Kim Kiyosaki on staging holding up an empowered fist of encouragement for the audience

It’s OK to #Fail

Your mistakes don’t define you, but how you handle them does

We’ve all heard the saying “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. We are bound to make mistakes in life—if you’re not making mistakes, you probably aren’t taking enough risks. But if you aren’t able to forgive yourself and move on, then that’s the real mistake. Often times in life, you have to embrace failure because that’s where the learning takes place.

A Tough Pill to Swallow

I certainly haven’t been immune to this concept. I’ve had my share of gut-wrenching setbacks in my life: broke, homeless, lawsuits, bad partners, people stealing from me, people cheating on me, mistakes that cost me millions of dollars, and the public humiliation that accompanied some of those. Of course, there are countless smaller mistakes or mishaps along the way, too. But guess what: I’m still standing!

And it’s not just me. There are countless stories of people losing everything, only to gain it back (and then some). When the going got tough, they found a way to move past it (forgive) and rebound (learn). And the things you learn from these embarrassing or painful experiences can redirect you toward the path to success. The lessons can teach you humility, inspire or motivate change, help you become less fearful of the next failure (because now you know you’ll survive), and can even make your future successes sweeter!

How Women Handle Setbacks

Over the years, I’ve noticed a distinctly different pattern women display when it comes to failure—and it differs from men. It’s an interesting gender phenomenon that has been studied for decades, and necessitates further discussion:

  • Women tend to take failure more personally. Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, says (in her book Mindset) that women who struggle with failure are essentially victims of “fixed mindsets”—a student with a fixed mindset, for example, often looks at poor grades as a criticism of her core self, rather than a reflection of her effort or skills. Dweck goes on to say that those with “growth mindsets” are better able to accept failure, since they view their traits as constantly under development. With this group, a low grade doesn’t hamper a higher one in the future.
  • Women can become gun-shy after failure and lose faith in themselves. A widely quoted statistic from a Hewlett Packard report notes that men will apply for jobs they feel 60 percent qualified for, whereas most women only apply when they feel 100 percent qualified to do so. According to one survey, the second most common reason why women don’t apply for jobs is because they don’t want to put themselves in a position to fail.
  • Women are often judged more harshly for failures. In countless cases, women’s mistakes are judged more unforgivingly than those of their male counterparts. Victoria Brescoll, a social psychologist at Yale, found that leaders are viewed as less competent when they make mistakes in "gender-incongruent" fields—so, for instance, a female police chief who makes a mistake is judged more severely than a male chief who made the same mistake.

Falling Forward

Since we’re so busy fighting the uphill battle against gender stereotypes in the boardroom, it’s easy to understand why failure seems like yet another obstacle. For some reason, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than men. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Every time I face a failure, I remind myself, “This too shall pass.” And I firmly believe that something good always comes from it. It may be hard to believe at your darkest moment, but keep telling yourself that (try using it as a mantra) until you actually believe it. As the Law of Attraction tells us, thoughts become things.

While I hate making mistakes, I always force myself to step back and ask, “What do I need to learn from this?” If that answer isn’t clear, I keep searching for it—because if I don’t discover the lesson, then that specific problem will haunt me again and again. And then I forgive myself.

My setbacks have always made me, my marriage and our company stronger in the long run. It’s all part of the process.

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