The Science of Dealing with Failure

It seems everyone now a days has the key to succeed in this life. The internet, your local bookstore, literature in general, they are all bearers of truth when it comes to this particular subject. We are constantly overwhelmed by success stories of how people make it to the top, yet seldom do we listen to stories of how hard it really is to get to the top. Everyone can teach you how to succeed, but no one teaches you how to deal with failure when it comes.

For those of you who think failure isn’t ubiquitous, take for instance William Sahlman’s recent study which revealed that the failure rate of professional venture firms has gone up to around 60% in the past 15 years, from 35% in 1980s. That means that in the business world, in this day in age, a project is more prone to fail than actually to succeed. With this data, how can we only read about success and know nothing about failure. Because of this, most of us tend to lose ourselves in failure. We lose confidence. We think of ourselves as incapable of achieving anything in life. We get angry. We stop trying. If only we knew.

Failure does not necessarily mean it’s the end of the road. Failure means, try again, but with experience. It is undoubtedly far better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example, his list of significant failures throughout his life amount up to 10 or more before he made the presidency of the United States of America. And we are not talking about failures after a day of invested work, these were failures which had years of invested work. What would’ve been of the US if he would have given up after being defeated for the Senate in 1958?

Now then, let’s not be extremists either. It has been found in other studies that children who are constantly praised for their intelligence often underrate the real importance of effort. To the same extent that these children often prefer to cheat because they have not developed worthy strategies to actually cope with failure. In this case, it is actually healthier to praise a child for their effort, given that it is actually something they are in control of.

So what is the best balance for dealing with failure? In another study focused on the learning strategies for soldiers in a particular platoon, it was found that “soldiers who discussed both successes and failures learned at higher rates than soldiers who discussed just failures”. The study was also able to conclude that soldiers learned faster when they discussed both successes and failures “because they developed richer mental models of their experiences than soldiers who only discussed failures.” When success is achieved, it is equally important to focus on what things went wrong, in order to improve them, rather than just focusing on the success by itself.

Truth is, here at The Perfect Male Blog, we want our readers to embrace failure. If it comes, it very likely means that you are treading on grounds you have not treaded before. You are leaving your comfort zone in search of a higher level of success. The real trick to failure then, in brief, is not to avoid it, rather it is to learn from it and try not to make a habit out of it.

Have an opinion you would like to share? A success story after a series of failed events. Share your ideas and opinions with us. They will surely enhance the value of this post.
Pictures via dabarnabrani and DGreening
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