Remember a time when you missed the mark? You set a goal and for one reason or another, you did not accomplish your dream. I can still recall the utter disappointment I felt during my freshman year in high school. I wanted to make the cheerleading squad more than anything. Nothing else could compare to my desire to be a part of that small group whose job was to lead the crowd in cheering our Knights on. My heart broke in two when the judges posted the selection list and my name was not on it.
Our natural tendency when that happens is to feel the pain and then, eventually move on. We begin to see it as Shakespeare said “What’s done is done.” The more positive action to take is to pause for a while and not make that the end.
If we rewind the experience and take heed, we will realize that there are benefits to failure. In fact, the commencement address given at Harvard in 2008 by J.K. Rowling’s was aptly named: "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination.” Rowling contends that she failed on an “epic scale” prior to becoming one of the most well known female authors due to her Harry Potter fantasy series. She is currently ranked as 12th richest woman in Britain. During her speech, Rowling professed that “it is impossible to live without failing at something”.
Failing is a part of life. No doubt we would all agree that is true. The trick, however, as Dr. Charles C. Manz tells us in his book The Power of Failure, is to wrap our minds around a new definition of failure. Manz, the Chaired Professor of Business Leadership at the University of Massachusetts, sees failure as a “short-termed unexpected result that reflects a challenge in progress.” He goes on to say that failure provides three positive aspects: “a stepping stone to success, the opportunity for learning and development and an opportunity for creative change and innovation.”

Something about that new spin on the failure concept really appeals to me. The fact that it is not an ending but “a challenge in progress” makes it sound less like a pitfall and more like a hiccup. If one decides to adopt that premise and start to embrace the learning lessons inherent in failure we can begin to see the benefit that our successful role model J.K. Rowling spoke of.

Rowling came to a crossroad in her life when her short lived marriage fell part, creating her role as a lone parent and topping it off with being at a poverty level just shy of being homeless. Having hit that very dark period in her life she turned it around by focusing all her attention on finishing the work that really mattered to her. She used rock bottom as a platform to redesign her life.

Although I knew nothing of Dr Manz’s book or what Ms. Rowling was going through, I had a mother who was great at doling out parental advice. During my mourning period over the loss of my potential cheerleading career she went around chirping in her Pollyanna style, “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” Sound familiar? No doubt you heard that at home too. She gave me no peace until I once again signed up for cheerleading try-outs as a sophomore.

On the second time around my determination was relentless. I did things differently. I recruited a team of friends to try out with me. I elected myself the leader and called practice every spare minute we had. We spent hours critiquing our jumps, our lines, our voices. In fact, we even sewed matching outfits to wear for the try-outs. When the big day came we were working at a high confidence level. Three of the five of us made the eight girl team. Was I one? Yes, you bet!

So the next time you hit a stumbling block on the path to success, do not fall into negative cannot do thinking. Look at it as a mere hiccup, just a temporary detour to the finish line. Change your failure definition, focusing harder on what you are trying to accomplish and remember those four words your mom kept preaching…try, try, try again.

Author's Bio: 

Jan "Sunny" Simon is a life coach. Her practice is designed exclusively for women who want to raise the bar high and make positive changes in their lives.