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Accepting tradition blindly            Challenging outdated assumptions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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