October 16, 2013 / How To Learn From Failure
Don't simply accept failure, learn from it!
Failure isn’t something reserved for guys trying to hit on girls. Failure is a part of all aspects of life. Failure is a given. A guarantee: YOU WILL FAIL. The first step to learning from failure is accepting that failure is an inevitable part of life. Not getting that job you wanted, not getting into the college you wanted, not getting the girl you want. Most if not all of these things WILL happen to you at some point in life. Accept that you will sometimes fail. This is the first step.
Accepting Failure is Not Enough
Granted, merely accepting the reality of failure is not enough to learn from it. You do no want to go around life solely with an "oh well, failure is part of life" mindset. This is not accepting that you will fail, this is accepting being a failure. There is a big difference. As I wrote about in our article, The Sting of Rejection, it is important to feel some sting when you fail. This sting helps you subconsciously learn and improve even without any direct effort on your part! But how can you consciously learn?
Consciously learning from failure
The general principles regarding learning are change and repetition. Anytime we want to improve at anything, the learning process demands that there is change. After all, you know the saying: "doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is the definition of insanity." Learning from failure involves two key steps:
1. Finding something to change
2. Changing it and trying again
For example, you have been going up to a bunch of girls on campus and saying "Hi" to them but none of them respond. Clearly, you are failing at approaching women. What can you change? You can change several things such as body language, approach angle, eye contact, and obviously, "Hi". Pick one, and change it. (You can read about ways to approach women here, and here).
Theoretically, that is all it takes. Keep making adjustments until you start achieving the results you want. In practice, the process is trickier. Why? Well, because there are many elements to success and failure that have nothing to do with factors you can change! That is where repetition comes into play.
Assessing when failure doesn’t involve you
A CEO is looking for a new hire so he asks his secretary to stack up all the resumes she gets on his desk. The next day, the CEO gets into his office and finds a stack of 200 resumes on his desk. The secretary tells him these are the 200 best resumes I found and all of them are really incredible. The CEO grabs the top 10 resumes in the pile and then throws the other 190 resumes in the trash. The secretary’s jaw drops as she says: "How could you just do that? So many of those applicants would be perfect for this job!" The CEO turns to her and replies: "Yea, I’m sure you are right, but to do well in this job you also need luck, and those 190 guys didn’t have it."
The most difficult part about learning from failure is knowing when the reason for failure has nothing to do with your process. For example, I can try all I want to get Scarlett Johansson on a date but no matter how many things I change up, it’s highly unlikely I will ever succeed. Using the formula of finding something to change and then changing it is unlikely to work, and it might even cause me to try things that are really BAD ideas in general once I exhaust ideas that make sense.
This is the danger of not recognizing the probabilistic nature of success in many avenues of life. Sometimes, you are doing things in the optimal way but the dice simply didn’t fall on the right numbers. Sometimes, the CEO simply threw away your resume without even looking at it.
How do you combat this? The best way is to widen your sample set, i.e. repetition! For example, don’t conclude that a particular dating technique doesn’t work because you tried it one time and it didn’t work. Don’t assume your online profile sucks because you didn’t get a message the first day. Don’t assume your resume is crap because you applied to one job and didn’t get it. Give things a fair shake before concluding that anything is wrong with your process.
To summarize, the learning process from failure involves 4 main steps:
1. Accepting failure is normal and not being discouraged by it
2. Making changes in the way you tackle the problem
3. Try your changes on a large enough sample set
This process can help guide you throughout life, not just with dating. For me, it helped mostly in dating where I was a dismal failure until I got to college. I decided when I got to college that I needed to change, so I went about making changes in just about everything imaginable and testing their results. It took time, but 12 years later I am who I am today: successful, proud and most importantly, happy. You can do it too, by learning from your mistakes, changing things up, and then hit the repeat button.