What to do when you fail

Teacher:  I am looking for an exceptional student.

Prospective Student:  What are the requirements for the position?

Teacher:  Failures!  The student needs to have come through many failures.

Prospective Student:  You’ve found the right person!

People are not necessarily forthcoming when it comes to discussing their failures, but there is so much to be learned if we properly analyze them.  Some of the most important lessons you will ever learn will come from the analysis of the failures you have had and the application of the lessons you have learned from them.

Everyone will have an opportunity to fail at some point in life.  It is unpleasant, and for good reason.  Failures are the one of the Uni-verse’s main methods of education.  When we fail, it is our time to re-assess our actions, our information and our desires.  We are being asked to learn something.  Every failure gives us an opportunity to learn humility, which is one of the greatest and perhaps most overlooked assets.  In today’s world, who wants to be humble?  It’s like a 4-letter word.  And yet, humility simply means the ability to see clearly what we are and what we are not, where we begin and where we end.  It is a great thing to work on.

The ego dislikes failing.  The very idea of being humble makes the ego cringe.  Notice your ego when it flares up, thank it for sharing, and re-commit yourself to learning what you need to learn so you do not have to revisit the same failure more than once.

How can we best learn from our failures?  Let’s look at the “3 Ds” – Desire, Direction and Discipline.  These are what I call “the three necessities.”  These are the required ingredients for success in any venture.

The first ingredient we must have to succeed is desire.  Desire fuels our day-to-day journey and makes our work enjoyable even through the challenges.  If we lack the desire to do something, if it is not in alignment with our ultimate goals, we will most certainly fail.  Even if we get the thing we are working towards, it will be a vacuous attainment at best.  We will have been pursuing something for the wrong reasons.

I have an amazing friend who pursued a financial career, and had great “success” with it until he was so miserable inside that he woke up to the reality that what he had pursued was out of alignment with his heart.  Due to his ability to analyze and correct his alignment, my friend was able to take this failure and turn it into many future successes.

Now, if we have the desire, we will then need direction.  How do we get it done?  What do we need to know?  Who can help us?

Perhaps you have set out down a path toward a goal that you did not know how to reach. You make mistakes. Occasionally you get lucky.  You get knocked down and you get back up.  With persistence, you may eventually reach your goal, but it is always best to seek direction from people who have been where you are trying to go.  These are teachers, guides, mentors.  They light the way.

With desire and proper direction, you are well on your way to success.  Yet, without the ability to apply desire and direction in a strategic way, you may find your goals remain just out of reach.  This brings us to the third necessity, another four-letter word in our society known as discipline.

Ironically, discipline is the precursor to joy.  When you sit down to learn the piano, you start by learning scales.  It can be tedious, boring and frustrating.  You apply discipline, you keep showing up, and you develop skill.  Eventually, you sit down at the piano and your teacher says, “Now, just play.”  You experience a profound joy and liberation in playing piano, but it required discipline first.

Coming off a failure, we can feel a sense of desperation to jump right back in and make something work.  We must be careful not to rush into the next thing until we have completed a period of assessment, adjustment, and sometimes grief-work if necessary.  In time, we will become naturally ready to receive the teaching that Universe has for us. With patience, we will be able to do the necessary work so that our failures will become catalysts for many future successes.  Put another way, when you lose, don’t lose the lesson!

I wish this for you.

Love, Peace and Light.

Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen

(Tommy Rosen is a yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert who has spent the last two decades immersed in recovery, yoga and wellness. Tommy is certified in both Hatha and Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. He is one of the pioneers in the burgeoning field of Yoga and Recovery, which utilizes yoga and meditation to help people overcome addictions and build fulfilling lives. 

Tommy is the Co-Producer and Host of The Recovery 2.0: Beyond Addiction Online Conference, which features 35 talks with globally recognized experts offering diverse perspectives on addiction and is attended by tens of thousands of people from over 70 countries:  Recovery2Point0.com.  Tommy is also co-founder and producer of Tadasana: The International Festival of Yoga & Music, an annual multi-day festival in Southern California.  

 As a respected expert, Rosen teaches and speaks regularly at yoga conferences and festivals, including Wanderlust, Hanuman, Tadasana and many others. He also teaches annually at Esalen, Omega and Kripalu and runs yoga/recovery workshops and retreats internationally.  Tommy’s blogs and articles have appeared in The Daily Love, LA Yoga, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen.com and Intent.com to name but a few. He is also a featured GAIAM TV yoga teacher.

 Tommy’s first book, “Recovery 2.0:  Beyond Addiction,” will be out from Hay House in the Spring of 2014. The Recovery 2.0 DVD series is launching in the spring of 2013.  Tommy and his wife, noted yoga instructor Kia Miller, live in Venice, California where they teach yoga, and grow organic vegetables in their backyard.)

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  • mewabe

    What to do when you fail is the same as what to do when you physically fall…you get up, look at what tripped you or how you tripped yourself, tell yourself to be mindful, and you resume your journey, or take another, more appropriate path.

    Failure does not necessarily means a necessity to change course…people often sabotage themselves from fear and other issues.

    And it is not always the ego that dislike failure…school, education teaches students to be terrorized of failure, as it spells a ruined future.

    The more you know yourself however, the less you will fail.

    When failure is experienced to point out the necessity to take a different path in life, it is meant to wake people up…failure says “don’t do this, this is not you…it has nothing to do with your heart, it doesn’t come from your soul.”

    About desire, here is an inspiring quote:

    “To want, and to be ambitious, and to want to be successful…is not enough.

    That’s just desire.

    To know what you want…to understand why you are doing it…to dedicate every breath in your body to achieve…

    If you feel you have something to give…if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for…then there is nothing you can’t achieve.”
    Kevin Spacey

    Nothing is sadder than a life dream that remains unfulfilled. There is no greater failure than that produced by self-betrayal…fulfilling your dream, even if it means economic hardship and poverty, is success, and it is more than enough.

    The statement “do what you love and the money will follow” is totally, utterly false. How many great artists, poets and musicians starved all of their lives, only to become famous after they had died?

    The obsession with money making, with financial success is the greatest obstacle to success, to actual dreams being fulfilled.

  • Bob Dolman

    How important and how difficult it is to let our children fail. When we rescue them we block their path to learning and (as this article notes) humility. It makes you wonder what we’re accomplishing when we try to fix people. Failure is vital to growth, vital to success. It can even be, with a sense of humor, enjoyed.

    Thanks for writing about this, Tommy.

  • i have learned to go with the line out of CWG there is only what works and what doesn’t work, if it doesn’t work , stop doing it, if it is does work keep doing it. a simple idea that works very well, if you are willing.