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Most of us dread failure, for obvious reasons. No one likes that sinking feeling you get when you know you messed up, or things have gone the opposite to how you expected. But failure can be an important ingredient to success, if you’re prepared to learn from it.

We recently had a successful businessman friend tell us a story about one of his biggest career blunders and what he learnt from it. He went into an important meeting (with an expected client sign-on) with a lot of confidence and very little preparation. Then he bombed – big time. 

Our friend had recently returned from the UK where he had a great reputation which gave him a lot of leeway with clients. They typically either knew him personally, or they’d heard of him and his standard of work. When he relocated, he made the mistake of going into this important meeting thinking that his reputation would precede him, and it didn’t. He failed to impress the clients and they reneged on their initial offer. 

Our friend felt awful and knew he was responsible for the deal not going through. He said he decided in that moment that he never wanted to feel that way again and immediately committed to changing his approach. These days he always makes thorough preparation a priority.

Uncomfortable as it is, failure is important because it creates time to reflect and learn from our mistakes in order to grow.

4 important lessons you can learn from failure

1. Let it motivate you

Failure is often seen as defeating and demoralising. However, with the right mindset a failure can spur you on to success. Take for instance Michael Jordan, who as a 5’10” 15-year-old failed to make his high school’s varsity team. Instead of letting this decision define him, he turned the cut into motivation. He later said “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.”

2. Failure teaches you to be humble

Failure teaches you that success is not a guarantee. Every successful person will have a number of failures that they’ve had to learn from. When we work hard for something, we should celebrate our success. Equally, we should take accountability and learn from our failures.

3. Failure is an indicator that something isn’t working

Learning from failures requires that we take the time to reflect on why we failed. It can be a painful process as we often have to admit to ourselves the mistakes we made. However, in order not to repeat the error in future, we need to analyse the reasons we failed.

4. Failure doesn’t define you

Failure doesn’t define you, unless you let it! Many people are so crushed by failure that they give up. J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter was famously rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it. Imagine if she’d given up after the first 6 or 10 rejections! If you want to be successful in the pursuit of your goals, you need to never give up and always adapt and learn.