General Question

cak's avatar

How do you handle failure?

Asked by cak (15848points) August 10th, 2008

Some types of failure, you can’t control – how do you process that kind of failure? If it was something that you had a hand in, how do you work through it?

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39 Answers

crunchaweezy's avatar

If I fail at something, I find out why I failed and try again.

Cat's avatar

cak – when it’s something that’s really out of your hands i think it’s by far the hardest thing to handle. but i think the first approach needs to be dealing with the “ownership”
IMHO – something that is truly out of your hands can’t be categorized as failure. well not by definition anyway. so it’s an issue that needs to be “depersonalized” so-to-speak. of course one can’t go about declaring “it’s not my fault” all the time and expect to feel better. I think sometimes one may need to engage a mentor/friend/support system to help process the disappointment and other emotions that come on the tails of the perceived “failure”
Now if it is something that one did have a hand in – well then it’s still an issue of ownership. In this case one must find ways to reflect, do some honest and deep soul searching, be introspective and pull on that interior that most human being possess to see clearly where the mistakes were made. And again – that may require the assistance of a mentor/friend/support system.
it’s all about ownership I suppose. What must we own and what must we discard as “not belonging to me”.
How do I work through it. Well to be quite frank with you – I’m the type who is most willing to look inside myself. And I’m equally willing to engage the help of a guide on that journey. Not easy. But when I learn where the ownership issues are in truth – then I’m ready to deal with whatever needs to come next.

RandomMrdan's avatar

as far as dealing with failure out of my control…I won’t be that angry, but it depends on the type of failure…example, I have an objective to make it to work without getting into a car accident…however, some moron runs into my rear bumper and as a result has caused me to fail at my objective of arriving at work without getting into an accident. not my fault, and completely out of my control, that guy just sucked at driving and didn’t stop in time.

On any event that you had control over, the best way to deal with failure would be probably a bit of self reflection and maybe some advice from someone else who also has experienced a failure similar to your own. Example, I fail at meeting sales goals, and I would think of what I did wrong, and what I could have done better, and then ask a colleague to give me some advice on what he does when it happens to him, maybe different sales tactics, etc.

Just realize everyone fails, and no one is perfect. It’s how you learn from your mistakes that help you later (the ones in your control)

cak's avatar

@crunchaweezy – definitely the right way to go about it, in my opinion.

@cat – it’s that part of depersonalization, that I just can’t seem to reach, I guess. I understand, logically, what is happening; however, I can’t grasp it, yet. I don’t know that I ever will.

@RandonMrdan – It’s that last sentence we do need to remember, isn’t it? :)

RandomMrdan's avatar

@cak what was it you failed at? Maybe someone can help you a bit on it.

marcospereira's avatar

The main thing that you should do is discovery why the failure happens. In other words, you should look for the root cause of the failure. Handle only the consequences is palliative. Handle the root cause is a way to learn and completely solve the main problem.

Root cause analysis is often considered to be an iterative process, and is frequently viewed as a tool of continuous improvement and there are some techniques to do it.

Toyota uses 5 “whys” in order to find the root cause:

Ishikawa diagram is another way to analyze failures and problems:

Though this techniques drives to industry you could use it for another purposes.

Hope this helps.

Kind Regards

cak's avatar


Oh, unfortunately, no. It’s a health issue and certainly out of my control. I think, even though I understand what is happening. I feel like I’ve failed my children and my husband. I’ll work through it, with help from a little bit of everyone – even a good therapist, I’m sure. I’m just not a person that ever thinks that you run out of options. When faced with no more options, it’s just not something I know how to deal with.

Thank you for your response, I truly appreciate your time!

Cat's avatar

Cak dear one
I am searching for words, and I fear I shall not be as articulate as I desire. I’ll try.

Something that I have tried to do in my life is to recognize where my ownership in any event really lies. In this case cak it is not you who fails. Maybe you can work with the dis-ownership of this issue. I don’t mean denial. No not that.But it’s like saying to someone “I have a cold” When truly a cold is not something you wish to “have”. The statement implies ownership and this can make it even harder to feel better. OTOH doing all the things that science knows to do when a cold attacks the body is important, but owning the cold might not be one of the ways to fight the cold.

Please forgive me. I’m using an example in the cold and perhaps a lousy example, but the point is to not allow this health issue to belong to you! You are a beautiful child of that Higher Power who I call God. God loves you so much cak. God does not see you as failing. Believe it cak – this is not a test. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not fair, and it’s NOT your fault.

This hits be close to home cak and I remind my sister all the time that she is a very good mother. She loves her children and it’s clear to see. Her children are scared and probably mad – but kids don’t always have the tools to analyze their emotions as adults do. It’s OK that they are mad and someday they will learn where to direct the anger. My sister didn’t fail in her rolle as a Mom, because she got sick. She is still their mother and she does what she can do. Her treatment is difficult, frustrating, painful but she is doing everything she can. Sometimes cak, the only thing she can do is just cry. So – I’ll recommend that to you. I don’t know if you are a person of prayer cak. I believe there is power there. If you don’t pray, that does not exclude you of asking for prayers from those who do. Knowledge that positive thoughts are coming in your direction can be helpful in dealing with the struggle you face. And good friends. And a mentor. And remember that if you do not own the word “failure” then your children won’t either.

nightshade's avatar

you take it like a man and if you can’t redo the mistake you learn from it

Allie's avatar

I try to pick myself up and try again. Sometimes it helps to just take a break, step away from the issue and then try to tackle it at a later time with a fresh perspective, renewed energy and more patience.
If all else fail, drink and get someone else to do it.

jlm11f's avatar

I agree with Cat. It’s not considered a failure if you can’t control it. A health issue could be an example of that. Certain illnesses that are affected mainly by lifestyle choices could be considered a “failure” but there are others that just happen even if you have been living a saint’s life. In the latter case, that’s not a failure.

To answer the original Q, I feel that I don’t handle failure in a good way. I acknowledge my mistakes and figure out where I went wrong, but I don’t always have the motivation to try again. I am not too “depressed” or “discouraged” by it, it’s almost a sense of apathy (I care…but just not enough to fix it i guess). I really dislike this because it is not a healthy way of dealing with something. Recently, I’ve been trying to better face the failure by constantly reminding myself of it (this might not seem healthy to others, but when one is apathetic, you need to do this) and jotting down points for how I will improve and succeed the second time around. One of the best ways that usually helps discipline me in any area is keeping myself to a strict, written schedule. Another method is learning from others. When I hear some of the truly inspirational life stories of people such as Randy Pausch, I feel the need to be better than I am and work harder. I truly believe that if i fail at something, it’s only because I didn’t work hard enough for it. And so I have no excuse but my own lack of perseverence.

wildflower's avatar

It’s the challenges and failures in life that we learn and grow the most from – you could even say it gives you the most life experience!

Although it can feel bad, tough…..terrible! You are experiencing so much more than you would have if you didn’t face these things.

It makes your life and character richer. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate that.

GoldieAV16's avatar

Unfortunately, imo, we have been made to feel responsible for our health, so I can understand how it can feel like a “failure” when our body does not heal in accordance with our will. While I believe that stress can impact our health negatively, I do NOT believe that “positive thinking” can make us well. Okay, that’s my caveat, and that said, here’s how I try to approach failure: Embrace it! If you aren’t failing on a fairly regular basis, you aren’t living! You aren’t stretching beyond your limits and potential to grow. And if you don’t exceed your limits, how do you even know what they are? “Safe” living is for sissies. Show me someone who hasn’t failed at anything lately, and I’ll show you someone who is afraid of life. If I failed at more than one thing in a day, I know at the end of the day, that it was a day well spent. Outside of my comfort zone, struggling to grasp something that may well be beyond my reach, but a day well spent. Show me a day padded in success, and I say, “Meh, I hope tomorrow is better!”

Can this apply to your situation, Cak? I think it can. You will only know that you have given this your all, if you are willing to lose some of the battles, on the way to winning the war. Do I believe you will win it? With all my heart. The love you’ve brought to your family, and to your friends, is here to stay.

flameboi's avatar

Breath, then, keep trying :)

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

I’ve been through many evolutions with handling ‘failure.’ When just out on my own, all the old tapes played in my head, so when I ‘failed’ I’d abuse me, like they used to do. . . calling myself ‘stupid! How could you do that? Geez….”

Then many things happened to change my point of view. Therapy. Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Therapy, and today, I just try to be my best and do my best in every moment. Then I’m okay with what happens. I’ve even cleaned up my language around ‘failure’ and ‘mistake.’ I no longer use them. I say, “oh, I’ve just learned something useful.” My inner language informs my thoughts, which inform my feelings. Me thinkith…

susanc's avatar

I collapse.
Yes, I get up again.
But collapse is a first step.

wundayatta's avatar

A “failure” that is out of my control—if it has a significant impact on my life—is really hard. It hurts to call it a failure. It implies you can control something you can’t control. I think, in a situation like that, I want to do the best I can, and not to beat myself up about what I think I did wrong.

I’m pretty good at beating myself up, and what I’ve found is that I’ve got to kind of “not-think” about the things that make me feel horrible. My goal is to avoid the pain I suffer when I think about the wrong things too much. If it’s a situation where thoughts lead to extra pain, anger, railing at the universe, fear, or anything like that, I would want to find a way to avoid those things.

When I think about myself in a situation like that (and I hope this is not something anyone has to go through), I think that what I want is a kind of acceptance. I didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t avoid the consequences of my so-called failure. I can make the best of it. I can try to make the best as long as I can work it.

I think that faith can help enormously for folks who are faced with an overwhelming problem. God offers comfort to many. It seems like a lot of people can give up their fears and worries to their God when they really need to.

Love, of course, is crucial. To be with loved ones helps enormously. If it’s a big problem, and you’ve done all you can, then it’s time to let love do as much healing as it can. It’s also important to go on, enjoying your life and being grateful for the blessings you do have, irrespective of the problem you couldn’t solve. I’ll bet your family loves you very much, and can express it. I’ll bet a lot of other people do, too. You may be surprised at where you find people who want to support you. Ride on their support, as far as you can. It may not be enough, but it may dull the feelings that the feelings of loss bring.

Even if the failure is something I had a hand in; even if I somehow brought it on myself; I have come to the conclusion that it’s not worth beating myself up about it. This is a hard-won lesson, and not easy to implement. I’ve been beating myself up much of my life, and more over the last year, but I am finally coming to see there’s no percentage in that.

My goals were, no doubt, outsized—beyond my ability. I held onto them very, very tightly, but all they did was make me feel bad. I feel that I screwed up my life. I’m not going to be able to do what I was brought onto earth to do. Oh, does that make me feel awful! But maybe my goals were too big. Maybe they were more than I could handle and also have any kind of happiness. So, somehow, I have to come to grips with this. I have to be ok with myself as the failure that is not a failure that I am. If I think of myself as a failure, I only have pain. If I can stop doing that, I can find a way to enjoy the rest of my life, which, you may laugh, seems far too short.

Ok. This isn’t easy. I slip and let the bad thoughts in regularly. But there are times I can put those thoughts aside, and I can remain on an even keel. I should let myself feel good about that. Sometimes—I do.

galileogirl's avatar

I don’t have failures, I have not yet achieved opportunities

jlm11f's avatar

gg’s comment reminded me of a favorite quote: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (or you can substitute “to not succeed” for “that won’t work”...if you want to mix it up a bit)

Allie's avatar

Who was that, PnL? Ben Franklin?

jlm11f's avatar

I believe it was Thomas Edison.

Allie's avatar

Ah, ok.

mee_ouch's avatar

....Bitch long enough,
....Moan loud enough,
....Whine lord knows enough….

Then, when I’ve exhausted all of the above….and everyone around me
I’ll search within for an explanation….....
....And know that if I’m the reason, I better accept it and try to change the offending behaviour.
....And if I’m not, I’d do myself and everyone else a service to accept that it’s out of my hands and move on.

cak's avatar

@Cat – I just want you to know, that today, I’m not owning it! It’s still there, but it’s not mine! I don’t throw in the towel or think about it, often, but sheesh! There is only so
much one person can take, you know? Thank you for your time!

@PnL, mentioning Randy Pausch, definitely put things back in place for me! I want control over this, so I own it – until I’m back to logical thinking and understand that while I am strong, cancer has it’s plans. I can’ help it if it’s not responding the way I want it to repsond. It’s just extremely frustrating.

@Wildflower, failure – can definitely build character! :)

@ GoldieAV16 – safe living is for sissies, NO KIDDING! I think that will be my next tattoo! You know, even though the medical aspect is not my true failure, what I discovered today, was allowing it to take over the way it was starting to do, was my failure. I was wallowing and I don’t wallow. Not like that. I’m a positive person, but I’m a realistic person, too.

@mee ouch – great process!

Thank you, everyone! I appreciate the time you put into answering my question.

Cat's avatar

good for you cak! good for you because you are right – there is only so much anyone can take.

it really does have to be one day at a time doesn’t it?
So tommorrow my friend is another day.

mee_ouch's avatar

We all have the right to defend our honour. It sucks when you’ve been marked for being compassionate and strong.
It’s the ignorant and weak who cry foul when they’re the ones who can’t accept defeat.

Knotmyday's avatar

Trollops and whiskey. Not necessarily in that order.

Then I figure out what went wrong, and try again.

Success and failure are two doors in a room. Behind “Success” is the prize we dreamed of. Behind “Failure” is another room, with two doors in it. Those doors are marked, respectively, “Success” and “Failure.” And so on.

Keep on opening the doors ‘til you get the prize. Hardly anyone gets it in the first room.

edit: or the second, for that matter…

GoldieAV16's avatar

I will say, though, that I think everyone deserves the right to rant, sulk, pout, break dishes, punch walls, and anything else that feels good when things just go horribly wrong. There is sometimes nothing better than stamping your foot and telling the world to go f*ck itself, for not letting us have our way.

Then, when that’s over, what’s left but to pick up, and carry on?

mee_ouch's avatar

Goldie…..You’re a goddess!!!!

cak's avatar

oh Goldie…I said that, a lot, last week!

cak's avatar

@mee ouch, trust me. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone better than Goldie out there! She rocks, out loud!

mee_ouch's avatar

You’re not-to-shabby either cak!
I do agree though….Goldie YOU ROCK!!!!

cak's avatar

Thank you, mee ouch!

Knotmyday's avatar

Goldie rocks, but only has one GA? For shame. Rectify.

edit: Here, let me show you ^^

cak's avatar

@ Knotmyday – first off, you got a laugh out of me…I saw the whisper! funny…personally, I think trollops is one of the thee funniest words out there. I’m a vodka girl, whiskey and I have met, but don’t always get along!

I like what you were saying. Thank you for the response. I keep going through the doors, and learning.

cak's avatar

oops! still trying to remember to do the GA! Going to fix that mistake, right now!

Knotmyday's avatar

I like that answer, and therefore will give thee a GA, which will raise thy lurve by 5 points. It’s fun!

mee_ouch's avatar

I digress….and will blame it on newbie-status
Good call KMD!

mee_ouch's avatar

I digress again….seems I gave Goldie her gold! Silly me! Again I blame…..Ah fuggetaboutit!

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