6 Tips to Help You Fail Better and More Often

Michael Jordan - FailureLast week blog posts by Carlos and Deana got me thinking about how important it is to be willing to take risks and fail.  (By the way, I started writing this on Wednesday and then life got busy and perhaps fittingly I failed to finish it until today.)  Generally speaking I’d say a person’s success is directly proportional to the number and size of the failures they’re willing to risk.  So, figuring how to fail better and more often will help us succeed, right?

Carlos posted a quote from a Nike/Michael Jordan Commercial:

“I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why . . . I succeed.”  — Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, failed a lot.  Abraham Lincoln lost several elections on his way to becoming one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history.  You have to risk much and often if you want to succeed, and that means being willing to endure failure.

Looking back at my life I can think many, many of times when I refused to take a risk because I was afraid of failing.  I didn’t try out for my high school soccer team because I wasn’t sure I would make it.  There were the girls in high school and college I liked but didn’t ask out because I was afraid they would say no.  And those are just the times I chickened-out that I’m willing to admit publicly.

But there have also been times when I ignored my fears and took that risk.  I think it was 1995 I tried to organize a big youth event in Columbia, Maryland even brought in friends from out of state to help lead it… I think 3 kids from my church showed up.   In 1997 ago I quit my safe, government job to start my own business… and less than a year later I was broke and looking for another job.  In the last year, I can think of at least 3 things I tried to start with my church that went nowhere and even more work-related initiatives that have missed expectations.

It’s a bit frustrating, but I’m cool with all that.  I’ve learned a lot from my failures.  Some have eventually led to a lot of successes.  I usually have to do something wrong a few times before either learning how to do it right or realizing it was a bad idea in the first place.  In fact I’ve failed so often that think I’m getting better at it.  So, here are a few things I try to remind myself of to fight my fear of failure and take risks.

1) Trust that God will be with you through your failures
The Bible tells us that God is always with us us even in our failure.

2) All clouds have silver linings
At the very least we can learn from our failures.  But even better than that, the Bible tells us God uses all things for the good of those who love and obey Him.  All things, even our failures.

3) Don’t equate your value with your success
You are a wonderfully unique and beautiful person no matter how often things don’t go the way you wish they would.  And that’s true even if the failure is your fault.  And by the way, the flip side is true too – when you do experience success, be humble because it doesn’t make you better than someone who has failed.

4) Get comfortable with the fact that you’re not perfect

Everybody knows that nobody is perfect, right?  So, why do we still try to make ourselves appear better to others than we really are?  Get in the habit of acknowledging your mistakes rather than hiding or defending them.

In fact, if you are a follower of Jesus remember the words of the Paul who not only acknowledged his failings and weaknesses but actually bragged about them.  Because the more imperfect and incompetent he appeared to be the more obvious it is was that what he accomplished was because of God and not because of our own competence or hard work.

5) Ignore the opinions of people who don’t know and love you
One of the biggest problems with failing is its usually embarrassing.  We think if we fail we will look like an idiot or a bad person.  We do need the opinions of those who we’re close to for perspective and guidance, and hopefully they’ll be gracious and supportive when we mess up, but try not to care about what everyone else thinks.

6) Believe in the value of risk
A lot of people when they fail think that means they should have never attempted whatever it is that failed.  They start apologizing for even trying.  That’s bologna!  32 NFL teams went to training camp last July and only 1 won the Superbowl.  The players and coaches of the other 31 teams are not apologizing for playing this season (except maybe the Lions).  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What is it that helps you take more and bigger risks?  What helps you to weather falls and failure?

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