Failure is an awful feeling. No matter who you are and what stage of life you’re at, you will be familiar with the biting, ego-shriveling and embarrassing sensation of failure. It hurts. It stings. It sucks.
how to be successful

But does it have to?

Is it possible to turn failure into a friend? If you do a little research on the topic, you’ll find that many people have done just that (see, for example, this quote from Michael Jordan). There are plenty of famous, successful people who have lauded failure.
But still, after reading all of the above and more, I had an ingrained fear of failure. Until a very close friend of mind demonstrated how it is possible to fail numerous times with grace. Her journey changed my life as well as her own.
My friend Carol lived failure. And she showed me how she turned it into her best friend.
Just over four years ago, Carol started her own business in multi-level marketing (think Avon, Forever Living, Juice Plus etc if you’re not familiar with MLM). She told me that she experienced a collective eye-roll from everyone around her (including her husband) when she announced she was starting this kind of business.
She invited almost 100 people to her launch party. Fifteen people replied to say they would be able to make it. On the day only nine showed up. Most people who received her invitation ignored it.
While I think that would have been enough rejection to put me off the whole idea, Carol pressed on regardless (I went to her launch party and it was fabulous). You see, Carol had a goal. It was a goal shared by many who set out in MLM; indeed it was a goal shared by many parents. Carol wanted to give up her ‘day job’ as a teacher so that she could earn money while working around her family.
For the first two years of running her business, Carol made little money. People were incredibly mean to her at times. She was told that she would never make any money, that it wasn’t a real business and some people even ‘unfriended’ her on Facebook when she invited them to her home parties.
While I supported Carol, I have to admit that deep down I thought that she should find a better way to pursue her dream. I just didn’t see how she would make it profitable, although I never said that to her.
I feel ashamed of my secret opinion now. Because today, Carol has built up a huge team of people and has achieved one of the highest levels in the business. She brings in a great income and, most importantly, she has achieved her goal. She gave up her teaching job a few months ago and is able to work from home full-time, fitting it in around her kids.
I asked Carol about her journey recently, assuming that the years of failure preceding her success must have been soul-destroying for her. Yet again, Carol surprised me with her answer. She said that although it was soul destroying at first, she learned to love the failure. It became her best friend.
Her attitude shocked and inspired me. I needed to know more. When I told her about this little blog, she offered to share some failure tips.
So here is what my dear friend told me about how to make failure your best friend:

1. Research failure like you’d research a dissertation

If you’re in the throes of failure, you could let it punch you in the face continuously and spend your time mopping up the blood. Or, you could learn about your opponent so you’re better able to dodge the punches.
Carol read books on failure and listened to podcasts and TED talks on the subject. She learned about others who had failed before her. She became armed with knowledge until she was able to cajole failure into becoming her friend.

2. Take ego out of the equation

Carol told me so many times how people had snubbed her or ignored her when she tried to promote her business. Yet she refused to let her bruised ego dictate whether it was time to give up or not. Let’s face it, your ego will tell you to give up as soon as it receives the first dent.
Instead, Carol determined whether she should press on or give up by how she felt about her business and her goal. She told me that she loved the products she was selling and she really believed in them. She enjoyed working in her business and was passionate about reaching her goal. To that end, she could accept the shit sandwiches thrown at her on a regular basis.
It is possible to make failure into a friend. But ego and failure will never be friends. Fact.

3. Figure out how failure has helped you be a better person.

Carol is adamant that if she could relive her business journey over, she wouldn’t change a thing. This is because, according to her, the years of failure have made her stronger and more resilient.
She says she learned so much about herself – her strengths, her weaknesses and the parts of her personality she needed to work on. If her business had succeeded straight away, what would she have learned about herself? Not a lot.
Carol much prefers the person she is today and without the failure she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow. She’s more patient than she used to be and no longer compares herself to other people. She learned the art of perseverance and realized what is important in her life and what is just window dressing.
According to Carol, it’s not just her that has benefited from failure’s teachings. Her husband and kids have too, because she is ‘a nicer, calmer and more patient person now’.

4. Find at least one person to support you

The majority of Carol’s friends and family were unsupportive of her business venture. This was primarily because they just didn’t understand it. She says that finding like-minded people to lean on was crucial. She found a group of consultants from the same company and they started a Facebook group. This little group was a lifeline. They shared the ups and (many) downs together in a flurry of support, encouragement and rants.
Carol accepted that most people didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand. Therefore, their opinions about her venture weren’t important to her. If you have just one person who’s got your back, you’ll be far more likely to succeed.
Failure can become your best friend but it’s a much better relationship if there’s a third party present.

5. Giving up is not failing

You’ll find much advice on failure which tells you that you should never give up. Carol disagrees. She believes if you start resenting what you’re doing and stop enjoying it (i.e. you stop cheerfully being splatted by shit sandwiches) then it may be time to reconsider. There’s no point persevering and continuing to fail in pursuit of a goal which has changed or a passion that has long gone.
According to Carol, giving up does not mean failure has won. You will still learn a lot about yourself.  Many successful people fail at successive ventures until they find one that’s right for them. They will always have the lessons failure taught them, no matter which path they were on when it happened.
Be proud of yourself for trying. You’re one step ahead of most people already.
Carol’s parting thoughts on failure are as follows: ‘Failure is part of my success. Without the years of failure, the success I enjoy today wouldn’t taste as sweet. I still fully expect to fail at times in the future as my business carries on growing. I don’t believe success is a final destination, because failure is my friend now and comes with me wherever I go. As with life, there will be ups and downs in my business and I’m ready for that.’

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