What it Takes To Bounce Back And Fail Forward

“The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you’re going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”

John C. Maxwell (Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success)

You say you’re ready.

Ready to dig in. Ready to fly high. Ready to make your mark.

Excellent. Just know this: if you’re ready for success you must also be ready to take risks and fail… spectacularly.

And after you do that? You must gather your wits and lessons learned to both bounce back and “fail forward.” If you can stay the course, even if you feel a bit bruised for all your effort, you will likely do just fine.

Failure And Recovery Are The Building Blocks Of Success

Why? Risk, failure, and wise recovery are just part of the deal for most of the most successful enterprises. Very few of us learn perseverance or integrity without having to solve unexpected problems or face the consequences of our mistakes along the way.

Unfortunately, many people don’t see the inherent value of learning to bounce back or grow a more resilient spirit, particularly when failing takes the wind out of them.

We have our heads down, speeding toward our goals.

We may think, “Surely, we can skip the inconvenient roadblocks and skim over the annoying setbacks that get in the way of the dream.”

We imagine missteps and mistakes could ruin everything, so we tell ourselves “failure is not an option”.

Then we get in our own way trying to avoid it.

Bouncing back doesn’t happen without falling down!

Is your heart racing a bit now, thinking about what accepting failure means? Good.

The risks you are anticipating help make you a little more aware. Accepting life and all its unpredictability prepare you a bit more for the realities of your responsibilities and your imperfect responses.

The truth is, you’ll do your best, but sometimes that won’t be enough to win the day. That’s okay. Any life coach worth his or her salt will tell you, failing and recovering well will test you and make you better at what you do. Growing resilience also makes you more sensitive to the people you serve.

What Core Skills Make You More Resilient?


To bounce back or become resilient you must allow your failure to show. Don’t bury it hide it or deny it.

Be the first to be exposed as imperfect. You’ll probably worry that you appear weak or inept.

But really, if you accept the truth of the situation and your mistakes, and then honor the people around you by accepting responsibility, you will: 1) feel a great deal of relief at being able to proceed authentically and 2) improve your working relationships as your colleagues and followers will likely respect you for your transparency.

Embracing a process perspective.

To recover from any setback,  let go of the idea that you need to dwell on what you “should have” done or “could have” done by beating yourself up. Instead, be self-compassionate and curious.

Try to get a better grasp on the possibilities and processes that inform you when you fail. Ask questions, analyze, assess.

• How did you fail?
• Which unworkable premises did you rely on?
• How would you approach things differently?
• What worked in this situation?
• What approaches work best for you overall?

Internalize and synthesize what you discover. A life coach can be especially helpful here.

Taking time to appreciate perseverance over proficiency.

Proficiency is good, no doubt your proficiency in a lot of areas should and will grow as you progress. But when you fail, you quickly realize that you’re not proficient enough in some areas. You cannot press forward sometimes because you’re simply not capable enough.

So what do you do? Quit? Of course not. Test your perseverance. Find a way without knowing the way.

When you fail, you’ll feel hard-pressed to see any value in your difficult experiences. Continue anyway to persevere. This will help restore motivation, engagement, and confidence.

A positive mindset is the epitome of quality leadership and self-discipline. Therefore, don’t wait until you feel positive to bounce back. Take action first, get back to focusing on your goal.

Stubbornly persevere, and you’ll start feeling better.

Okay, so now you know that once you’ve fallen down and failed, it is vital to bounce back up. Once you’ve recovered your equilibrium, what happens next?

You do what it takes to move ahead.

Fail Forward: Failure Is An Option, Quitting On Yourself Is Not. Move on.

So we’ve established that setbacks happen. We recognize now that resilience makes you ready to cope with challenges, apply lessons learned, and prepare to risk it all again.

John C. Maxwell, who coined the phrase, “fail forward” lays out a worthwhile plan:

What Does It Mean To Fail Forward? The Concept Encompasses These Main Ideas:

• Redefine your failure.

Keep the bigger picture in mind. Allow failure to speak to you, change your mind, and offer you reason to grow. Failure can be the friend that makes greatness possible.

• Refuse to be disabled

Don’t allow yourself to be disabled by the handicaps you uncover in your process of progress. Repeated trouble or obstacles tell you something about yourself. Listen. It’s okay if you are the problem, problems can be solved.

• Be tenacious and persistent.

Remain committed and consistent. It comes down to doing what does not come naturally. Be stubborn. Persistent in integrity. Hard work pays off in knowledge and experience, succeed or fail.

• Reject self-rejection.

It is vital that you take responsibility for the things you do. It is not healthy or helpful to consider failure a personal attack or to see yourself as a failure as a whole. Don’t allow failure to color your view of yourself.

• Keep failures temporary experiences.

Success will come again, count on it!

• Failing forward means honing your focus.

Develop and maximize strengths and address character weaknesses.

Okay. All of this doesn’t sound nearly as fun as “flying high” or making your mark. In fact, right now, bouncing back and failing forward may still sound counterproductive or a waste of valuable time.

That’s understandable, just know that to go in unprepared for failure is to do yourself a real mental and emotional disservice. You could surrender too soon or misinterpret your losses, undermine your growth, or simply lose steam.

Moreover, if you get too wrapped up in thinking you can win the war without losing any battles you’ll probably miss this: Failure often ensures that “finally making it” is a whole lot more rewarding when it happens.

One more word from Mr. Maxwell:

“Every successful person is someone who failed, yet never regarded himself as a failure.”

Are you ready to embrace your failures and make them additional rungs on the ladder of your success? For help, Life Coaching can help you overcome inertia, gain momentum and achieve a much more successful life!

Other articles of interest:

Is It Realistic To Expect Happiness?

4 Vital Skills That Make Problem Solving Possible

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About the Author

Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and Life Coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with individuals, couples and business partners helping them to perform at higher levels, resolve conflict, stay positive and create great relationships.