The Justification for Failure

Virtually no one likes to think of themselves as a failure. It’s not a good feeling.

Whenever we do fall into that trap, there’s usually some self-loathing and sadness involved. There’s also usually some serious justification involved.

It’s my boss’s (or my supplier’s or someone else’s) fault.

The goal is impossible.

My spouse/friends/family didn’t support me.

Those kinds of justifications can help us feel better in the short term, but they fall incredibly short when it comes to actually helping us succeed in the future.

Instead, every failure should be met with just three things, then quickly forgotten.

First of all, what did you do (or not do) to cause that failure? Ignore the impact of everyone else. What did you do? Did you not have a contingency plan? Did you not have a full and strong business plan? Where did you go wrong?

This isn’t about “beating yourself up.” It’s about specifically identifying what you did to cause the problem. It’s not about excuses. It’s about avoiding them.

Once you’ve identified the things you did wrong, identify what you could have done differently to eliminate those problems. Some of them are obvious, such as simply writing up a contingency plan, but others are more subtle. How would you make better hiring decisions? How would you improve your business plan process?

Ideally, this will lead you to reading and learning, which is one of the most powerful parts of eliminating the justifications for failure. Knowledge is the key to a plan for success, and it’s even more powerful when you’ve assessed the flaws in what you’ve already tried and are seeking to fix them.

Finally, put the failure aside. Don’t blame yourself for it. Don’t blame others for it. Everyone fails at goals. The people who succeed are the ones who pick themselves up, dust themselves off, figure out what went wrong, and give it another try with new knowledge in their mind.

This is a process I’ve been through more times than I can count. The Simple Dollar was far from my first website, for example, and many of the lessons I learned came from the failures. I could have blamed others for those failures and used that as a reason to never try again. Instead, I tried to figure out what didn’t work and fix those specific elements. I didn’t dwell on the failures, either; once I moved on, I focused on the new project instead of the old.

There may be reasons for failure. There is no justification for it. There are only lessons to be learned for the future.

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