How I Deal With My Own Failure


How often do you talk about your own failure? If you’re like me, not often. I think it’s a universal thing that we often try to cover up our failures.

It’s not cool to say that you’ve failed. We prefer to talk about success. That’s also true for most books, articles, talks, etc.

Yup, everything is always great. Except, it isn’t always great.

But what’s wrong with failing? And what is failure? It’s so subjective. I think we’re often too quick to judge ourselves.

In the moment, failure is this ugly thing that you want to go away quickly. When I look back at my own failures it’s the same. There are things like failed jobs, business ventures, relationships, etc. 

Here are a few examples:

  • When I was 18, I start a sales training business. I never made a sale. I also didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I tried to become a DJ. I bought the equipment. Spent hours learning it. Played a few gigs. Until I discover that I hate nightlife.
  • I almost opened a coffee shop (not a Dutch coffee shop). With almost I mean literally almost. All the plans were there. I failed to get enough financing.
  • I started a men’s accessories label. I still have a bunch of ties and pocket squares in storage.
  • I wanted to write a novel. I failed to even write a single page.
  • A Dutch company asked me to do the marketing for its US subsidiary. It was a total disaster and I was out in six months.

And that’s with most people. Last week I was talking to a friend. He felt that he was a failure because he’s 31, his relationship didn’t work out, doesn’t have a lot of savings, and that he hates his job.

To me, it’s not bad—you can change all of those things (except for your age). You can find new love, make money, and find a job that you do enjoy.

It took me years to shift my view from “judging” to “looking forward.”

The feeling of failure will never be pleasant. 

I honestly don’t want to know how much time and money I’ve wasted on all the things that I’ve failed in the past. And every time, I felt like shit.

When people say, “fail fast,” it sounds nice, but the reality is that failure hurts.

It’s just not a good feeling to fail, especially not in front of the eyes of your family, friends, or other people.

Of course, you shouldn’t care about those things. But we’re still ONLY humans, right?

So when I talk about failure, I don’t mean that failing is easy or that it feels nice. If you enjoy failing, you’re probably an idiot. No, it’s hard. But that’s the whole point.

For me, it goes like this:

  • You fail
  • You feel like shit
  • You absorb the damage
  • You process it
  • And you move on

It sounds easy, right? But it’s actually very hard to deal with. And at times, I’ve been seriously questioning my actions.

“What is all this leading to?” I would ask myself.

The answer is simple: Your destiny.

It’s corny, yeah, I know it. But that doesn’t make it less true. Plus, what is destiny? I like how Heraclitus defines it:

“Character is destiny.“

And what reveals your character more than dealing with failure?

It’s simple: Is failure your end, or your beginning?

If it’s the end, you start judging yourself. And before you know it, your self-esteem suffers from it. But if you see failure as a beginning, you keep going.

You’re not afraid to try new things or to experiment. If things don’t work out for you, what’s the big deal?

And every time you fail, you learn something new. And with every lesson you learn, you get closer to something that WILL work for you.

Things happen. You fail. You lose time, money, friends. But no matter what happens, you better love it. Because one day you’ll look back and everything in your life starts to make sense.

And that’s how it also went for me. When I look back now, I get it. I’m even happy I made those moves and failed miserably. It brought me to where I am now.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said:

“Amor Fati — “Love Your Fate,” which is in fact your life.”

“So, what now?”

Don’t look at me! Just do something. Maybe you’ll fail, maybe you’ll succeed.

One day you’ll thank yourself for trying. Because without the failure, you would never be you.

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