Aug
08

What’s your response to failure?

By

Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.

-Napoleon Hill

When I was growing up, one of the questions I used to hear from motivational speakers was this: “If the possibility of failure were erased, what would you attempt to achieve?”

That seemed to be an intriguing question. At the time it prompted me to look ahead to life’s possibilities. But then one day I realized that it was really a bad question. Why? Because it takes a person’s thinking down the wrong track. There is no achievement without failure. To even imply that it might be possible gives people the wrong impression. So here’s a better question:

If your perception of and response to failure were changed, what would you attempt to achieve?

I don’t know what obstacles you are facing in your life right now. But whatever they are doesn’t matter. What does matter is that your life can change if you’re willing to look at failure differently. You have the potential to overcome any problems, mistakes, or misfortunes. All you have to do is learn to fail forward.

Look at the way any achiever approaches negative experiences, and you can learn a lot about how to fail forward. Read through these two lists, and determine which one describes your approach to failure:

Failing Backward                         Failing Forward

Blaming others                           Taking responsibility

Repeating the same mistake        Learning from each mistake

Expecting never to fail                 Knowing failure is part of the process

Expecting to continually fail          Maintaining a positive attitude

Accepting tradition blindly            Challenging outdated assumptions

Being limited by past mistakes      Taking new risks

Thinking “I am a failure”              Believing something didn’t work

Quitting                                     Persevering

Think about a recent setback you experienced. How did you respond? No matter how difficult your problems were, the key to overcoming them doesn’t lie in changing your circumstances. It’s in changing yourself. That in itself is a process, and it begins with a desire to be teachable. If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle failure. From this moment on, make a commitment to do whatever it takes to fail forward.

~ From Failing Forward

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Comments

  1. 1
    Wendi Bryant says:

    The enemy went to work early in my life thu molestation from ages 5-9. Which is when my mother died and my family moved from the neighborhood perpetrator. Shortly after the move the child my mother delivered just 3 weeks before her death was given to an aunt to raise, leaving 3 brothers, my father, and grandmother. The not so comforting lie that God works in mysterious ways and His needing another flower in His garden put a bad taste in my mouth for pursuing a relationship with Him. I began smoking at the age of 9 and very quickly moved to drugs and alcohol. At 12 I was arrested the first of 5 times. At 13 raped by a man in the local church and a victim of his fantasies which he forced his wife to perform with me. This was the beginning of a very promiscuous drug filled life. June 30, 1993 I was invited to a church by my cousin and being the bitter soul that I was I quickly let him know I was not interested. He told me that it was not church as usual, he said, “you can truly feel the love and presence of God there”. That striked my curiosity as I had heard over the years how God needed a guitar player in heaven when my brother was killed, and He needed another flower in His garden when my father died, but when a cousin shot himself in the head I was told he went to hell. Therefore, love and God did not sound right in the same sentence. I went to church that night and everyone was very nice. There was something different. The next day my grandmother died. After getting trashed the Friday after my grandmother died the Holy Spirit began wooing me back to the church. On July 4, 1993 I was born again, the message is just as clear and real to me today. When John 10:10 was declared by the pastor, it became alive in me and the revelation of God’s goodness overwhelmed me as His love embraced me. I knew that I knew the enemy had wreaked havoc on my life and not God. I fell so deeply in love with Jesus and he delivered me instantly of many things and the progression of healing was beautiful as I walked through the journey of restoration with Him. He opened doors to jail ministry, I married a Christian man, and the Lord used me in awesome ways. Eight or nine years after a glorious walk with Jesus pride began to creep in because of the wonderful way God was using me and a situation occured which I became offended. I chose not to forgive my husband and my fellowship was eventually broken completely as I continued to refuse to forgive. I believed I had a right to not forgive and I began to worship the creation rather than the creator, myself. Fulfilling the lust of my flesh, God gave me up to uncleanness through the lusts of my own heart and I was given unto vile affections. I chose to give myself over to a relationship with a woman. I started taking prescription drugs to block out the conviction until I was, what looked like in the natural, a hopeless case.
    In January 2008, in my broken state, I felt the presence of God beckoning me to return to Him. I had forgotten how to pray and could only respond with, “Lord let it be unto me according to your word.” I stepped out in faith toward the Lord and His faithfulness has brought restoration to me through His mercy and grace. In fact, He is even using this vessel in such a glorious way. I can boldly confess He is more ready and willing for the Peter’s to come back. Jesus is praying for us that our faith fail not and when we are converted we are to strengthen our brethren. I spent the year of 2010 and the first part of this year in Haiti, after a Word from the Lord. He performed many miracles where lives were both physically and spiritually saved. He deserves all the Glory!

  2. 2
    M.A.SEROBE says:

    I THANK THE LORD FOR THE GIFT IN YOUR LIFE.YOU ARE TRUELY A BLESSING.I LOVE YOUR BOOKS KEEP IT UP.

  3. 3
    chidi says:

    After i read the great book from my mentor John C Mawell, falling forward i was so impress by the teaching and insight i gain from that book, since then my approch to failure change cause everytime i fail or made somemistake i try to repature what went wrong and a lesson to learn from it. Today i am more motivated nd inspire with all confident to take new challenge konwing that sometime we migt fall. Thanks alot for your countless blessing throughout your book and blog its so great to have a great mentor as u John. God bless u

  4. 4
    christy moosa says:

    God bless you Wendi, know the devil is a liar and seeks to destroy. I pray your faith stay strong and God use you mightily for His glory! You have been through a lot and have an amazing testimony of His faithfulness. God bless you I pray he restor your years!

  5. 5
    christy moosa says:

    Repentance is seed of restoration and God is waiting for His children to come home.

  6. 6
    @marcmillan says:

    Such an inspiring post. Great list of the negative and positive ways to deal with this. Thank you for writing this and for making easy to see it and understand it so clearly. Your a blessing John.
    M_

  7. 7
    Bevan Hendricks says:

    This article helped me! Thank you

  8. 8
    Julia Davis says:

    Your book, “Failing Forward”, helped me immensly a few years ago. Thank you!

  9. 9
    Jme says:

    John C. Maxwell is really good at converting a complex concept into something very simple and hands-on. Thank you for serving the people, you material really makes a difference. You are a true blessing!

  10. 10
    Daniel Wong says:

    Great insights on failure! Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. 11
    Bemsibom says:

    Thanks for the inspiration on failure. Many people are so terrified by the fear of failure they never even try anything. Have had to face some of such fears myself… and still have many to face. Thanks Dr John!!!

  12. 12
    Karen Orem says:

    To me, failure is an instrument to change, and God lovingly gives us our choice in the matter. Whatever the obstacle we are facing, whatever didn’t work, we can find the way for us if we open ourselves up, look at it from a different perspective, work through it no matter how hard it is and pray. I feel that it’s God’s way of saying, “Here, this is the next step, work on this, figure it out and it will open your path.” Whatever failure, whatever obstacle, when you work through it, a blessing will follow. The awareness one receives is a gift. Whenever we don’t work through a failure, we are choosing to limit ourselves. Again, this is not God’s doing, it is our choice. When we are ready to commit and do the hard work to move forward, it is so worth it. Never be afraid of failure because the only failure is not trying.

  13. 13
    Mike Benton says:

    Great post John and some great responses…in life we will all have battles, hills, valleys, great days and not so great days and I have found how you handle them determines if you are successful in fulfilling your goals and dreams…The key word there is ‘ YOUR ‘ not someone else s but yours. As these obstacles or stepping stones come to you …stop drop and smile and say thanks for I will become a better person.To everyone’s continued success..
    Mike

  14. 14

    […] “What’s Your Response to Failure“:  John C. Maxwell talks about falling forward and falling back as responses to failure. […]

  15. 15
    Sundi Jo says:

    Great post! I used to live in list number one until God knocked me off that ladder about two years ago. I can easily find myself going back there if I’m not careful.

    Failure has taught me so much. People are crazy if they think it won’t grow them for the better.

  16. 16

    John, I greatly appreciate your wisdom and insights. As someone who works worth people to build successful businesses, your emails always seem to have something I can use to be encouraged by or encourage others with.

    Warm Regards

  17. 17

    This is one of my favorite subjects and I loved the way John has put the point across about Failing Forwards VS Failing Backwards.

    Awesome post John, as usual. Love your posts!

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Snigdha

  18. 18

    FAIL?; TO FAIL IS TO GIVE YOURSELF ANOTHER CHANCE TO SUCCEEDED,AND TO REASURE OUR SELFS THAT WE CAN DO ALL THINGS.REAL FAILOUR IS WHEN YOU TRY ONCE OR TWICE,BUT YOU GIVE UP ON YOURSELF,AND OUR LORD’PHILPPIANS 4:13;NOW THINK ABOUT THE MAN WHO ENVENTED THE LIGHT- BULB,IT TOOK 1,000.,1 ATTEMPTS TO SUCCEED,BUT HE BELIVED HE COULD DO ALL THINGS THROUGH OUR LORD WHO STRENGTHENS.IF YOU DON’T TRY,HOW THEN DO YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT,OR ACCOMPLISH WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOUR ATTEMPTING TO ACCOMPLISH.JUST DON’T QUITE.;RESPECTFULLY Mr.JAMES R. AGOSTO;CHICAGO,ILL.

  19. 19
    Yvonne Green says:

    As the Author has taught himself and so many other wise people. It’s not the circumstances its the person’s attitude. Failure comes in fact failure is a part of life. The question is will the person allow it to be a setback or a setup? What is the difference between a setback verses a setup. The difference maker is A Person’s Attitude nothing more nothing less

  20. 20
    theresa muir says:

    Thank you Mr. Maxwell, your message and the list to fail forward has impacted me today in a positive way, which I needed. I also viewed Roadblock, which I will also apply to take a roadblock and make it a moment for growth and advancement. Thank you once again and God bless.

  21. 21
    Frances Tyrie says:

    Thanks John, good, solid, practical wisdom. Your thoughts always add to my life – priceless. In a world where failure is frowned on it is refreshing to know how we can all ‘fail forward’.

  22. 22
    Lourdes Mendoza says:

    I am dying to see and attend on one of your talks. Your insights have been a great help to face all my woes at work. I have started reading excerpts from online and now starting to buy each of your books. Hope you could visit Philippines, I will surely attend should you have any convention here.

  23. 23
    Carlo Consignado says:

    Good day!

    This message is one great message. In reality, our responses to failure ultimately determine who we are and what would happen to us, not only right now, but in the far future. Failures are part of life and never has there been anything been worthwhile pursuing without failure. Everyone fails at some point. We just need to look at the bright side of things continue. Failures are just temporary roadblocks that tests us. God tests us to see what we have learned so far and if we can overcome these obstacles. The world said that failure is a bad thing. However how can we learn if we don’t fail?
    It might be easy to just conform and just watch, but what can you accomplish by doing that? Nothing! This is the reason many people are complaining that life just passed them by and they don’t have an exciting life. Well its because they chose it! Its the same as our response to failure. Are we going to fail forward or backward? Its our choice. But the best choice is to “Fail forward!”

  24. 24

    […] flop. Using rejections as helpful feedback about what has been done so far is a constructive way of turning disappointment into a positive learning experience. Often, the very act of pitching an idea helps to crystallize it in a way your mind can’t do on […]

  25. 25
  26. 26

    Hello John,
    I loved this post, nice having the two lists, one generative, one that sets us back. Thanks
    Mary-ann

  27. 27

    Hello! You are such a wonderful and an amazing person I ever met before;
    I have just gone through your book titled “DEVELOPING THE LEADER WITHIN YOU” it has inspired me greatly on leadership;despite my carrier now as a medical student aspiring to become a doctor, still I believe on becoming a great leader one day it be in the country or any organization.May GOD bless you so much for your work! we also thank God for giving you that gift not for you only but for us too.

  28. 28
    Sandra Jones says:

    I am amazed at your wisdom and truly inspired by your delivery of persuasive words that move me to action. No man is an Island and you are certainly one of the best motivational voices in my life. The work that I’m mandated to do, one of them being domestic violence and abuse has caused me to realize that failures and mistakes speak loudly and can drag you to believe that there is no hope. Who has your mind has you, and you have motivated me this day to show and speak out with a stronger voice that to motivate one to action will bring many to fail forward instead of fail backward. Thanks Mr. John, may God bless you richly.

  29. 29

    FAILOUR,IS SUCCESS,TURN’T INSIDE-OUT.YOU LEARN AS YOU GO THRU LIFE,BUT YOUR ONLY A FAILOUR,IF YOU QUITE;WE HAVE ALOT OF EXMAPLES OF PEOPLE WHO DID’T QUITE,AND BECAME SUCCESFUL.I’VE SAID IT ONCE ON THIS PAGE! YOU DON’T KNOW IF YOU CAN,IF YOU DON’T TRY.YOUR A FAILOUR IF YOU DON’T TAKE THAT STEP OF FAITH.DO AS I BELIVE;YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE,BUT EVERYTHING TO GAIN IF YOU TRY.MR.J.R.AGOSTO;CHI-TOWN

  30. 30

    […] John Maxwell asks, “What’s your response to failure?” […]