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This week I got a letter from a listener named Kyle.Kyle was wondering if I would talk about something specific, that being; overcoming failure in your life.
The kind of failure Kyle was talking about is the same kind of failure each of us have experienced in one way or another.I’m not talking about big things like failing to pass the bar exam or failing to become a millionaire by the time you are 30.No, I’m talking about those little everyday failures.The kinds of things that make you feel regret about who you are and what kind of man you are being.
The example Kyle used in his letter was from his own experience.He had been doing well with all of the goals he had set for himself and then one day he went to a casino.He proceeded to get drunk and spend way too much money, he gambled with family money, went home to his wife drunk, and then did the same thing the following day.In his own words, he “made a fool of himself”.
We have all done things that we regret after the fact.Maybe you cheated on your wife, or cheated on a test at school?Perhaps you acted inappropriately at an office party?Maybe you let someone down who was really counting on you?You may have treated someone badly for no reason, and now you regret it?There are countless scenarios I could recite and eventually I would get around to that thing you have done.I’ve already named some of the things I have done.Look, none of us are perfect and we are going to make mistakes.We will have errors in judgement.
The listener who posed this question, Kyle, refers to these as failures, and he wants to know how you should deal with these things as a man, and how to overcome them.
It’s a great question, but right off the bat I’m going to change the wording.I personally don’t like using the word failure in my vocabulary.Some years ago I realized that every so called ‘failure’ was also an opportunity to improve.Failure has such negative connotation.If you go around thinking of yourself as a failure then you will continue to fail—at least that’s my opinion on it.
I prefer to call these types of things mistakes, or errors in judgement.Some mistakes are way bigger and have more consequences than others but at the end of the day…it was still an error in judgement that led to it.
So, how should we deal with ourselves when we have committed one of these egregious mistakes, and how can we overcome them?In answer to that question I’ll point out that there are two kinds of people in the world.There are people that keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again.Then there are people that make a mistake once or twice, and learn from the experience.The people that learn from the experience don’t make that mistake again.They will go on to make other mistakes because they are human—but they won’t make that one again.
There are several things that you should definitely NOT do when you make a horrible mistake.I’ll list a few of those here.
You should not justify it in any way.By justifying I mean making excuses so that it doesn’t seem as bad as it is.Some people justify their bad behavior by pointing out other people bad behavior, as though that make it OK.It doesn’t.Do not try to justify your bad behavior.
Some guys will become so riddled with guilt and shame over a bad mistake that they aren’t any good for themselves or anyone else.This is extremely counter productive…so don’t do that.
Don’t try to cover it up.Covering it up doesn’t make it go away.It will eat at you like poison because you know what you have done.In the meantime, while you are basting in the guilt of your actions, you have become less of a man.
Do not blame anyone else or any circumstance or anything for your mistake.It’s your mistake.You are in complete charge of your actions and anything you do is your fault.
Ok, that’s the short list of what NOT to do.Now here is what I think you should do when you make this kind of mistake.There isn’t a list because there is only one item.It’s really simple.When you make this kind of mistake or error in judgement, you should own it.Everything you do becomes part of who you are.If you make a mistake just own it, admit it, be honest about exactly what you did that was incorrect regardless of the consequences.The consequences are yours, they are your property and they belong to you.Part of owning your misdeed is accepting the consequences of your actions like a man.
Some consequences are horrible, like losing your whole family, divorce, bankruptcy, prison, public humiliation, even death.The list goes on and on.What I’m telling you is that if you want to be a better man you cannot avoid the consequences for your actions.
If you have that mindset, it may make a difference in how you make decisions going forward.You may actually be inclined to make fewer of these horrible kinds of mistakes if you believe that everything you do becomes part of who you are along with the consequences.
Many mistakes are not so horrible though.They are like bumps in the road and these are the kinds of mistakes most people make regularly.The same rules apply, you have to own the things you do.These more minor mistakes are where I see the most opportunity though.It’s almost impossible to improve or move forward without making mistakes along the way.Every one of these mistakes is a huge opportunity to learn and grow as a man.
That’s the second part of my answer to Kyle.He asked how do you overcome these things.My answer is simply to own them, and learn by them.If you are in that second category of people who learn from your mistakes then you are already overcoming them.If you keep making the same mistakes over and over again then you either need professional help, or you need to wake up and realize that there is another way to do life.
I’ll be honest with you, I have been where Kyle was.I have disappointed people in my life that mattered.In my life I have said and done things that there was no excuse for, I’m no saint.However, I did have the capacity to learn from these things and ultimately, many of the mistakes I have made have caused me to become a better man than I was before.Because I paid attention, I learned, and I chose to be better, but it all starts with owning the things you do.
I hope that answered your question Kyle.If you have a question for me I would love to hear it.There is a form here at the website, or you can just write me an email at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s it for today guys, now head out into the world and remember that everything you do and say becomes part of who you are.We are the sum total of all our experience, and that includes the not so great stuff.If you own the things you do and learn from them, you will become a better man today than you were yesterday.
Hey remember to to check out my new book, Forging A Man, available right now on Amazon.