Can you learn from failure?

Promoted by Delta V

Can you learn from failure?
Promoted by Can you learn from failure?

Ben Neary

Ben Neary

Leadership and Resilience Partner

It is easy to look at highly successful people and wonder how the world has fallen at their feet? Do they know what failure or struggle feels like? In reality, all of them will probably offer that their greatest learning took place in the aftermath of failure and that their mental resilience was pivotal in enabling them to turn failure into success; to ‘bounce forward’.

Failure is a constant feature in the story of high performers. So many argue that true success only exists outside of the comfort zone and achieving it requires risks to be taken.

When chasing success, it is vital to build character and mental resilience long before failure strikes. Trying to build mental resilience when things start to unravel is too late.

Our recent research and work in supporting businesses
and individuals to build mentally resilience has offered some fascinating insights and trends on how successful people take risks, embrace failure and turn pressure into
a performance enhancer.



  1. Have a clear purpose. The beauty of having a clearly defined and deep-rooted purpose is that when things go wrong, it answers one vital question, “Why am I doing this?”

    Purpose driven people will stay motivated even when things go awry. They will pick themselves up, learn lessons and get back to action. They are resilient, focussed and will embrace the sacrifice of high achievement, knowing it is contributing towards a higher sense of purpose and sense of belonging.

  2. Stay in control. Failure can often cause people to lose perspective and prevent us from rationally assessing what actions, decisions or events contributed towards failure.

    This loss of perspective prevents us learning vital lessons. High achievers almost always have effective coping strategies in place to control their emotions and regain control in the heat of the moment.

    Examples of such strategies include using anchors or trigger words such as “cool heads” or “hang tough”, positive self-talk or re-framing, visualisation, relaxation exercises or simple breathing techniques.

  3. Reflect and record. When failure strikes, it is easy to get washed away in events and the temptation to act relentlessly is hard to suppress. Try to regain your composure, reflect and capture the vital lessons that will be all around you.

    Even after the worst of days, make time to write down three observations, lessons or thoughts from the day. It will help you retain a sense of perspective and allow you to create a ‘learning account’ which will be invaluable in years to come.

  4. Learn to re-frame. Developing the ability to look at a situation from a different, positive perspective is critical in building mental resilience in preparation for setbacks.

    Simply thinking and referring to problems challenges as opportunities for learning and self-improvement can make a huge difference to our outlook and appetite for risk.

    Using positive and optimistic language is infectious so try to think of yourself as an ‘energiser’, someone who can set the tone of a team and positively influence other people when things get tough.

  5. Make yourself vulnerable and embrace criticism. Perhaps the hardest thing to embrace in the face of failure, setbacks or disappointment is opening ourselves up to criticism and feedback from others.

    Failure can be a punishing process in itself and the prospect of opening yourself up and inviting others to critique your involvement takes courage and maturity but never underestimate the lessons that we miss in the heat of the moment.

    It is equally important to manage the purpose, culture and environment when asking for feedback. Knowing whose opinion you respect and will ultimately add constructive value to your development is essential when reaching out for advice.

The key to learning to embrace failure and preparing yourself to ‘bounce forward’ is to constantly prepare your mind for when setbacks strike. By changing our mindset and habits we can build our mental resilience over time so that when failure appears, we already know how to wrestle it under our control and turn the experience into a truly positive one that contributes towards our long term success.

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