For me, failure is possibly the hardest thing I have learned to cope with. On reflection, my fear of failure was indeed limiting and in many ways I set my life up to avoid failure. Despite being unfulfilled, I can now see the biggest reason I remained a scientist for over 25 years was my fear of failing if I changed career direction and did something else. I chose to stay miserable rather than risk failure. In other areas of my life, if I didn’t believe I could succeed at something I would often stop myself before I started. Clearly this self-limiting belief did not serve me at all well. The thought of failure almost stopped me from starting a relationship with a woman whom I am now married to. Thankfully, she did not let my fear stop me and we are soon approaching our third wedding anniversary in August, 2021. To deal with my fear I’ve had to learn to reframe failure.Stop Blaming Everybody ElseOne of my greatest lessons to learn was to stop blaming everyone else. Throughout my research career I had many ‘unsuccessful’ grant applications. I used to blame the reviewers or complain the panel that assessed my grant weren’t objective or competent, or in some way the system doesn’t work. I’d avoid responsibility and blame anyone I could, anyone but me. When I took all the emotion out of it, the cold, hard truth of it was that I had to accept that my grant simply wasn’t good enough and I needed to do better. I discovered the most effective way to do this was to reframe my failure as a learning opportunity. As Robert Sutton from Stanford University says “failure sucks, but instructs!”Acknowledge That Your Actions Were Ineffective

Over the years I have learned to reframe “I am a failure” to “my actions were ineffective.” This simple acknowledgment and reframe is effective because it allows me to remove all the significance and emotion from the situation and objectively examine where my actions weren’t effective. Close inspection of my actions allows me to identify the gaps and make key improvements for next time. Without this reframe I am unable to rationally examine my actions because I am caught up in my emotions around “I’m a failure, I’m a failure…” Rather reframing failure as an opportunity for learning and growth circumvents my emotions and provides an instructive pathway to success.

To Be Successful You Have To Be Willing To Fail More

How true? One of my favourite books is “Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In this book, the authors describe “creative geniuses” as people that fail often and keep going. They are willing to keep “taking more shots at the goal.” Indeed, “if you want more success you have to be prepared to shrug off more failure.” This is where grit and perseverance come in. We have to be willing to get up and have another go. We need to be willing to fail fast and fail often. The more we fail the more opportunity we have to learn and ultimately, succeed.

Fear, especially the fear of failure, is likely the biggest reason that stops us from taking action. The question is where do you let fear stop you? Where can you start to reframe the failures in your life as opportunities for growth and learning? I encourage you to learn to accept failure. Embrace it as a pathway to success. Don’t allow the fear of failing stop you from enjoying the success you want. If I had allowed fear of failure stop me, I would have remained an unmarried, miserable scientist doing life on my own. Instead, today I have the freedom to experience the life of an entrepreneur committed to regenerating our planet. Now the sky is the limit, not me.

Do you want to transform yourself as a leader and learn to re-frame failures into success? Contact me today for a complimentary discovery session to explore the value of 1:1 leadership coaching.