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Recent FAIL? Awesome! 6 steps to learn from it.

December 6, 2014


If you haven’t had a recent failure, you’re in denial, or you’re not pushing yourself to realize your potential. Either way, it’s time to adjust how you view failure. Success can’t exist without it. The difference between success and a FAIL is learning from the experience.

Post-FAIL Analysis

Identify the pain.

Sometimes a FAIL can be a painful bruise to the ego that is there to remind you to take stock of the bad and make room for the good. Just like when you run into a piece of furniture over and over and bruise your foot, the habits developed out of learning from the injury are critical to ensuring you don’t walk into that piece of furniture again. Accept the pain because it’s there for a reason.

Identify cause(s).

Not all failures are avoidable. Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge, skills or resources that seem unavoidable in retrospect. That’s OK. What matters is what you do after a FAIL. For now, focus only on carefully identifying the cause(s).

Review events.

Replay the steps that led to the FAIL. What happened? What were the circumstances? Don’t obsess, but brainstorm all points of failure from as much of an objective POV as possible. No judgment, no blame. This is where the learning begins.

Own it.

What do you own? How did you contribute to the problems that caused the FAIL? Sure, looking at others is relevant, but focus only upon what you could have reasonably controlled. A myopic view of others’ faults is only going to get in your way. Lose that mindset now.

List the lessons.

Sometimes the most valuable lessons learned can be the smallest aspects of a larger picture. Maybe it’s a “tip for better living” in the form of poor judgment or a persistent professional blind spot. Regardless, stop to analyze and list lessons so you don’t repeat the mistakes in the future. Ask yourself “What did I learn?” If you haven’t moved on from the previous steps, you risk getting stuck. Stuck is bad. Ask the difficult questions and take your time.

Develop FAIL avoidance strategy.

Come up with a set of tactics to avoid the FAIL. Write them down and keep it simple. Keywords will work just fine. Keep this list in a place where you will regularly see it, so you have a visual reminder of what not to do next time. Don’t assume you’ll remember the details of FAIL avoidance because the momentum of work and life dictates otherwise.

There will always be too many things demanding attention at any given moment on any given day. Get back to the basics and give yourself a break. Remembering lessons from a FAIL may help avoid the same pitfalls in future situations. Learning takes time and practice. If you don’t practice, learning won’t stick, and then you’ll be stuck. Nobody wants that.

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