Nobody strives for them. No athlete sets out for last place; no entrepreneur’s goal is bankruptcy.
But as if an act of divine mercy, there are upsides to be found in the negatives. It’s practically gospel, given the amount we hear successful people preaching the value of failing and the lessons to be found in losing.
Many are familiar with Michael Jordan’s quote,
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games; 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Denis Waitley said it well,
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Indeed, the mark of a successful person lies in their response to negative situations — they lick their wounds but never leave the battlefield; rather, they turn their scars into strengths.
In approaching rejection, losing and failure, here are 10 hidden blessings:
1. It will help clarify your passions.
Many of us struggle with decision making. Those with creative energy typically have their hand in multiple pies. But even a jack-of-all-trades knows there’s a limit to how thin you can spread yourself.
Often, failure results in diminished passion. You realize you weren’t as passionate about that project as you first thought. The pruning effect is a positive. As you clear your plate a little, the things that are left are what really gets you excited, and you direct your energy toward them.
Focused energy is when you’re most effective. Failure helps gets rid of the fluff.
2. You’ll discover new skills.
Remember when George Bush nimbly dodged that shoe destined for his head? Nobody thought he had the skill to do that. And I suspect neither did he. Until that moment.
Facing challenges and enduring a loss cause us to gather up resources and develop skills beyond our arsenal. In cases of “hysterical strength,” where ordinary people lift cars off someone trapped, it’s the negative situation that produces the surge of adrenaline and an act beyond one’s capability.
Negative experiences cause us to respond in ways beyond what we thought possible. The obstacle beckons to be overcome. In order to rise to the occasion, there needs to be an occasion.
3. You’ll find out who your real friends are.
Take a spill and you’ll see who emerges out of the Facebook crowd to lift you up. Sure, everyone’s busy, but we make time for the things we value and care about. “I’m too busy” can often be translated to, “It’s not that important.”
Relationships are key in all areas of life. And they take a lot of work, a lot of time invested. You certainly don’t want to be investing in bad stock. Of course friendships aren’t to be boiled down to a shallow transaction, but unfortunately, some folks see them that way — a lot of taking without any giving. It’s these relationships that need severing. There’s no honor or sense in helping others when you’re also hurting yourself.
Hitting rock bottom has a way of uncovering the healthy genuine relationships from the detrimental ones. You’ll want to keep investing in those who are nursing your wounds, and distancing yourself from the silent and nowhere-to-be-seen.
4. You’ll learn to check your blind spots.
It only takes one accident for a driver to never again forget to check his or her blind spot. A harsh way to learn, but some changes in behavior only happen with such shocks to the system.
While there are habits and skills we’ve not yet acquired, failures remind us of habits and skills we do possess, but are just simply too lazy to implement. After suffering through a robbery, for example, it’s likely that you’ll never again forget to lock the screen door.
5. Your pride and arrogance will burn away.
Nobody is immune to pride and arrogance. To say you’re beyond pride and arrogance is a little… well… prideful and arrogant. Losing is the glass of water for that bitter pill of pride. But that unpleasant process gives birth to humility. Which is perhaps the most attractive and profitable virtue anyone can possess.
As the proverb goes, “Pride goeth before the fall”; rejection and loss exchange pride for humility, and may be the saviors that prevent your fall.
6. You’ll grow elephant skin.
The shins of Muay Thai fighters can break baseball bats. The micro-fractures from hours upon hours of kicking heavy bags are filled with calcium, resulting in abnormal bone density. Like how muscle fibers grow as a result of micro-tears in the gym.
The old adage rings true — it’s the pain that brings the gain. The healing of a fracture carries a gift. Advice-101 for anyone stepping out to pursue their dream: prepare for rejection, criticism and haters. And with each punch thrown your way, you’ll realize that you can’t please everyone, and the impact will start to soften. You’ll even learn to bob and weave, realizing the issue lies more with them than with you.
7. You’ll never again wonder, “What if?”
The question of “What if?” can cause on to stare out the window for hours on end. When that curiosity is pursued only to find you’ve boarded the wrong plane, failure is the blessing that pulls you right off. You’ll no longer be kept up at night wondering about that other option.
Curiosity can cripple our consciousness and distract us from the work we should be doing. But sometimes engaging your own nagging is the only way to silence it.
Seeing his father drink beer, a teenage Tony Robbins begged his mother to let him try. Not only did she let him try, she gave him a whole six-pack, and wouldn’t let him leave until he drank every drop. Tony has never touched alcohol since. The taste of his own vomit may have something to do with that.
8. You’ll finally start asking for help.
Anyone with passion and ambition is tragically plagued with superhero-syndrome, which is both helpful, and harmful — particularly when the candle is burning at both ends, and you’re drifting toward burnout.
When the word “help” disappears from our vocabulary, it typically only reemerges when we crash and burn. We realize the skill of delegation is critical for our health and progress. We need to stop viewing help as a form of weakness, and start viewing it positively. Success is growing beyond our own capacity.
9. You’ll go to the drawing board.
And you’ll engage in iteration. The process of reevaluating and refining produces a better end-result. As the saying goes, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?” Some things need fixing, but reevaluation doesn’t happen if something doesn’t break.
No doubt one of the greatest human achievements: a 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. The only individual in the world to accomplish that feat — 64-year old Diana Nyad. She was on her fifth attempt, her first attempt back in 1978 and three other attempts from 2011 – 2012.
Her last attempt was cut short with jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen. This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, and a mask at night — when jellyfish rise to the surface.
She failed, went back to the drawing board, made iterations, and succeeded.
10. You’ll relish your success.
Value and meaning become heightened in the face of difficulty. The greatest celebrations come from the toughest battles. You’ll realize the dream isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
When the journey includes getting back on your feet and dusting yourself off, you’ll be more inclined to stop when you see roses, and express a little more gratitude and appreciation at the finish line.
Among the 14 “Eight-Thousanders” on earth, few recognize Kangchenjunga — while Everest remains a household name.
There’s only 262 meters separating the two mountains, but it’s the failures and deaths on Everest that make it the most respected and celebrated climb.
The lesson being? The bitterness of every failure adds that much more sweetness to every victory.