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Let’s get real here.

If you’ve ever gone to school, had a job, been in a relationship or pretty much done anything in your life, you’ve probably failed at something. Whether you flunked a subject at school, got fired, started a business and failed or got divorced, failing at stuff really stinks.

One thing’s for sure, though: everyone fails at something. No one’s perfect. But just because it happens to everyone, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

For example, famous Kiwi jeweller Michael Hill is worth millions of dollars, but when he tried to set up a chain of shoe stores in 1992, they didn’t work out and he closed them all down two years later. In 2010, Kiwi entrepreneur Shane Bradley set up daily deal website GrabOne which quickly became one of the best online businesses in New Zealand, but he almost went bankrupt a few years earlier. At the last Commonwealth Games, the Silver Ferns played their worst netball campaign ever. And don’t even get us started on the Warriors.

Failure sucks. So how do you make failure - especially the fear of it - something that makes you want to do better? Firstly, you need to understand that failure is totally normal.

  1. Fear is good for us

    Yes, fear is scary, but it’s actually good for you in small doses. It’s there to protect you. It’s your brain’s way of telling you to be careful so you don’t get hurt. That’s why we (thankfully) don’t hear too many stories about people who’ve climbed into lion enclosures just to take a selfie.

    The problem with fear, though, is when we let it stop us from doing stuff that could be good for us.

    It’s easy to fear the worst in life. For example, if you get fired from your first job, you might think that you’ll never get another one. If you start your own business then within 12 months have to find a ‘real job’ so you can pay the bills, you might not think you’ve got what it takes to manage your own business in the future. If you bounce from one relationship to another, you might think that there’s something wrong with you. All of these are wrong thoughts that can be overcome by understanding a bit more about what fear is.
  2. No one is better than anyone else

    Just because you might have lots of money or live on the ‘right’ side of town, doesn’t make you better than anyone else. The opposite is true too. You might not have much money or your parents don’t have good jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dream big. Failure happens to anyone, anywhere, at any time. If you think that you’re going to succeed at everything you try because you’re more special than someone else, you’re going to get a big wakeup call when you end up failing at something.

    It’s good to want perfection, but don’t strive for it so much that when you fail you think life is over. When you expect too much of yourself, you’ll never be happy. On the flipside, when you expect too much of the people around you, no one will like you.
  3. Don’t let failure define you

    Just because you might fail at something, doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. For example, if you’ve never been good at relationships, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be good at them. If you’re not confident at public speaking or preparing presentations, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. If you notice a pattern, ask for help and move forward. Don’t let failure hold you back from making the most of life.

    The memory of failure can be hard. If you don’t like what failure feels like, use those bad memories to avoid failing again.
  4. You can’t control everything

    Some people think failure is the same as losing control. In some cases that’s probably true. You might have passed that paper if you’d gone to class or passed your driver’s licence if you’d studied the road code. But most of the time, failure is totally out of our control. For example, a nurse can’t always control their patients’ health, a builder can’t control the price of wood and an artist can’t control what someone is going to think about their work.

    What you can control, though, is how you react to failure. It’s good to acknowledge your emotions so get angry, sad, frustrated or however you want to deal with the situation. But don’t feel sorry for yourself for too long. Think about the situation, talk to someone if it’ll help, then move on. Accept that you’ve failed, take responsibility for it then avoid it happening again.​​​​​​​
  5. Believe in yourself

    The best way to get over fear is to believe that things will work out better next time. Confidence comes from deciding to do something, sticking to it, and telling other people about it so they can support you along the way. The more you believe in yourself, the more likely you’ll succeed next time.

    Unfortunately, it’s common for Kiwis to judge successful people. Don’t let that stop you from dreaming big. Surround yourself with people who support you, believe in you, encourage you to do your best, and will help you back up when you slip up. Combine that with your own self-confidence and you’re one step closer to success.​​​​​​​
  6. Don’t be afraid of challenges

    Life wasn’t meant to be easy - just ask anyone who’s trained for a marathon or studied to join the police. Challenging and stretching yourself is good for you. Start with small goals. The more you achieve the braver you’ll become to take on those bigger challenges. Plus, the feeling of giving failure the big finger is pretty good too.

It’s time to turn failure into an opportunity​​​​​​​

Don’t let fear change how you live your life. Instead, use it to become a better person. Yes, you might fail a couple of times before you get a win. But that’s life. It’s normal. And with the right attitude, you can totally kick failure’s butt.


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