Resilience is the difference in the ways people respond to failure. – Martin P. Seligman
Note that the title of this post is not ‘The issue of Failure.’ There is a reason for this word choice, and that reason is this: failure is inevitable. That is a fact. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can learn that it is, in reality, our response to our own failures and the failures of those around us that can separate us from the average person and propel us toward a life of growth, rather than one of consistent mediocrity.
Think of your greatest successes throughout your lifetime. You will have undoubtedly faced small mistakes or even complete failures in your journey to reach these particular successes. I bet you can recall obstacles that you had to overcome to get there. Perhaps it was an exam in which you attained an outstanding grade; would you have got this if you hadn’t of spent countless hours rehearsing your notes, failing to remember them, and rehearsing them again until you didn’t fail to remember them? Maybe it was the acceptance of your dream job, but how many job interviews or CV’s did you have to fail or make mistakes on in order to finally succeed? Regardless, you did succeed. What sets this success apart from the other complete failures in your life is your reaction to the initial failures you faced.
In these instances, you learnt from your mistakes, displayed resilience, and pushed forward to achieve your goal despite the obstacles in your path. Resilience isn’t an easy trait to optimise; it can be beaten down when you face condemnation for your failures by yourself and by those around you. Recall one of your ultimate failures in life. Perhaps it was risky business venture. Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolution that you couldn’t stick to. Now think, if you had received advice, comfort, and support after this initial failure, as opposed to condemnation and berating from those around you, could the end result have been the same as in your great successes?
Publicly and explicitly condemning another for their failures is the worst thing you can do for someone’s self-esteem and their willingness to experiment. If we know that risk can result in failure, and failure will inevitably bring condemnation from those around us, where is our incentive to take risks? We would become shy, non-experimental beings without ambition for fear of criticism and shaming. If you have ever failed, which you have, then you will know the fear of condemnation after such incidents. If we know this fear to be true for ourselves, why would we project this same negativity onto others?
The next time a peer fails, or makes a mistake, do not berate them publicly. Resist the basic human nature to let your emotions spill in a flow of criticism. Don’t make them the subject of the joke- even ‘banter’ can diminish self-esteem and prevent future risk-taking. Instead, allow them to save face by acknowledging their mistake quietly and providing them the same opportunity for growth and success that we would desire ourselves; offer your support and advice instead of your criticism.
Where condemnation kills ambition, understanding breeds growth and success. Let me reiterate.
Where condemnation kills ambition, understanding breeds growth and success.
Do this for others, and I think that you will find that they won’t be as quick to criticise your failures in return. Others will revel in the opportunity for growth that you have given them when it would have been just as easy for you to jump on the bandwagon of condemnation.
Who would’ve thought that other people would feel exactly the same as we do about our failures; that they would rather be supported in their recovery then condemned for their failure? How odd:
Old, Obvious, and Eternal.