5 tips on how to succeed through failure

Everyone fails in life; at some time or another. It’s guaranteed. Some will fail bigger than others, and some will fall harder than others. Unfortunately, it’s not something that we as humans can control or escape. What we can control is to choose how we deal with it, how we let it affect us and what course of action we take when we experience it.

Take Michael Chlepko for example. Michael is a long-time associate of Agonis Group; currently helping as one of our Senior Project Managers on the Level Crossing Program in Melbourne. He also runs his own, successful business – Co-Efficient Solutions, and has recently won the title of National Aerobatic Champion (Intermediate Class) at the Australian Aerobatic Championships. Next year, he is off to compete at the World Advanced Aerobatic Championship in Czech Republic; something only a handful of Australians have been fortunate enough to achieve. From the outside, Michael looks like he “has it all together” and is successful in everything he does; and that’s because he is. But that success hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been quick, it hasn’t come without hitting rock bottom, and it hasn’t come without hours upon hours of perfecting his weaknesses. The difference with Michael is that he has embraced every failure (or obstacle as he likes to call it) he has encountered and every weakness he has experienced to his advantage.

Michael has been flying for over 20 years. During this time, he’s endured failures and ‘hard zero’ scores from flying judges at competitions and stuffed up important turns and rolls – only in the past year has his persistence, growth mindset, dedication and resilience paid off. He’s also struggled in his professional and personal life and lost almost everything when he went bankrupt in 2013. But instead of giving up and throwing in the towel and deciding everything was “too hard” and it “wasn’t for him”, Michael overcome his failures and turned them into steppingstones that lead to his successes; rather large successes at that. How? He worked hard, he didn’t give up and most importantly, he had the right mindset and outlook for what he wanted his future to look like.

So, what did he do to turn everything around and what tips can he provide to help anyone who is faced with a failure; or an obstacle that they are struggling to overcome?

1. See failure as an opportunity

“Failure is the opportunity to start again; this time more intelligently”.

Things won’t always go your way; and that’s ok. If you get knocked down, step back and work out what you need to change so that next time you won’t make the same mistake. Whether you change direction, fix what didn’t work or simply start again; there is always an opportunity to be had.

If you change your mindset to believe that every failure is a lesson learnt, rather than an excuse to give up, you are one step closer to success.

2. Turn your weakness into strengths

“You keep failing until you win. There is no such thing as failure. There’s winning, and then there is feedback”

When you fail at something, sit down and put together a list of everything you did wrong, then work on these until you perfect them. Ask for feedback and practice the parts you don’t like and/or don’t work. The more you do it, the more it goes from “I can’t do it”, to “this is hard”, to “it’s annoying”, to finally being able to say, “I can do it now”. Persistence pays off.

3. Getting comfortable with rejection

“Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough. It means the other person failed to see what you have to offer.”

Rejection is a very real part of life, and we can choose to let it get the best of us or we can brush it off and move on. Don’t take it personally and don’t get hung up on ‘why not me’. Rejection isn’t always a negative and should often be perceived as a re-direct into a more successful direction than the one you originally planned.

4. Change your mindset

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

Failure often comes with thoughts like “am I not good enough?” or “why couldn’t I make it work?” or “it’s too hard” or “‘I give up”. All negatives thought that won’t help you get back on your feet.

Instead think, “ok, that didn’t work, what do I need to change”, “Let’s fix XYZ and try again” and “who can I talk to get back in the game”.

Many new businesses will fail in the very early stages because instead of trying again after a failure, they throw in the towel because it was ‘too hard’, or ‘didn’t get a quick/ easy win”. Success doesn’t happen overnight and can often see you restart 100 times before getting it right. Keep a positive mind and positive results follow.

5. Think Big, Medium, Small… in that order

“When we fly, there is a navigation technique used by pilots so we don’t get lost: we look at the big picture, medium, then small.”

In the context of a project, if you only look at one small part, nothing aligns, and things start going off course; resulting in program overruns or budget blow-outs.. Conversely, if you only look at the big picture, you won’t see how your project or business is operating and then you abdicate your position as it’s leader. So how does this technique work? Simple:

  • BIG Picture: What is the overall desired outcome of the project / task at hand? Where do we want to ‘fly’ to?
  • MEDIUM Picture: Have we checked in with everyone? Does everyone know what they’re supposed to be doing? Are we generally heading in the right direction?
  • SMALL Picture: Are tasks being completed on time? Is that drawing finished? Have invoices been paid? Are all the small things on track to achieve the big picture?

Always work from Big to Medium to Small… never the other way around. Slowly refine and adapt as required, to stay on track. Whether it’s a large-scale project, a job interview, a business or a flying routine, the same framework approach will work every time.

Success is a long road. It takes tumbles and falls, wrong turns, tough criticism and countless rejections; but with the right amount of persistence, resilience and a winning mindset, you can achieve whatever you desire. Always remember that every successful person has failed many times over. You are not alone; embracing failure is the key to achieving great things.

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