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How to Bounce Back from Failure

Failure. We all experience it.

But most advice about bouncing back from failure is flawed. Try harder. Forget about it, and move on. It's a part of growth. Embrace it.

You've heard them all, and you can probably add a few more. While well intended this advice doesn't address the root of the problem to overcoming failure and succeeding.

Let me use an analogy that illustrates this point.

I work with a personal trainer. My objective is to become stronger and healthier. So I train 3 times a week. Every now and again I test my strength and increase the weight I'm lifting. Usually, this added weight results in me not being able to complete the set. Failure.

My trainer could say things like, try harder, forget about it, and move on, embrace the failure.... but he doesn't.

Instead, he offered me suggestions on how to improve my technique, where to focus, and where to put my effort to complete the lift.

He's been training people for more than 15 years, so there's not much that he hasn't seen, and experienced himself.

We look at four key things after a failure. My objective, my process (technique), my focus, my effort. Once we dial those things in, success comes much easier. Let's dive deeper into each of these key success factors.

Evaluate your Objective

I'm all about setting objectives that stretch me. But, I also know that even though I have the desire, I may not have the capability to complete the goal.

For example, going back to my personal training story. In September I was using a 40-pound kettle bell for a certain lift. My objective was to work up to the 53-pound kettle bell by the end of the year.

For three months I've been working on that goal consistently. First, increasing the weight from 40 to 44 pounds. I struggled with that increase. But, over a number weeks, I became stronger, and now I'm able to lift 44 pounds without much effort.

Last week I decided to start working up to the 53-pound weight. It was a big step. We tried an intermediate lift first, and I was able to complete it. Then in the next training session, I tried to complete the reps. Failure.

I couldn't complete all of the reps. But, I'm close.

We looked at my technique, focus and effort. But the strength (capability) was not quite there yet. So we decided to leave it while we work on my strength and come back to it later.

Now, I'm focused on my process at the lighter weight, and every now and then, I'll test myself to check my progression.

There's nothing wrong with coming back to a goal later. The important thing is to continue to put in the work, and make sure you have the resources and capabilities you need.

Evaluate Your Process

No matter what your objective, having a process is a key success factor. This is true whether you're in business, school, or training in the gym. If your process is slack, then success will be more difficult, and failure comes more easily.

Going back to my training objective. The process begins before I arrive at the gym. I focus on my mindset, and have goals in mind for that particular session. By the time I get to the gym, I'm ready to execute. Then each exercise has its own unique process that makes lifting easier. But, it all begins with where I focus.

Evaluate Your Focus

Most people when working toward an objective focus on either the outcome, or the process. But, imagine this for a minute.

Remember back to when you accomplished a challenging goal. How did you feel?

Was it excitement, or were you feeling ecstatic, or something like that? Probably.

That's where I place my focus. It's on the feeling I get when I accomplish a goal. The closer I get to a goal, the more excitement I feel. The more excited I become, the more I focus on achieving the goal. It's the feeling that drives performance.

Evaluate Your Effort

We can have the right objective, process, and focus, and without doing the work and putting forth the effort success is impossible. But, not just any effort. It's got to be the right effort at the right time.

For example, when lifting kettlebells, 80% of the success comes at the beginning of the lift. Overcoming resistance is key to avoiding failure. Most of the power comes when the kettlebell is sitting on the floor, and I have to get it moving to overcome gravity.

It's focusing the power at the bottom of the lift that results in success at the top of the lift. If I don't get that piece of steel moving, I will never lift it over my head.

The same principle applies to any goal that we set. 80% of the effort will be expended at the beginning. Once that resistance it overcome the other 20% of the effort is to complete the rest of the objective.

Focusing only on the last part of the lift will surely result in failure. Because we will never get to that point.


We all experience failure. What separates the successful people from peak performers is not trying harder, or forgetting about it and moving on. The keys to bouncing back, and succeeding in business, school, or life are to evaluate your objectives, your processes, where you focus, and your effort.

Next time you experience a setback follow these four steps to get back on track.

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