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Failing is natural.Failing successfully is not.

Taken in isolation, fail and successful have opposite meanings. However, when we combine the words, their meaning is transformed into a valuable phrase everyone who has ever learned from a failure and succeeded understands.

What does it mean to fail successfully? In this Will Smith video,  Smith encourages us to “seek failure because that is where the lessons are” and reminds us that “practice is planned failure”.

Learn the Lessons

Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

All failures teach a lesson. The first key to failing successfully is learning the lesson. 

Failure is life’s feedback that you did something incorrectly. To fail successfully, it is your job to learn what you did incorrectly and make the necessary adjustments to succeed next time. As Smith said in the video, “Successful people fail more than they succeed.”

The key to failing successfully is to own the mistake and learn the lesson. 

Zig Ziglar put it this way: “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

Keep Trying!

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” 

The second step in failing successfully is to keep trying.

Michael Jordan is one of my favorite examples of overcoming failure through trying and perseverance.  As a sophomore in high school, Jordan did not make the varsity basketball team. Jordan wanted a spot on the varsity roster so badly he went home, locked himself in his room, and cried after not making the varsity team.

Instead of giving up and quitting basketball all together, he used the failure as motivation to keep trying. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan would explain. “That usually got me going again.”

As a professional, one of Jordan’s most famous quotes became, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Next time you don’t feel like trying, remember what Thomas Edison said – “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Learning failure’s lessons is important, but continuing to try after a failure is an equally important step in failing successfully.

Start a Success Bank

When you learn failure’s lessons and keep trying, you will eventually succeed. 

Remembering these successes is the final step in understanding how to failing successfully.

Maya Angelou said it best when she stated, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Overcoming failure builds our capacity to overcome future failure because it builds our confidence.  The confidence of one success overcoming failure leads to another and another and so on.

To take maximum advantage of every success overcoming failure, add your victories to your success bank. Your success bank is the place you “deposit” the memories of all the successes you have had overcoming failure. 

Think of your success bank as a type of savings account.  You make deposits when things are going good. These good memories are there for a withdrawal when you need them.

When you experience a difficult failure, withdraw a successful memory or two to help remind yourself you have been here and done it before and you can do it again.  

Failure is hard. It challenges our self confidence and causes us to doubt our efforts and abilities. Going into your success bank and withdrawing a memory of a previous success over failure can be the difference between allowing failure to be final and failing successfully.  

R. S. Grey said, “She believed she could, so she did.” 

One of the most effective ways to overcome failure is to believe you can do it.  Belief in your ability to succeed is higher when you have evidence to support your story.  This evidence is stored in your success bank.

The road to success is a bumpy one because it is paved with failures.

If you let a failure be final, you did not fail successfully. If, instead, you learn a lesson from the failure, keep trying, and add the accomplishment of overcoming failure to your success bank, you can fail successfully.