How to Fail Brilliantly

None of us want to fail. If you could pass everything with flying colours, you would.

However, that requires work.

When you put the effort in, not everything is perfect. You have to get used to it. You’re going to fail once in a while.

original by action datsun
original by action datsun

So why not fail brilliantly? Here’s some help on how to use failure to your advantage:

  • Separate aspects of failure out of your control from those you can deal with – Control freaks don’t appreciate matters that are out of their control. Nevertheless, they exist. Anything you can deal with, concentrate on that. As for the stuff you don’t have a handle of, be aware of it as a random force.
  • Spend more time on rectifying, not blaming – Now you’ve worked out what’s outside your control, work out how best to move on. Don’t attribute blame to others in the process. Spend time more fruitfully: work with others to reach a more favourable conclusion; choose other variables/individuals with better potential; bypass the problem areas completely, if possible. Time spent solving problems is more effective than wasting time accusing others.
  • Analyse why the failure occurred – If you don’t know why events unfolded the way they did, how can you learn from the failure? Take stock of what happened before you try again. For any elements that don’t make sense, try finding out more in that area before moving on.
  • Accept – Sometimes we make the same mistakes again and again due to denial. It *has* to work this way.
    But does it really? Okay, certain situations may succeed eventually with a bit of patience and better circumstances. But most situations will fail until you do something different. Don’t be stubborn if other opportunities arise. Be open to change. You can’t be right all the time!
  • Understand which aspects of the situation *were* successful – The end result may not be perfect, but failure doesn’t mean you must start from scratch. What you do isn’t usually characterised by a succeed/fail mentality. There’s a lot of movement in between. Use the mini successes within a bigger picture fail until you have a bunch of mini-successes from start to finish.
  • Use failure as part of a process, or as a tool – You don’t pick up a tool and use it without learning a bit about it first. Even if it’s only the basics. Before mastering a process or tool, you spend time learning, developing and experiencing. Failure is one step closer to success because, without failure, success can’t happen either.
  • Be responsible – A lot of failure can be turned around by taking a bit more responsibility. Imagine working your butt off for an essay and only getting a bare pass. Then imagine all that hard work was condensed into 48 hours before the essay was due in. You knew it wouldn’t be best to leave the assignment until the last minute, but for many, that’s exactly what happens. It’s what I call a ‘covert failure’. By taking responsibility from the outset, you can manage the situation more clearly and work your butt off without breaking into a sweat. From covert failure to double win.

Now you can fail better, you may still not like failing. Don’t worry, I’ve got tips on how to pick yourself up after a fall too.

Now get out there and start failing, you awesome person, you!

9 (Random) Secrets to Success

You want success and you want it quick. What do you do?

original by lululemon athletica

original by lululemon athletica

Here are nine secrets to help in your quest:

1. There are no secrets

Busted my own post straight away. But that’s fine. Because there are no secrets. There are no quick fixes. There is no narrative. Stuff happens. As scary as that seems, it can be a whole bunch of fun too.

2. Numbers are great

I arrived at nine secrets because I quickly wrote down a list with nine points. It could have been eight or ten secrets. In fact, it could have been 100 secrets that I boiled down to nine. Whatever the case, numbers are sexy. Unless, of course, you disagree. I’m willing to be wrong about it…

3. Be Right & Be Wrong

Kathryn Shulz asks people how it feels to get something wrong. It sucks, doesn’t it? Actually, what sucks is finding out that you were wrong. Getting something wrong feels just the same as getting something right. It’s only when you find out that you feel a particular way. So there’s no harm in being wrong. Be wrong, learn from it and move on. If you’re never wrong, how can you learn anything?

4. Do Nothing & Do Everything

Comfort zones are misleading. Why does it feel so cosy when you fail to stretch yourself? How can plodding along the same old path feel nicer than a voyage of discovery? Sometimes it’s good to have fun with what we recognise. That’s where doing ‘nothing’ new is necessary. Other times it’s good to go places we’ve never even imagined. That’s where ‘everything’ else comes in to play. The old saying ‘the world is your oyster’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something more than once. It means you can make good use of everything available to you. So don’t miss the opportunity!

5. Debate and engage, but don’t accuse

We have different opinions on everything. Your closest friends and family may be soulmates, yet there will always be the odd occasion when you don’t see eye to eye. It may be of no consequence, but a difference of opinion – no matter how obvious it is to you – doesn’t mean one of you is right and the other is wrong. Debate and argument is fine, but the moment you accuse someone of personally being wrong, the moment you close doors on yourself…just to be ‘right’. As soon as you start pointing out an individual or a group as ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’ or anything negative, you’ve gone beyond a debate. Accusations are rarely helpful.

6. Move on

Once you’ve finished something, stop dwelling. You may still use it, refer to it, and have related dealings with it, but when it’s done, it’s done. Worrying about what has already been takes up valuable ‘doing’ time.

7. Make up your own secrets to success

See Point 1. It took me a few moments to jot down these ‘secrets’. I hope they help. In many ways, they help me. That’s why I noted them down. Note down some of yours.

8. Know when to stop

This ties in with Point 6. Before you move on from something, you have to finish. It can be hard to find a natural point to finish. The desire to find that non-existent ‘perfect’ is strong. As you obsess over the work, the more time you spend on less stuff. An hour spent trying to get a single sentence ‘right’ is time you could be spending more productively. When it comes to worrying over minor issues, it’s probably time to stop.

9. See Point 8.

Now you’ve got the nine secrets. That’s everything you need. Or is it?

Of course not. Secrets to success are vague. They aren’t a step-by-step guide to guaranteed brilliance and perfection. They don’t tell you what to do, but they start to outline a bigger picture. Think of it as a scaffold to greatness.

For example, Tweet Smarter’s ‘three-step program to Twitter success‘ is:

  1. Care and listen
  2. Engage and question
  3. Respond and adapt

That advice leaves you pretty open to everything. It’s up to you how to care, how to listen, how to engage, and so on. Realising the importance of these things is a good place to start though. The success will still be entirely yours, and you’ll have earned it.

Similarly, Mr.SelfDevelopment highlights ‘5 Keys to Success‘:

  1. Preparation
  2. Work
  3. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
  4. Confidence
  5. Lead

Again, you’ve hardly been given a detailed plan to conquering the world, but those vague nuggets suggest you have to put in your own effort before success reaches your grasp.

That’s why there are no secrets (my Point 1), making it doubly important to create your own secrets (my Point 7).

What is important to you? What drives you? What spurs you on? What helps you help others? Take responsibility of what comes your way and the secrets of success won’t seem quite as secret as they did before…

Qualifications: Shaping, Not Dictating

Will a master’s get you a job?

The simple answer is: no, it won’t. But, as a piece in The Guardian says, “students are still heaping their dreams on them”.

Before you get too engrossed in that dream, wake up for a minute and remember what gets you a job:

YOU will get you a job. A degree helps to shape you, a master’s helps to shape you, any qualification helps to shape you. Your choices make a difference, but they don’t automatically get you a job.

That’s not to say that unemployment is solely the fault of an individual. Everything impacts upon your plans, which is why qualifications make a difference. Your achievements help shape the future, rather than dictate it.

photo by Quercusivo

If everyone held the same degree, how else would you stand out? (photo by Quercusivo)

What about big plans? The Independent questioned who gets the head start in life when comparing someone who went to uni and someone who went straight into employment.

In isolation, it doesn’t make sense to ask who had a head start. Neither had a head start based on the choice, even though it’s a big choice to make.

Life is complicated and each person’s life is unique. The most successful person in the world may have been more successful if they had made different decisions. But we’ll never know. What happens happens.

You can’t make the most of your lot by going to university with no good purpose, or without making considerations about the path you’re taking. Yes, you may still make good use of your time and end up with a great job soon after graduation, but that doesn’t mean uni was the best choice and it doesn’t mean you had a better head start than someone else.

All this talk of best choices and comparing one thing to another will keep going forever more. But it misses the point. Bypass this conversation and make your own plans clear. A confident view will guide you toward making the right choices.

Once you get serious about your plans and you still decide a masters degree is the way to go, The Guardian has updated their guide to postgraduate courses this month. As with any league table, it can only serve as a guide. But when you’re making plans, it all helps.

Will you make the best choice every time? Obviously not. But the odds are stacked in your favour when you ditch the general and get more specific.

Failure is fine

Gaps are\'re not expected to be perfect straight away (photo by bosela)

We don’t want to fail, but when we do, we have a couple of choices:

  1. The winners choose to engage with failure and use it to do better next time.
  2. The losers walk away, deflated.  Future attempts either don’t happen at all, or are focused on the thought that they are likely to fail.

You may think that it failed once before, so it’s likely to go wrong again.  Rubbish!  If it failed once, you’ve had an experience of the situation to make you stronger for the future.

This is a common trait in successful people.  They bounce back, no matter how hard the fall, no matter how harsh the setback.  Because they know it takes time to get through.  None of us are perfect, so why do so many of us expect to achieve perfection from the outset?

Initial perfection can be summed up as one thing:


If you get all you want after a single attempt, you’re lucky.  That luck may stem from stumbling upon something and being in the right place at the right time, or it might come from a combination of situations that you will never understand and never be able to emulate.

In other words, NEVER FEAR FAILURE.  It’s normal, it’s to be expected, and it’s healthy.

Investing in failure helps confidence to build.  Instead of seeing 9 fails out of 10, we should concentrate on the 1 success out of 10 that brings in what we need.

Most of us have the sense to stop when something is taking too much time to be worth continuing with, but we’re not yet all equiped with the sense to carry on when there’s still time to reach our goal.

Don’t give up after failure.  With each fail, you’re one step closer to success.