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Failing Forward

This past week I had the privilege of teaching and training in Cyprus. Leaders and pastors from the Middle East (Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, for example) were there. We used John Maxwell’s excellent leadership volume called Failing Forward. The information there is so profoundly helpful that I wanted to share some of the truth with you. Perhaps it will whet your appetite for more.


· No one wants to fail, but everyone does from time to time. In fact, it seems that all great achievers have made major mistakes on their journey to success. Life is full of stories of successful leaders who experienced great failures. If everyone fails, then it is crucially important that we learn to fail forward.


· We must learn to turn failing and mistakes into stepping-stones, not tombstones.


· An individual can consistently succeed in life only when he or she learns how to confidently look failure and adversity in the eye and keep moving forward anyway. There are many ways to be a winner, but there are only two ways to be a loser: to not learn from your failure and to fail to move beyond it.


· Many people would attempt great achievements if they thought all possibility of failure could be removed. This is impossible! There is no achievement without failure. Everyone faces obstacles in life. What they are does not matter. What does matter is that we learn to overcome any problems, mistakes, adversities, and failures.


· Changing your perspective on failure will help you persevere regardless of the circumstances.


· Adopt a new definition for failure. Regard the experience of failure as the price you pay for progress. If you will put that mindset into practice, you will position yourself to fail forward.

· Mistakes are not failures. Adversity and hardships do not mean defeat. They are merely the price of achievement on the success journey.


· Many people struggle with feelings of failure. At the heart of their doubts and fears is a central question: Am I a failure? People are not failures until they believe they are. We must learn the difference between failing at something and being a failure. Mistakes become failures only when we consistently respond to them incorrectly.


· The first important step in overcoming failure is learning not to personalize it. Make sure you know that your failure does not make you a failure. If you personalize failure, it will become exceedingly painful, sometimes both emotionally and physically. For many people, the pain of failure leads to the fear of failure. Fear of failure will stop all forward progress.


· You cannot avoid fear. No magic potion will take it away. To conquer fear, you have to feel the fear and take action anyway. George Bernard Shaw asserted, “A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” To overcome fear and its awful grip, you have to be willing to recognize that you will make many mistakes in your life. Nonetheless, you get up and take action. If you take action while still making mistakes, you can gain experience. That experience eventually brings competence, and you make fewer mistakes. Fear is no longer paralyzing because mistakes become your friends, your teachers.


Discussion: Do you fear failure? Are you willing to face your fear and get moving? What is the next step you need to take on the road to becoming all God wants you to be and do? Accept responsibility for failures. Please do not forget that everyone makes mistakes. From time to time, we will mess up. Many people make mistakes but refuse to admit them. They tend to see every obstacle or error as somebody else’s fault.


· Most people believe there is a huge gap between them and success. Frankly, there is not much difference between success and failure, but that little difference makes a big difference! Persistence is the little difference that makes the big difference when it comes to failing forward. It separates those who achieve success from those who only dream about it. Remember: There is no failure except when we stop trying. There is no defeat except on the inside. Only a weakness of persistence can keep us from success. The only way to fail forward and achieve your dreams is to cultivate tenacity and persistence. More than anything else, what keeps a person going in the midst of adversity is having a sense of purpose. Purpose is the fuel that powers persistence. These qualities can be learned partly by developing the habit of following through on your commitments when you don’t feel like it. You need a strategy to cultivate these qualities.


You will fail; we all do. But you will fail forward if you do these things:


1. Realize there is one major difference between average and achieving people.

2. Learn a new definition for failure.

3. Remove the “you” from failure.

4. Take action and reduce your fear.

5. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.

6. Don’t let the failure from outside get inside you.

7. Say good-bye to yesterday.

8. Change yourself, and your world changes.

9. Get over yourself and start giving yourself.

10. Find the benefit in every bad experience.

11. If at first you do succeed, try something harder.

12. Learn from a bad experience and make it a good experience.

13. Work on the weakness that weakens you.

14. Understand that there is not much difference between success and failure.

15. Get up, get over it, and get going. You don’t become a great sailor by sailing calm seas.


Most people run from problems. Instead of running from problems, you should go after them. You get ahead by solving problems. Highly successful people have made more mistakes, suffered more adversities, overcome more problems, and experienced more failures than most all the other people you will ever meet. If you want to achieve your dreams, get out there and fail. Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward!


Thank you, John Maxwell, for these inspiring and helpful directives. You can maximize your future by getting this book, Failing Forward,and working through it as your next learning experience. You can buy it on Amazon or anywhere great books are sold.

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