6 lessons you learn from failure

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
January 25, 2019

November 28, 2023

0 min read

Failing at work sounds like just about the worst thing that could happen to your career.

Yet, we all know the truth; no matter how hard you work, at some stage, you will experience failure. It can be a painful or unpleasant experience.

The important thing is to view failure as feedback on what went wrong and how we can improve as we move forward. Learning the lessons failure teaches us allows us to grow in our careers.

1. Clear emotions before you analyse

When initially confronting our own failure, most of us find it difficult to step back from our immediate emotional responses.

However, to gain insight from an experience, you first need to clear your head of all the distorting emotions that come with failure.

You need a cool head. This can be easier said than done; your boss might be frustrated, and you may be feeling emotions of anger, fear, or stress.

Try adding emotional distance before investigating what went wrong. If you don’t, your unconscious bias will hinder a clear understanding of the situation.

2. View situations from multiple perspectives

Now that your emotions are checked, try looking at the situation from a different perspective. Come at the problem from a point of view that’s not your own.

It may help to have a co-worker review your work and identify where you went wrong.

You can even have someone outside your department that understands your job review your work.

As their emotions are not tied up in the failure, they can assess it with impartial eyes.

3. Focus on the ‘why’ and evaluate the steps leading up to a failure

When trying to learn from your mistakes, your goal should always be to focus on the “why”.

The goal is to get to the root cause of the mistake and then uncover all the contributing factors.

Without knowing the why, you will have no way of preventing the same failure from occurring again. By evaluating all the steps leading up to an error, you will be able to recognise – and rectify – an issue before it goes south.

4. Ask for help when you need it

Instead of just getting something done “to get it done”, when you know you are on the path to failure, ask for help!

Continuing on when you know something isn’t working only increases your stress and frustration.

If you’ve already made a mistake, ask someone in a similar role for advice. Being able to ask a more experienced co-worker is often easier than facing a frustrated manager.

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.

5. Remember, it’s not the end of the world

While it won’t feel like it in the moment, or even during the fallout afterwards, it will all eventually be ok.

The failure has already occurred, and there is no way you can go back and change that. What you can control is how you react and how you choose to move forward from this experience.

Don’t let one failure cause you to fail at your job. Try to be grateful for this experience, no matter how hard it is.

Seeing failure as an opportunity for learning is a small step in the right direction to building yourself back up and changing your attitude to the situation.

6. It’s not about failing but what you learn from failure

Of course, you should always be aiming for success whenever you set out to accomplish a task or goal.

But is it realistic to expect ourselves to succeed every time we take on something new? Of course not. And so, the important part is not to let that failure set you back.

When you do fail, take the opportunity to learn so you can grow. Learning gives you a fresh perspective and insight that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

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