From Failure to Fuel: A Guide to Overcoming


“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Maya Angelou)

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are just minor blips that are barely noticeable. Others are epic. But mistakes happen – because (a) everyone is human and (b) they are an unavoidable aspect of living in an imperfect world. The key is to change how you see your setbacks, look at failures as learning opportunities, and allow mistakes to fuel your future success.

Yeah, right, you may say. And okay, it won’t always be easy. But to quote another inspirational leader, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

That leader, by the way, would be the incomparable Winston Churchill, who knew a thing or two about making lemonade out of lemons.

Learn to Fail Forward

Failures are part of the learning process of life. They remind you where you want to go, and how to be stronger as you get there.

  • Failure is a great teacher. Learn from your mistakes so you don’t make the same ones again. This requires self-reflection and keeping an open mind about what you might have done differently.
  • It’s okay – in fact, it can be a key part of the learning experience – to talk to others about your failures. Sharing will help you gain more insight and perspective, and know that you are not alone in your setbacks.
  • Have a “can do” attitude. Instead of letting your failures bring you down (for too long, anyway), be clear about what drives you and remind yourself that you are capable of accomplishing your goals, despite any bumps along the road. Keep working at it, even if progress feels slow at first.
  • Make improving your success rate part of your life plan. Remember, that plan is a living document that will require adjustments, especially as you incorporate lessons learned from failures. As the old adage goes, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

The Benefits

By understanding that failure is not a reflection of your abilities and that you can learn from it, you open yourself up to:

  • Greater confidence.
  • Better decision-making.
  • The ability to see things from different perspectives.
  • Stronger resilience.
  • Enhanced creativity.

So when the odds are stacked against you, push through anyway. Follow the path of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, who was fired from the company initially. After that major blow, he held onto his passion and moved forward to other ventures such as NeXT and Pixar, and eventually became Apple’s CEO. As for maintaining the right attitude? In Jobs’ words, “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

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