When one hears the word “failure,” the dictionary definition typically comes to mind: “an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: an effort ending in failure. … nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency.” But what if you dared to think of failure differently? Failure is indeed one of our greatest teachers. It builds strength, resilience, determination and faith. It will make a fighter of many who simply refuse to lose. Those who bounce back from failure decide to think differently.
Did you know some of our greatest icons experienced failure at some point in their journey? In case you need proof, let’s take a moment to reflect on two influential women who turned their failure into purpose.
Success Comes When You Bounce Back from Failure
There was once a young woman demoted from her job as a news anchor because she was told she wasn’t a fit for television. This woman went on to define success in her own way, building an entertainment enterprise and becoming North America’s first Black multibillionaire. She’s been named the greatest Black philanthropist in American history, and her net worth is estimated at $2.9 billion. Meet Oprah Winfrey, a woman who understood how to turn failure into purpose.
There was once a woman who wanted to be an attorney, but her low SAT score dashed this hope. By the age of 25, she began to develop a hosiery idea that ultimately became Spanx and made her a billionaire. Meet Sara Blakely, a woman who understood how to turn failure into purpose.
These are just two examples of women in the business sector. The truth of the matter is, there are rockstar women all around us that are pushing forward and growing every day—because they understand how to bounce back from failure to fuel persistence and propel them forward.
Maybe you lost a job, postponed your wedding, deferred your dream, lost clients, contracts, or revenue, closed a business—the list goes on. No matter what your disappointing experience of failure may be, I am sharing with you some of my own advice on how to channel that failure to fuel your purpose.
1. Re-define your definition of failure.
Perspective is everything. STOP looking at failure as a stop sign. It may prove to be a detour, a pause or a re-routing in how you thought you would get to a certain destination. But it is not a stop sign. Only you have the power to turn a failure into a STOP in your journey. With that being said, find a meaning that works for you and supports you in growing from your experience. Frame your thinking around the meaning of the word and you’ll be prepared to bounce back from failure.
2. Embrace failure as the great teacher.
With every experience of failure comes great lessons and teachings that you can use and reapply in your journey. Grab a notebook and reflect on the last thing that did not turn out as you desired. Answer these questions:
1. What was your experience?
2. What are the lessons you learned?
3. How can you reapply these lessons future forward to get a different result?
Reflect on lessons learned about you personally and professionally. Then, consider the ways you have and will approach experiences of failure in the future.
3. Find your purpose through the process of elimination.
Sometimes, you learn what your purpose is by learning what your purpose is not. Once during a conversation I had with Soledad O’Brien, American Broadcast Journalist and Executive Producer, she shared how she would have never found her love for journalism and storytelling if she did not drop out of medical school. For me, I would have never found my love of marketing without discovering that I was not meant to work at IBM Global Services. Here is a question to ponder: Has failure helped you discover what you do not like and/or do not want? If so, then one might say you are closer to understanding what you do want.
4. See failure as great endurance training.
I truly believe dreamers are also fighters. They are willing to fight the giants that stand between them and their dreams. That also means they are willing to endure and fight through experiences of failure. Did you know that the more you fight, the more you persist? The more you refuse to lose, the stronger you will become. View failure as simply going to the gym—each time you go, your capacity to bench press is getting stronger and greater than it ever was before. One thing I know is that the pandemic has shown the world that we are stronger than we know. Did the pandemic bring you greater clarity around what your purpose is not? In a way, there is no need to truly bounce back from failure, only to move forward stronger.
There is no such thing as failure along the way in your dream journey. There are, however, challenges that will support you in growing, learning more about yourself, strengthening your resilience, and ironically, moving you forward into your purpose along the way.
By Teneshia Warner for Fairygodboss and edited for Ivy Exec