How To Turn 'Failing' Into Your New Favourite Thing

Many words are spent pointing out an obvious problem:

If you're scared to fail, you'll never improve and grow.

Every third article will remind you that overcoming fear of failure is key to pretty much everything from relationships and sex to money, career, and creativity.

People who write such muff expect you, the reader, to miraculously change your wiring and start your new glorious life.

Well, in the spirit of trying and testing, here are a few things and thoughts that you can actually use to help yourself (if you need it).

Failure is diagnostic

When you have a rash or stomach pain, what do you do?

You go to the doctor, he does some tests, tells you what's going on and (in an ideal world) explains the likely causes — your posture’s off, you lifted something too heavy, you’re looking at bright lights too long and so on…

diagnosis failure

In the same way, life "failures" — breakups, money problems , career anxiety — are symptoms of something deeper.

There’s nothing inherently bad about breakups or being fired, just like there’s nothing wrong with headaches or back-pain.

Both are sets of feedback. One for your physical body, the other for your life, emotions, and psyche.

You can only ignore symptoms for a short while

I imagine we've all been there — you ignore a "body-failure" for a little bit, hoping it'll get better, but eventually, it gets worse and you have to get it looked at.

You get it looked at but a part of you regrets not going sooner because now it's more difficult to treat. Generally, the earlier you get checked up and figure out what’s going on, the easier it is to fix.

Ignoring life-failures is much the same. Starting another relationship / job / project shortly after the previous one failed is the "it'll get better" approach to fixing the problem. It might work for minor things like sore throats and colds, but if the problem is any deeper, it's much more likely that it'll get worse.

If the symptoms (life-failures) persist, it's time to reflect, get checked up and figure a few things out.

"There's no use crying over spilled milk"

I remember hearing this as a child but must have missed the meeting when we decided this is no longer true...

If we look at body and life failures as what they are — feedback — then lamenting over a breakup is as ridiculous as cursing the gods for a bad back.


In fact, it's not even like spilling milk.

It's more like someone reaching out to help you and, instead of accepting the gesture, you freak and Hulk-out on them.

Imagine if Bruce Banner turned into Hulk every time someone handed him a pen. Nuts.


Use feedback loops

If there was a "life doctor", you'd ask him to look at your life troubles, but quite often, and only if you can be honest with yourself, it's possible to figure it out on your own.

But if you can't figure it, fret not, because there's another way.

As you might know, in any creative, business, or professional project, a tight feedback loop is essential for improvement and growth.

Similarly, if you are struggling to find the cause of your life-failures, the most effective is to ask for help.

Here's an exercise that takes major cojones, but has a huge upside:

Pick 4-5 people you work or spend the most time with, message them personally explaining what you're doing and ask for their honest opinion about you and the problem you're experiencing.

They may or may not sugar-coat it, but the answers will likely have things in common. Also, if the problem is something you aren't even aware of, this is a sure way to find it.

Test-time: is this a failure?

6 months ago I set myself a goal of doing a planche by December 6th:


Here's where I got to:


I didn't make it.

If failing is "missing your goal", then yes, I definitely failed.

But because of this failure, I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life, I can't recognise myself in old photos, and I'm actively ignoring gravity.

If this is failure, shouldn't we want to fail at everything?!

Hell, I'd say actively search for failure. Go out with the intention of failing.

In sum:

Life failures are symptoms of a cause and you have to dig past the surface of the relationship / money / career problem to get to the juicy stuff.

Block out the time, find the root cause, correct and continue.