How to Fail at Failure

Q: “I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I am really believing I’m a failure. My dad, who died 5 years ago, always told me I was a failure. My ex-husband kept telling me the same thing, and then my former employer told me I was a failure. I’ve fought that all my life, not wanting to believe I’m a failure. Except now I am beginning to believe it. I’ve messed up a lot, but still want to be successful in all areas of my life. What should I do now?

I think I have an idea of what might be going on here.

The very first and most important step is to stop looking in the rear view mirror while you are driving!

What in the world does that mean?

Well, think about it. If you tried driving while only looking in the rear view mirror, what would happen? At best you would be off course quite a bit, and at worst you would crash.

Why do I think you are looking in the rear view mirror? Three key words you have used:

Ex, former and dead.

Your ex-husband, your former boss, and your dead father.

All these people and events are in the past. You keep their words alive by looking in the rear view mirror.

Even if you have failed before, even if you have failed often, that does not mean you are a failure.

Success comes from focusing on what you can do, both in the present and the future. Right now you are focusing on the past in a way that is disabling you.

Let’s look at how to focus on success, now and in the future:

  • Install one of Tony Robbin’s key ideas: “The past does not equal the future.”
  • Ask yourself,  “In how many ways can I do small things today that will allow me to end the day feeling successful.”
  • Get clear on what success means for you. For some people, they consider themselves successful only if they made at least a million dollars last year. For others, every day above ground is a successful day. What is it for you?
  • Give up trying to be a perfectionist. The quickest and surest way to feel like a failure is to try to be perfect. Until one of us walks on water, we just can’t realistically expect ourselves to be perfect. So turn in your resignation and retire from that silly job.
  • Ask yourself, “How many actions can I take today that will contribute to both my success today and in the future?”
  • Remember that the only way to really fail is to either quit and/or not learn something from the situation.

In closing, remember that the windshield in your car is much bigger than the rear view mirror.

Focus accordingly.

Eyes forward when you’re driving and living.

About The Author

Jeff Herring

Discover 5 simple steps for 6 figure success online with content marketing.


  • On failing:

    Part of 2010 has been dedicated to failing more. I didn’t succeed, but I achieved more…

    There might be some truth in failing more and not less.

  • Marina

    Reply Reply

    I agree don’t ever look at the past we all had our fare share of failure, what you do with that is learn from it,from your mistakes and move forward thats the only way to improve the things you do don’t keep repeating the same mistakes and keep failing.

  • John Fletcher

    Reply Reply

    Nice insightful article on the human condition and how we perceive and react to our expectations.

  • “Failure” is part of the learning curve all human beings go through.

    It’s a bad joke when someone else calls us a failure because that person is forgetting the times he/she failed to succeed at something. We are often most critical of those for whom we have high expectations.

  • Additional comment: Jeff’s response was nicely done. There were some good points made. I forgot to mention that in my prior comment.

  • The most successful people alos have had the most failures… because they dare to try more things!

  • Cheryl Pickett

    Reply Reply

    I love the line about the windshield vs the rear view mirror! I’ve not heard it put that way before. The whole article is great. Thanks as always for continuing to inspire us.

  • I agree that it is important not to let the past weigh us down, but at the same time there is a lot to be learned from it. I guess you need to be able to look in the rear view mirror with a gentle curiosity from time to time but not to carry what you see there around like a burden. Look, learn and let go.


  • Maritza said it best, those who have failed the most are probably the biggest successes, because they kept trying and kept moving through their failures to do and accomplish more. They keep daring to try more and more ways to accomplish, ultimately learning many ways NOT to do something, but eventually learning ONE way to do it right.

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Jeff Herring

    Reply Reply

    Annette – I think you are on to something there…

    ~ Jeff

  • Jeff Herring

    Reply Reply

    Marina – yep, focus forward…

    John – thanks, that’s one thing we all share – the human condition

    ~ Jeff

  • Just what I needed to hear today. It really is so true. I also like the window analogy. I keep saying you can’t fail… if you don’t stop trying and growing.

    • Kathy – I’m so glad for the timing…

      You are right, just keep facing forward and getting better and better.

      ~ Jeff

  • Sunny James

    Reply Reply

    learn from your past experiences and take the good from it and go forward
    & know this you are a lovable, valuable person with literally the power inside you to make a postive difference in this world you are a superstar so go shine on!


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