Are you Failing Forward?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Have you heard of that term Failing Foward before? Were you confused by what it could mean?

When I hear failing forward, it makes me think of long and triple jumpers. Every long and triple jumper knows about falling forward, the reason being is that the length of the jump is measured by the closet point to the mark. So in other words, if you fall backward you lose distance; and by falling forward you don’t lose any of it. Every jumper has to fall, but the best way to fall is forward to avoid losing points.

So what does it mean to fail forward in everyday life? In short, it means people who fail forward are able to learn from their negative experiences and learn from them rather than seeing it as just another failure. ⁣

Seeing mistakes or failures as learning lessons isn’t a new concept, many others have shared how they reframe mistakes to get to success.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

So ask yourself when faced with failures, challenges, or obstacles, 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐈 𝐧𝐞𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬?⁣

Below are seven abilities achievers use to help them not take failure personally and keep moving forward, you can read more about these in John C. Maxwell, book Failing Forward.


  1. Achievers Reject Rejection
    • Rather than say, “I am a failure,” they say, “I missed that one,” or “I made a mistake.” Psychologist Martin E. Seligman believes we have two choices when we fail: We can internalize or externalize our failure. To keep the right perspective, take responsibility for your actions, but don’t take failure personally.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: When you make a mistake or fail to meet a deadline take responsibility for your part. Own up to it and see what you can learn to do better next time. Not sure what to do? Ask a peer or your supervisor for candid feedback on how to improve.
  2. Achievers See Failure As Temporary
    • People who personalize failure see a problem as a hole they’re permanently stuck in. But achievers see any predicament as temporary. When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a lifelong epidemic.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: Did you apply for a job and not get it? Or did you get laid off from your job recently? Remember this is temporary, and looking back at this later you’ll see this as the BEST thing that could have happened to you. See the opportunities, not the closed doors.
  3. Achievers See Failures As Isolated Incidents
    • When achievers fail, they see it as a momentary event, not a lifelong epidemic. It’s not personal. If you want to succeed, don’t let any single incident color your view of yourself.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: One failure, one rejection or closed door does not define your career. Repeat that to yourself, ONE REJECTION DOES NOT DEFINE MY CAREER. We all make mistakes and the faster you let it go, the easier it will be to move forward.
  4. Achievers Keep Expectations Realistic
    • The greater the feat you desire to achieve, the greater the mental preparation required for overcoming obstacles and persevering over the long haul. If you want to take a stroll in your neighborhood, you can reasonably expect to have few, if any, problems. But that’s not the case if you intend to climb Mount Everest. It takes time, effort, and the ability to overcome setbacks.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: You have to approach each day with reasonable expectations and not get your feelings hurt when everything doesn’t turn out perfectly.
  5. Achievers Focus on Strengths
    • Another way achievers keep themselves from personalizing failure is by focusing on their strengths. The best bet for failing forward is developing and maximizing your strengths.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: Use your strengths, if you love teaching others volunteer to train new hires. Better yet, volunteer to train your manager (or others in leadership) how to do something. Taking these initiatives to showcase your strengths will help you stand out.
  6. Achievers Vary Approaches to Achievement
    • Achievers are willing to vary their approaches to problems. To achieve your goals, you cannot allow others’ comments to make you feel like a failure.
    • How to Apply to Your Career: Be willing to be innovative and step outside of the box when it comes to. . Every problem has a solution, how you approach it is unique.
  7. Achievers Bounce Back
    • Everyone has the ability to bounce back after an error, mistake, or failure. Psychologist Simone Caruthers says, “Life is a series of outcomes. Sometimes the outcome is what you want. Great. Figure out what you did right. Sometimes the outcome is what you don’t want. Great. Figure out what you did so you don’t do it again.”
    • How to Apply to Your Career: Sometimes we make a career decision that wasn’t great, figure out what you did wrong and learn from it.

Tell yourself, “I’m not a failure. I failed at doing something.” There’s a big difference

– John C. Maxwell.

The key to failing forward is being able to keep moving forward no matter what happens. And what you need to remember is that failure does not make you a failure. No one should take mistakes personally; that’s the way to take yourself out of failure.

As a career coach, I help clients identify past failures and see the growth and learning that they had. All you need to do is make a list of your career failures and start processing them. What were the learning lessons from them?

A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.

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