Failure Hurts. What You Need to Know if You Tried and Failed

by Alli Polin on March 14, 2017

I sat down to write about getting unstuck, but there’s one thing that doesn’t get enough attention…What happens when you get unstuck, do that thing, and fail? Failure hurts no matter how strong you are. How are you changed?

There are some people who think of it like skydiving (like it’s a good thing) and love it. They’re energized by going for it and addicted to trying again and again. Each loss is a stepping stone.

Then there are others. 

People who are crushed. 

Who took a leap and crashed. 

And they hurt.

They felt humiliated. 

Banged up.

Bruised. 

They’re tired.

And feel defeated. 

Unworthy.

Stupid.

Simply worn down.

Yes, they learn from it, but one of the lessons is to play it a little safer. 

Smaller. 

That’s what they deserve.

That’s what they’re capable of.

The big stuff is for someone else. 

No. That’s no way to lead your life. Just no.

It’s a fallacy that some people are meant for success and not others. Simply untrue. Yes, there are people who have extra help, and privilege, and opportunity but you and me? We can still get there. 

In that enormous space between this loss and failure and your next attempt, there’s a big divide to cross. It can feel more like an ocean than a stream. It doesn’t mean you can’t cross it. Build a bridge, a boat, a plane a hydrofoil… do whatever it takes. Even if it takes time to rebuild and start again, you can.

Here’s what I want you to know:

You are smart and capable. 

You cared about something enough to make the leap

Millions of people are too scared to try even once.

To dream the first time. 

Hope.

Faith.

Confidence.

Courage.

Love.

Each of these things are there for you. 

There are people who still believe in you even when you stopped believing in yourself. 

There may not be another chance to do this exact same thing again. 

But there will be other opportunities. 

Other things you want and crave. 

And you’re driven to create.

There are things you believe in and can do like a freakin’ rockstar. 

For now, lick your wounds. 

Cry if you want to. 

Then let this loss become fuel for your next success

It’s not a scarlet “A” you wear for the rest of your life. 

Failure is not permanent. It’s not a tattoo that lasts forever. 

It’s a moment in time. 

Move forward and do not allow yourself to live in the past. 

Another thing is around the corner. 

Don’t hide from it. 

Don’t ignore it.

Take a deep breath and try again. 

It’s the person who keeps trying who gets what they want. 

Not the person who goes for it once and disappears.

Everyone has failures, but not everyone has learned that it’s the persistence and resilience that gets you where you want to go. 

Yes, failure hurts. It’s okay.

You’ll be okay.

If you give up on this dream, this opportunity…

Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz March 14, 2017 at 7:55 am

Alli,

All I can add is “spot on!” We need to keep getting up and figuring out how to take a step forward and a step up.

Jon

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Alli Polin March 14, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Thanks, Jon. Yes – with you. The hardest part is often picking yourself up off the floor and taking that step forward.

Alli

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Terri Klass March 14, 2017 at 10:12 am

I love this post, Alli and it rings true on so many counts. First your point: “It’s a moment in time” is so energizing. Whenever I present my workshops on change I try to help participants see it as a “blip” in their career. That’s all. Nothing more. They will overcome the challenge or change and grow stronger. The same is true of failure. It’s just a “blip” along our journeys. Perspective can be so empowering.

Thanks Alli and will share!

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Alli Polin March 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm

In the middle of it, a blip can feel monumental. Truth is, if we look back over our lives, we can see the trail of “blips” that we thought would be the end of the world. Knowing that can help give us the courage to try again.

Every time I get a glimpse into your classes, I can see why you’re in such high demand as a leadership consultant.

Thanks for your comment, Terri!

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Joy Guthrie March 14, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Wonderful post Alli. It’s terrific advice to remember for when things don’t go as expected.

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Alli Polin March 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Thanks, Joy. It can hurt so badly when we really want something to work out and it doesn’t. Giving up is one thing but giving up on ourselves is another.

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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ March 14, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Hi Alli,
I love the way you went past the frequent advice about seeing failure as growth and hit one of the hidden problems — reliving the past with each new failure.

Great contribution to this every challenging problem.

Bravo,
Kate

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Alli Polin March 14, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Thanks, Kate. Often we read about how failure is totally awesome! People write about how grateful they are for failure and how much they love it because it sets them on a better path forward. To some extent, that may be true but we’re minimizing the pain that so many people experience. We know that a part of the hero’s journey is going for what they want, loss and rebirth. We can’t always rush through the bad without taking the time to process the moment.

Alli

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LaRae Quy March 15, 2017 at 12:08 am

Another great article, Alli! I love this: “It’s a fallacy that some people are meant for success and not others. Simply untrue. Yes, there are people who have extra help, and privilege, and opportunity but you and me? We can still get there.” Yes, there are people who get extra help but to be truthful, they will still end up failing in long run because it wasn’t the kind of success that came from having the grit and scrappiness to keep going when the going got tough.

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Alli Polin March 15, 2017 at 6:51 am

Agree with you, LaRae. A little courage and mental toughness goes a LONG way.

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Lori Gosselin March 15, 2017 at 10:31 am

Hi Alli!
You have me thinking here: “What if failure is simply taking you someplace new? Pointing you to a new path?” I believe it is!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my past “failures” wondering if they in fact do define my limits. But I know they don’t because of the very thing you said.
How awful it would be to be successful in the wrong thing! Had I been successful enough in any of my former pursuits, I would not be where I am, thrilled to be doing my Heart work! Finally. With confidence and excitement because this is what I was born to do! (I’m talking about community building, of course!)
Thanks for this!
Lori

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Alli Polin March 16, 2017 at 9:22 am

Lori,

Your story is one I think about. Truly! You have shifted and transformed over your career. It can be scary to move into an entirely new space yet there are glimmers pointing us forward and connecting us one to the next if we look for it. So happy that you’re now Sounding the Drum…

Best,

Alli

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Mukesh Gupta March 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Great post Alli…

I think we underestimate the power of failure…

everytime…

all the time…

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Alli Polin March 16, 2017 at 9:18 am

Thanks, Mukesh. It’s not something we want but it most definitely is something that happens. It can’t define us…

Alli

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Chery Gegelman March 18, 2017 at 7:20 pm

It can be so hard to experience failure. But it is so critical for our growth. What an inspiring reminder to keep going!

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Alli Polin March 19, 2017 at 2:22 am

Thanks so much, Chery. Appreciate you.

Alli

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Dan Black March 23, 2017 at 1:51 am

Great advice Alli! I’ve learned we can’t allow a failure or mistake to define us or who we are. We have to learn from it and move on.

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Alli Polin March 23, 2017 at 7:18 am

That’s really the key, isn’t it Dan? Moving on. It can be so easy to get stuck replaying the failure over and over. Truth is, that’s one event, not the only event that we’ll ever have. Good advice. Appreciate your comment and connection. Look forward to reading more on your blog too!

Best,

Alli

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Mile March 23, 2017 at 3:45 am

“Let this loss become fuel for your next success” – I like it.

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Alli Polin March 23, 2017 at 7:17 am

Thanks, Mile. Not easy but worth doing. Appreciate your comment!

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