Blog | Entrepreneurship

On the Path to Success, it’s Normal to Fail

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

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What does success mean to you?

Does it mean creating a thriving business that provides jobs and valuable products and services to others?

Maybe it just means being able to pay your bills so you can keep food on the table and avoid foreclosure?

Success is rarely a linear process

To me, success is being in control of my life without anyone telling me what to do (boy, do I hate that!). It means having financial freedom (through regular, passive income) so that I can spend my time and money how I please — without working at a job or worrying about my future.

And after years of increasing my financial education and taking action on that knowledge every day, I am successful. And that’s why I like to share what I’ve learned with you — and that includes sharing my mistakes.

Yes, that’s correct: My road to success wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops — it was a bit bumpy, dirty, and full of twists and turns I didn’t see coming! But I’m a better businesswoman because of those blunders. Why? Because I know the power of learning from my mistakes and not dwelling on my failures.

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 — in fact, 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 after a failure, 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

As I mentioned, 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. I recently shared with you the story of one massive lesson I learned in real estate many years ago — yikes! Of course, there are countless smaller mistakes or mishaps along the way, too. But guess what? I’m still standing. In fact, I’m thriving!

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—one that 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 moments, 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.

3 steps to enhance your chances of success

While it’s absolutely OK to fail, that doesn’t mean you should move forward carelessly in life — there are ways to increase your odds for success, which is always a wise move.

For example, I’ve taken what I’ve learned about success and broken the process down into three steps that I call the Triple-A Triangle :

  1. Aspire. Develop your goals and have a very clear picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish.

  2. Acquire. Get the information you need to reach your goals. This may be reading books, taking classes, listening to presentations, watching Webinars, and more. Increasing your financial education is a daily process that never ends.

  3. Apply. Once you have the information, do something! So many people stop here because it is the most frightening part, but this is the most important step to financial freedom and making your goals a reality.

    You’ve got to take action, make decisions, learn from your mistakes, and move forward. Otherwise, you will be stuck aspiring and acquiring the rest of your life.

Success is not for everyone

Many people say they want success, but they are not willing to do what it takes to achieve it. Let’s review some inspiring words from my fellow speakers at the National Achievers Congress (which I spoke at several years ago):

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you're in control of your life. If you don't, life controls you.” Anthony Robbins

“You can’t be scared. You do your thing, you hold your ground, you stand up tall, and whatever happens, happens.” Donald Trump

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” Robert Kiyosaki

“Thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to actions. Actions leads to results.” Harv Eker

So are you going to be one of those people who just dreams about success? Or someone who actually does something about it? No matter what success means to you, it’s time to take action and make your dreams a reality. The worst thing that can happen is failure, and believe me: it’s not the worst thing in the world if you know how to fail forward.

Original publish date: October 19, 2017

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