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An Unconventional Look At Failure

Before we get into what this post is about, let me introduce myself. I’ve been brought up in  Bangalore and I’ve lived my twenties just like anybody else. I’ve been to school, played sport, attended college, lost and gained friendships & relationships, worked in a job, started a business, lost money, made money…like any other individual, I’ve gone through thousands of experiences. And just like any other individual, I’ve enjoyed some of these experiences and have also felt the opposite with some of the others.

The story of our lives, however, is not in these experiences. What really differentiates us as people is how we choose to slot or label these experiences. Allow me to explain. As soon as we’re born, we begin to acquire our belief systems from our environment i.e. Parents, Teachers, Society, Media, Government and of course, the big one – Religion.

It is through these influences that all of us have an internal filing system which categorizes people, events and other occurrences into different slots like Good/ Bad, Right/ Wrong, Success/ Failure. It is this slotting of things that triggers another set of emotions- Happy or Sad. Of course these emotions are very broad categories with hundreds of little sub-emotions. You get the point, right?

Most of us aren’t even aware that we have this system, forget about where it came from or even trying to question it! We just operate with the understanding that X is right and Y is wrong. IT IS so and therefore I must have Z emotions about it! It’s because of the system that we often feel like we’ve walked into a dead end.

when u hit a wall

I was asked to share my thoughts on how to ‘Deal with Failure’. Allow me to take a slightly uncommon route here; it’s not failure that should be our concern. What we really need to deal with is our Internal Labelling System.

How do you that? Well, it starts with  a simple question:

What is Failure?

Is it in not acquiring a certain qualification or not landing a particular job? According to whom? Is it possible that what one person regards as failure is success to somebody else?

I’m not implying that one must run away from reality or refuse to see things as they are. And I am definitely NOT implying that one must not aspire for Academic Qualifications, High Paying jobs etc. Not at all. All I am asking you to consider is, who really made those decisions? Was it really you or did it arise from a belief that you’ve been fed?

Let’s first take stock of our standards and expectations as well as our own Filing System. To first ask if what we want is really true or simply an acquired belief. Again, it’s not bad to acquire beliefs. Nonetheless, it’s usually helpful to know the difference between a belief that’s acquired and what’s real.

I believe, when one truly ‘gets’ the above, it becomes a lot easier and pretty straight forward to ‘Deal with Failure’ because what fundamentally changes is that Failure goes from being this big hairy monster to being this little deviation in plan that needs to be corrected. And no, this is NOT an oversimplification of the whole idea because I am not implying that it’s all easy. All of this  requires work. Interviews and books about some wildly successful people will testify to that.

With this background now, how do you really go about making the changes to acquire the results that you want? Here are some very simple yet powerful ideas; but for these ideas to work for you, it will require an openness and willingness on your part because these are mindset related changes:

1. Don’t take it personally

Remember, you are not your qualifications, your bank balance, and your designation. Those are results. Sure, they’re all important. But you’re not them. The quickest way to make corrections and get the desired results is to get out of your own way and whatever you do, do not compare your results with those of others.

2. Ask the right questions

‘Why me?’ or ‘Why do I always screw up?’ will not quite get you the answers you really NEED. Try a couple of these next time:‘What do I really want?’ & ‘If I could do this differently all over again, what would I do?’‘What are the Top 3 things that I have learnt from this?’

3. Be responsible for your own learning

Strive to improve your skills, constantly upgrade your knowledge, and learn smarter, faster and easier ways to get the job done. While failure can be a great teacher, it can also be an expensive one sometimes. This is a mindset shift that has to come from within-Choosing to be proactive and genuinely wanting to be good at what you do.

I thought, based on a recent realization, that it would be useful to think about how we can manage and deal with our own thinking, our unwritten rules, our code of right and wrong before we look at ‘dealing’ with an external event or another person.

Hope this has helped you.

I am keen to hear your thoughts. Do pen it down in the comments.

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Mandeep Kataria

Mandeep is an entrepreneur who believes that living life is all about going for what one truly wants. When he’s not out socializing or working, you can find him lost in the latest piece of music that’s caught his ears. To get in touch with him, click on his name above.

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