See Your Failure Through the Eyes of Your Friends
“Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back so much for your successes, and don’t kick yourself too hard when you fail.” —Annie Duke
Welcome back, class!
You have given yourself some time and space to cool off from a stressful scenario, so now you are in a better position to think clearly about what went wrong. It’s time to analyze your failure in the context of your life, career, and goals. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to be accountable for your failure. We’ll also look at how this failure impacts your personal growth.
Charting Possible Responses to Failure
People handle failure in different ways. I like to think about our reactions to failure as falling between two poles: zero accountability and total accountability.
If you assume total accountability for your failure, then you may be better off than you would be if you took no accountability—at least then you’d be admitting that you have personal power in your life. But what happens when your failure is caused by things you don’t control? Do you blame yourself for events you had no control over? If you do, you will needlessly attack yourself, leading to shame and guilt. You need to own what you can from your failure, yet show compassion for yourself and truthfully discern what you can and cannot blame yourself for.
Even after I graduated from a different high school, I still held a deep feeling of shame for flunking out of the first two. My mind tricked me into owning events that were outside of my control. I shouldn’t have blamed myself for a situation that was influenced by variables I didn’t control. What I can take ownership for is having unreasonable expectations for my teenage self during a terrible situation and continuing to press forward despite failing. If I didn’t come to that realization later on in life, I would have limited my future growth potential because I would have held onto this shame, expecting that in order to be successful, I must be perfect.
Re-examine Failure as If It Happened to Your Best Friend
In order for you to honestly examine what you can control and what is outside your control, you need to depersonalize the failure. You can’t just beat yourself up about it—you need to take an objective stance and start giving yourself useful, actionable advice.
One way to get some distance on the failure while still engaging your creative problem-solving abilities is to imagine that the failure happened to your best friend instead of you. In this imagined situation, you were only connected to the failure as a witness.
Imagine that your best friend is the one trying to recover and that you are in a position to give them sound advice. Because you care about them, you will treat their situation with kindness, honesty, and careful attention to detail. You won’t blame them or dwell on their failure because you don’t want them to feel even worse than they probably already do. On the contrary, you will encourage them to honestly assess what part they played in the failure and what part was simply bad luck. You want to help them recover from the failure, not take it personally, and get back in the game and be more successful the next time around. You want the best for them!
Ask yourself the following questions as if you were diagnosing your friend’s failure:
• What happened that caused the failure?
• What did your friend do that was right?
• What were the things that your friend couldn’t control?
• If your friend is blaming themselves for things outside of their control, what would you say to them to encourage them to view things from a different perspective?
Use the aforementioned questions to re-examine your own failure. But remember to do this as if the failure happened to your best friend!
1. Open your bounce back journal to write down your answers to the questions.
2. Remember you are examining your failure as if it was your best friend’s failure. Do your best to depersonalize it.
3. Can you become your own “best friend” when it comes to analyzing what happened and how you should respond? How can you remind yourself to always take on this role?
In our next lesson, we will learn how to tap into your friend group for the support you need to overcome your failure.
Jordan and Joe
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