How to Deal with Failure by Jared Talavera:

This week I'm happy to have Jared Talavera as a guest on the blog. He's written a great post on dealing with failure and I hope it's helpful to you. Enjoy!

Failure is something we have all experienced at more than one point in our lives yet it is something that most people would have difficulty knowing how to deal with. Whether it is not being able to remember the name of a person you just met, being demotivated to go to the gym or not sticking to your new year’s resolutions. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers that gives us the opportunity to reach success.

The word success comes from the Latin word succedere which means “to come after.” What does success come after? That would be failure.

Failure is not the same as being unsuccessful.

Anjali Sastry, a systems dynamic lecturer at MIT and the Department of Global Health at Harvard University, and Kara Penn, owner of the management consulting firm Mission Spark, are the authors of the book Fail Better: Design Smart Mistakes and Succeed Sooner.

In an interview that Anjali did with MIT she said, “few would disagree that we should learn from mistakes. But usable knowledge for exactly how to do so is often lacking.” She continued by saying, “rethink how you plan your projects to ensure that the failures you generate are useful; and second, as you go, test your ideas, looking for and carefully assessing the feedback at every step.”  

Failure can happen to anyone at anytime including celebrities.

At the 2015 Madrid premiere of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Jennifer Lawrence had one of her heels caught in her gown sending her in a plunge straight down to the ground. She has tumbled over before while accepting her Academy Award for Best Actress in 2012 and on the red carpet at the 2014 Oscars.

However, despite her numerous falls, many people, including myself, would still see her as being an incredible human being.

What is happening here is a psychological phenomenon known as the Pratfall Effect. When a person we believe to be competent makes a mistake, we tend to see them as being more likeable. We see that they are human and make mistakes too.

In a blog post I wrote entitled Finding Hope In Forever, I reflected on how mistakes are an inherent part of being human.

“Nobody is picture perfect, but I think it is humbling to know that from the very beginning of life we were never designed to be perfect. We make mistakes. We make judgments. We hurt people when we don’t intend to.”

How people respond to failures and setbacks is important as it has implications on personal growth and resilience.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has studied how praise impacts the way children think about failure.

Dr. Dweck’s research shows that there are two mindsets we could have in regards to failure: fixed and growth mindset.

The fixed mindset assumes that who we are is static and does not change. However, the growth mindset allows people to see failure as motivation to learn and improve.

Is failure demoralizing? Absolutely, but it doesn’t mean that your world has to fall apart and everything you are striving for are impossible? No, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Failures give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your circumstances and try again.

I was less than a month into my salsa classes when I went to my first social dance event. It was a marathon-styled salsa dancing charity event whereby profits would go towards the children's hospital.

There were about 100 salsa dancers that evening. I only had a handful of moves that I could remember, but I could not lead them through correctly. At the end of the event I felt so terrible. I felt so disheartened.

I went home feeling like a failure. However, I realized that I had only been dancing for less than a month. I could not expect myself to be able to dance like a level 2, 3, 4 or even a level 5 student.

I loved salsa dancing and wanted to learn be a better dancer. I dedicated myself to group classes, revision classes and consulting with instructors and experienced dancers for guidance.

More than a year later I was asked to fill in as a lead for the level 1.5 class. One of the female students spoke to me after the class and said, "I feel so terrible. I feel so disheartened."

Wait a moment! Where have I heard that before?

I recognized that same negative self talk because I had done that to myself too when I was starting salsa.

I told her "it looks like you're already starting to grasp the foundational moves from the classes which is good. Keep persisting with your dancing. You will get better but it is going to take time and effort.”

Quite recently I discovered that she progressed onwards from level 1.5 when we partnered up in salsa class. I was smiling so much because she did persist and she did improve.

Christa Terry is a writer, ballet dancer and mother who blogs at Hello Mamas. One of the things that she says she does more often than anything else in her ballet classes is screw up. She says that, “doing something well doesn’t mean doing it perfectly, but rather doing it with great dedication.”

When you persist in dedicating yourself to something that you are passionate about amidst all the failed attempts you are pushing yourself to learn and grow.

So, how do you deal with failure? Here is a list of 8 summary points.

  1. Failure is not the same as being unsuccessful.
  2. Focus on developing a growth mindset. Believe in your ability to improve. As Anjali Sastry has said, “re-think how you plan your projects to ensure that the failures you generate are useful; and second, as you go, test your ideas, looking for and carefully assessing the feedback at every step.”
  3. The Pratfall Effect. Failure should not change your ability to be a good human being.
  4. Surround yourself with people who care about you. Allow family and friends to comfort and support you.
  5. Observe how other people achieve success. We cannot live long enough to make every mistake possible and learn from them. However, we can learn vicariously through the actions of others.
  6. Be your own best friend. Be compassionate and forgiving towards yourself when you make a mistake.
  7. Remind yourself of what motivated and inspired you to pursue the goal you desire in the first place. You pursued a particular goal because it was something you are passionate about and believed in. Allow that to be your fuel to keep going when failure strikes.
  8. Try, try, try again. Re-evaluate what went wrong your and develop a new approach. Let it all go: the failures and mistakes - and try, try, try again.


What is one failure you experienced and what did it teach you?

If things came easily to you, would you appreciate it as much than if you had to work hard for it after experiencing failure?

Jared Talavera was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. He is a public and global health advocate with a passion for writing, salsa dancing and scripting letters for The World Needs More Love Letters.

He has written for Bedlam Magazine and has been featured in The Leader newspaper, Student Youth Network radio station and Broadsheet Melbourne. You can read more of his work on his blog.