Optimize Your Life

Episode #42: Learning From Mistakes & Failures

Show Notes:

As a high achiever, you’re someone who is focused on getting things done and doing them well. You want to be productive. You want the tasks and goals that you focus on to be successful. But along the way, mistakes and failures are inevitable. The big question is what you do with them. 

In today’s episode we’re going to take a look at different perspectives related to mistakes and failures to expand the way you look at your life and career when things don’t go according to plan. This is important, especially if you want to stay strong and resilient. Otherwise, the stress of these failed attempts can get to you and not only will your mind suffer, but so will your productivity. 

When you think about it, mistakes shine a light on your values, preferences, and needs. Think about the last time you made a mistake. How did you feel? What needs were unmet? This is essentially a lesson in self-awareness. That said, what we’re here to talk about is how to shift your mindset to realize that there are no mistakes. Everything in life is a lesson and a learning opportunity. 

Look back at the biggest mistakes you’ve made in your life. What have you learned from them? Did these events that happened feel catastrophic at the time but in hindsight were blessings? 

If you remember what happened to Steve Jobs, he created Apple but then got fired from his own company! I can only imagine how devastating that was for him, but here’s what he said about that event after the dust settled: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

So maybe after making a mistake or experiencing a failure, you got clear on what you want. 

And although we’ve all heard this before as well as statements like “live and learn,” we are constantly doing everything in our power to avoid making mistakes. So why is that? Perhaps it’s this culture of high achievement we are in, but more likely, it’s our own mind. 

What do I mean by that? Well, when you make a mistake what are you making it mean? The reason you’re probably trying your hardest not to make mistakes even though you’ve heard countless stories of people whose lives are better off because of their mistakes, is because you associate it with pain. Our human brain is programmed to avoid pain. We worry about what other people will think of us. We have a fear of lost opportunity and missing out. In essence, we think only about the downsides of failure, never the upsides. 

But how is that serving you? Think about it. 

When you reframe mistakes to be a stepping stone toward greatness, they actually can be lessons to look forward to. It’s an exercise in self-acceptance and humility. Listen, we’re all human so why not embrace your humanness? Accept the fact that you’re not perfect, that you have flaws, but you’re still loveable. Don’t equate your worth with your productivity or success. 

Too often we fall into the trap of believing that we’ll be happy when we achieve our goals, but this is an illusion. The reason we have goals is because we need to have something to focus our mind on. It gives us a sense of purpose, but truly, we are on this planet for two reasons, as far as I’m concerned: To grow and to love. We have to learn in order to grow and one of the best ways is from experience – what works and what doesn’t. The idea is to apply what works for you personally based on your preferences, your values, and your personality. 

When you get good at embracing life with all its ups and downs and embracing your humanity with all your flaws, you can endure anything. You no longer have to live in fear. You don’t have to stay stuck. You don’t have to feel ashamed and hide. You can stand up tall and feel proud of your efforts. The mere fact that you’re out there trying is significant. The alternative is not to try. Then you don’t risk failure but you also stay stagnant. How does a life not fulfilled sound to you? Not that great, I’m guessing. So that’s the tradeoff. 

As an entrepreneur, one of the things I’ve learned is that people connect to you best when you have a story to share about your mistakes and failures. People want to see you as vulnerable. They like having someone to look up to, but you have to be relatable and since they’re struggling, they want to hear that you understand their struggles, that you’re human too. So consider your mistakes and failures part of your story that you get to tell to create those connections to others. It’s a beautiful thing. In fact, the next time you experience failure, ask yourself, “How can I use this experience?”

I’m reading this book right now called Relentless by Tim Grover. One of the things he talks about in the book is the importance of taking responsibility for your mistakes. Too often we worry about looking bad so we shift the blame to someone else. Here’s his advice: “Have the confidence to say when you’ve screwed up and people will respect you for it. If you did it, own it. If you said it, stand by it. Not just the mistakes, but all your decisions and choices.” I think this is good advice and it comes back to the notion that we have to be self-aware. When we make decisions, we should know who we are, what we stand for and own those decisions. Sometimes they’ll flop, but we don’t have to apologize for ourselves. We just have to say, “I wanted this experience so I took a chance. It didn’t quite work out the way I hoped, but that’s OK. It’s a risk I was willing to take.” See how powerful that approach is? 

One question to think about is why you make mistakes. Sometimes it’s because you overcommit to things. You agree to do something simply because someone asked but you really don’t have the bandwidth to do it. If that’s something that happens to you, learn from it. Say no moving forward. Be honest and live with integrity about what you can and cannot take on. Remember, when you say yes to someone else, you’re taking away your resources like your time, energy, and focus from other areas. Make smart decisions. That’s a lesson worth learning.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is they don’t live their life fully. In the book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, a palliative nurse shared that some of her patients regretted not living their life as fully. While it’s important for you to learn from your mistakes, it’s also important to learn from the mistakes of others. How can you live more fully? How can you live without regrets? 

Michael Jordan, the best basketball player of all time said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.” If he can have this many failures and still be number one, so can you. Give yourself permission to fail. 

And if you’re looking for ways to increase your self-awareness so you can make better decisions moving forward, check out my course, “Work and Live Smarter.” And because you’re one of my listeners, you can get it for half off. Go to https://bit.ly/50offsmarter and enter promo code “optimize.”

So whether you are aiming to do a better job at work, start a business, or raise a family, knowing yourself is crucial for making decisions, getting out of analysis paralysis, not wasting time waiting for the perfect moment to take your first step, and not feel stressed out about the decisions you make. I’ll teach you how to identify your needs, personality, triggers, values, and limiting beliefs. And just to overdeliver, I’ve got some bonuses in there for you as well. 

Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Optimize your life to live to the fullest. You’ll be happy you did. Talk to you again next week. 

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