Idea 039: 5 Ways to Overcome Failure

“You should talk to local finance team on the cash flow forecast first before you talk to me.” My boss said with a bit upset. I knew he was not upset only to me, but also to the overseas team that always passed the financial data to me at the last minute.

Failure Happens…All The Time

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This time they passed the financial data to me the day before my monthly meeting with my boss. Therefore, I didn’t have much time to gain the full picture of the cash flow forecast.

The head of the overseas team told me that he has already informed my boss on the cash flow forecast and everything should be fine. However, when I told my boss about this, he replied, “…Yes, we have talked about this the day before, but only briefly discussed. He is responsible for giving you the details of the cash flow so that you can verify for me if that cash flow forecast is reasonable or not, and I am fully counting on you.”

I really appreciated the trust my boss had on me, and I felt sorry for disappointing him. I knew that it is not an excuse to claim that I had insufficient time for work. I should try to manage the time and resources so that I could make a better preparation before the discussion with my boss.

Later, upon my boss’s request, I need to have monthly meeting with overseas team on the cash flow forecast before head, so that I could confirm the cash flow forecast when discussing with my boss going forward.

Obviously this is just a small failure. No one gets hurt, no one dies, and no money loss, etc. I am sure my boss already forgot what has happened, but this doesn’t mean that I should also forget about it.

Actually we make mistakes or experience failure all the time, regardless of big ones or small ones. This is normal, and this is natural in our lives. Someone chooses to ignore every failure and just move on, while someone will learn from every mistake they have ever made.

Learning from failure is important, but how to overcome the adverse impact from failure is also important. Most of the time, people are so obsessed with failure that they are so afraid to take action again. Some of them will keep thinking of that failure and cannot get sleep at night.

I think we should have proper attitude towards failure, otherwise we cannot live out our lives. Here are 5 ways I will do when I try to overcome failure.

Move On

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This is the most effective way to overcome failure. However, for some people, this is also hardest way because they are not strong enough internally.

This is one of the things that David Goggin keeps stressing over the years. He said he has been exercises over the years not only because he wanted to train his muscles, but he also wanted to train his heart with all those training. With that strong heart he is able to overcome all the hardship on his way to success.

I have experienced a lot of failures in my life. I have missed many deadlines for different reports and projects, and made a lot of mistakes in my Accounting work. Every time my failure results in different impact on others’ work, which I always feel bad on.

There was a time I always thought of my uselessness and blamed myself on every mistakes I have made, but then I figured that it is no point to blame myself on the past. I have to learn from the mistakes and move on.

So what we should do to move on? I think it is simple – just tell ourselves that it is just a tiny thing in our lives, and we will forget about it in one year. If, in few year, we will laugh at ourselves on being upset with that tiny failure, why we should be bothered with it now? It doesn’t make any sense.

It is hard to do it in the first few time, but if we keep acting like this when we are facing failure, we will finally be able to do so.

Focus on Learning

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We feel bad when we fail something because at the time we focus on the failure itself. What if we shift our focus on the learning from failure?

In my former company I had recurring monthly meeting with my CEO, reporting the monthly Revenue, company performance, etc. At first I didn’t know how and what to present to him, so I just presented all the figures and details on hand to him. The result was so obviously – he didn’t understand what I was talking about, and the meeting took almost an hour on average.

Later I found that I should not present in that way because my CEO didn’t need the details of my work but a few significant figures and abnormality if any. Of course details are important, but it was my duty to handle those details. He only needed the significant figures and abnormality to do his own work, for example, develop tactics and strategies, reporting to senior management, etc.

Since then I tried to jot down the questions he normally asked and the point of views he always took during our meeting, and I formulated my presentation in similar ways. As a result, the meeting was shorten from an hour to around 15-20 mins and he always got what he wanted from my presentation.

What if I just felt upset all the time when I made that failure? Then I would repeat that failure again and again every time I had meeting with my CEO, which was really bad and I didn’t think he would keep me in his company.

By focusing on learning instead of failure, I kept improving myself and forgot the bad feeling from that the failure.

Small Success

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No one can achieve success with only one step. We always achieve something with a lot of failures. Failure is normal, failure is good, failure is something we need so that we can identify the wrong ideas we might have or the mistakes we have made.

By learning from failure, we will expect a small success coming up. Therefore, it only makes sense if we overcome the failure and catch the small success behind.

Since I am introvert, I didn’t have many friends throughout the year. Last year, I have met a friend, Terry, who I found a lot of similarities between me and him. I felt comfortable when talking to him, and he talked a lot when he was with me as well.

We became a very good friend in couple of days, and I really treasured the time with him. However, suddenly he started to ignore me, avoid me and no longer willing to talk to me, and eventually he disappeared from my life.

I felt bad about this, and didn’t want to meet any new friends anymore. However, few weeks later, I started to realize that it didn’t make any sense not to make new friends again JUST because I had one failure in making friends. If I decided to stop making friends, I cannot improve myself and my life anymore.

Later, I summarized the things that I did before which might have brought bad impression to Terry and forced him to leave. I learnt a lot from this exercise and figured some “red flag” actions which should be avoided in other friendship, eg, should not send too many messages to others.

Eventually, when I felt I was ready, I started to make new friends again. Now I have made several friends and all of them get along well with me so far. This is my small success, and I will eventually make a lot of good friends.

Talk to Friends or Families

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Most of the time we cannot overcome failure on our own. It is not because we are too weak or too useless, but because the impact from that failure is too large that we cannot handle it on our own.

If that is the case, we should immediately seek for help from others without any hesitation.

Most of them time we didn’t want to talk to our friends or families because we thought this proved our weakness and we refused to admit it. To me, this is not weakness but bravery because only the brave men can have the gut to ask for help and face the problem again.

It would be the real weakness if we just cowardly hid from others and dealt with the difficulties.

Few months ago when I was looking for a suitable valuer to do valuation project for my company, I have shortlisted a few seemingly qualified valuers for quotation. However, since I had limited knowledge on company valuation, I was so worried that I might pick the wrong one for the project.

I had a few conversation with my boss about my concerns but my boss implied that I should take responsibility on this project because he had worked on something else by that time. To me, my boss’s response was kind of blame on me and I felt really helpless to do anything.

I saw that as a failure to me by that time.

When I was about to give up, I remembered that my friends Nelson was working in an ibank and might give me some advice. I then reached out to him and asked for advice, and he did get back to me with some opinions, which helped me make decision on picking the right valuer.

My talk with Nelson not only help me resolve the issue, he also helped me overcome the failure. He told me that it’s not that easy to pick a right valuer, especially someone like me who has no background at all. “You should feel good to be able to shortlist some qualified valuers for quotation!” Nelson said.

I think this is what true friends do – they always give us their hands when we fall down, and help us fight against the failure.


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Sometimes we just cannot do the 4 ways above.

We cannot just tell ourselves to move on, cannot focus on learning and small success because we are too disappointed with what we have done, cannot find anyone we can share our emotion and feeling.

If that is the case, we can just overcome the upset from the failure by simply smiling.

We can make a smiling face for the rest of the day, or for a few days. The magic here is that, we need to think something happy if we want to hold smiling face for hours or for a few days. In other words, if we decided to smile, we are forced to think happy things which can help us relax gradually.

You may think this is ridiculous. However, if we think again, we know that we cannot be happy and unhappy at the same time. Hence, if we make a smiling face and think something happy, it is hard for us to think of something bad, ie, it is the key to overcome the failure and the sadness brought from that failure.

That is why when I make any mistakes, I will immediately force myself to smile, or go to watch sitcom. This helps me think something good and overcome the influence from the failure I just made.

Besides, this is actually the turning point and the best timing to manage our emotion, because if we spend too much time think of the failure and the bad emotion, we will need more time to overcome it and get back on the right track.

To summarize, I believe we can overcome failure with the following 5 ways:

  1. Moving on
  2. Focus on learning part
  3. Considering it as making small success
  4. Talking to friends and families
  5. Making smiling faces


If you have any questions or have anything things to share, you can reach out to me via email

Besides, if you want to know more about what I have learnt from other successful people, you can click the below link. This could the one of the life-changing articles for you:

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