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Don't let setbacks define you - instead, re-define setbacks

DETERMINED: Looking at disappointment in a new light can be productive

SINCE you’re trapped on a planet full of gravity and other irresistible forces, you’re going to fail at one time or another. Whether or not you fail is simply a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

How you harness your failure is a better dilemma to plan for. When others fail around you – to meet expectations or other standards – the question remains: what do you do with their failure? Do you recover from failure? What can you learn from failure?


Too often it seems that people allow failures to define them. They are identified with their failure, as lazy, drunk, a liar, a cheat, a bully. Whatever the adjective, it’s tied to their failure.

Instead, take control and redefine the failure. People are people, after all. Failure is something that’s going to hap- pen to the best of people from time to time.

Redefine failure as an opportunity to learn from a mistake or poor choices that you or another make. It’s a free education, and it costs nothing to witness mistakes and learn from them. Redefined this way, failure becomes a learning experience and genuine growth opportunity every time.


It’s sort of like being the new kid in school, and the bully upperclassmen want to get your goat. They cajole, bully and mock away. But if it doesn’t matter to you much, then you’ve stolen their thunder. When a bully has the upper hand and knows he’s got it, then he has control over you. If he can’t have that control, then he’s nothing but a nuisance.

This same holds true for the power of failure – except you can actually harness the negative ‘vibe’ and put it to work for you.

Learn how to make your failure, or that of another, work for you. Don’t get mad at the fact that you’ve loused up – take notes. What caused it? Is it a pattern? How can I prevent this? What have I learned?


When others assume this failure defines you, seize the moment and make that day the re-defining moment you decide you’re not doing this again. Decide you aren’t going to fail like others have, and be re-defined. Strengthen yourself and adapt. Recover from failure when you learn from failure. Put failure to work for you to be propelled to become a greater person.


You can learn a lot in a rodeo. One of the better examples of failing properly is when a cowboy or cowgirl gets bucked off a bronco, and gets right back in the saddle. This idea holds water for any situation, including failure.

History is replete with figures who have tried and failed, but then tried again after learning the tough lessons. Every great invention, company, government or historical figure is fraught with either genuine or apparent failure – and these folks have learned to get right back in the saddle.

Great people have this in common – they learn from failure. They get the hard knocks and recover from failure, fast.

It’s not about how hard you’ve fallen, nor about who you let down, or about who let you down when they’ve failed – it’s about what you’ve learned from it and how quickly you get back on the horse that really define you.

If you fail properly, you won’t fail again. You’ll just be upgrading.

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