What You Can Learn from Screwing Up Big-Time

Screwing Up Lessons

It’s one of those words us motivational bloggers (and go-get-’em Fireballs) tend to shy away from. We like to pretend it never happens. We like to ignore the fact that sooner or later, for everyone, it does.


That “F” word of the lifestyle improvement industry.

And, in all fairness, it’s not something worth dwelling on, by any means. Focusing on what you can do, making your work the best you possibly can, and charging ahead with moxie and determination are the things success is truly made of. But that doesn’t change the fact that, whether we like it or not, sometimes along the road to going and getting ’em, we screw up. Sometimes big-time.

It will happen. There’s no avoiding it if you’re trying things, challenging yourself, and otherwise attempting to live an awesome life. But what matters more than failure happening is what you do with it once it’s happened.

Might I suggest some healthy options for dealing:

Find the Lesson in the Screw-Up

Mistakes happen for a reason. Maybe we weren’t educated enough on what needed to be done. Maybe we made a bad judgment call. Maybe we took a risk that wound up not being worth it.

So, what can you learn from your failure? As long as you can look objectively at it (after the appropriate amount of wallowing and kicking yourself, to which you’re entitled), study the ways you could have done things differently, and carry those lessons with you into the future, then your failure wasn’t for naught.

We all stumble when we’re learning to walk. None of us as babies sat down after the first fall, crossed our little arms, and gave up. That would have gotten us nowhere. Grownup life is no different.

Get frustrated at the stumble. You should. Then get up and keep moving—knowing more for having gone through it.

Get Pissed, Then Get Motivated

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re the type who takes the statements “It can’t be done” or “You’re not ready” as personal challenges. Who are other people to tell you what you can and can’t do? You’ll show them!

Failures can be used as similar motivation. So you’ve shown that this particular time, you didn’t do it right. (Whatever “it” is.) But does that mean you’ll never ever do it right, ever? Do you want this one bad move to stand as the example of the one and only time you tried this particular thing?

The answer should be a resounding “Hell no!”

Whether it’s delivering a presentation at work, starting a business, or writing a blog post, consider every flop as a challenge to “prove them all wrong” (yourself included). What are you going to do now to really blow it out of the water next time? You know you can do better—so, how are you going to do it? Use your frustration at your failed attempt to spur you forward.

Come to Terms with It

Part of living, growing, changing, and evolving is learning what doesn’t belong in our grand master plans.

Sometimes, when you do your “what have I learned” analysis, you may come to realize that the failure was a result of your pursuing the wrong thing—the wrong profession, the wrong project, the wrong relationship. Failing at something doesn’t mean you’re a failure; sometimes it just means you’re going after the wrong thing. Consider these famous people who made plenty of (often large) mistakes and still managed to do pretty well for themselves in the end.

If you’ve asked yourself all the right questions (What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? How can I move forward?) and your gut keeps telling you “This wasn’t right for me; this didn’t feel right,” then you may want to listen to it—after, of course, making sure you’re not just giving into the initial sting of defeat. Sometimes a failure really is a sign that you were on the wrong track. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just make sure that you take that wrong track and use it to re-direct to a better one, and you’re still heading in the right direction.

What lessons have you learned from your “failures”? Share your wisdom with us in the comments!

Image via Brittanie Pendleton

About Kelly Gurnett

Kelly Gurnett runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook and hire her services as a blogger extraordinaire here.

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