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10 Responses to Failure

If you have not failed, you will. For those of you who have failed, you understand precisely the emotion accompanying the missing of a given mark. Inadequacy, frustration, anger, questioning, and a host of others flood the mind when the rejection letter is pulled from the envelope or the poor test performance is discovered. Failure is as fundamental to life as success is. This may come across as a paradoxical observation, but a truth it remains. All who achieve greatness and proceed to the heights of attainment have a background peppered in some manner by loss and defeat. One of the most important differences between their lives and yours, a defining marker of the champion class, is the demonstrated response to failure. Some of you may wish to confront and overcome failure in order to learn, change, and grow. If this is the case for you, here are ten examples of responses to failure and the fruit they bear. Learn from them, and in doing so achieve your potential!

1.) The Apathetic Response

These individuals were never particularly invested in the process to begin with. To them, failure is of no consequence because effort is of no priority. Lessons are missed out on by these because they do not approach their context with intent and purpose.

2.) The Bitter Response

This response is typically an extended one, running the course of weeks, months, or even years. Bitterness is a potent poison which eats away at one’s core. Bitterness, an unhealthy attachment and obsession with past negatives, eventually crushes all sense of satisfaction and contentment to the subject’s detriment. When oriented toward failure, this response denotes a backwardly situated disposition. Therefore, lessons are missed because the focus of the subject is on injured pride and a perception of deserved success rather than on future transformation and progress.

3.) The Angry Response

Anger is short-sighted and rash. Fury leads to lacking logic and blinded foresight. Angry responses to failure are characterized by a lack of understanding in the moment and subsequently by ill-advised reactions. For these folks, the opportunity to learn is forfeited because their awareness of causation is skewed by the emotion of a heated interaction. Immature responses are not conducive to progress.

4.) The Melancholy Response

A melancholy countenance is a sad countenance. Melancholy respondents see failure as a crushing blow, and they’re sent reeling by even the most minor of setbacks. By allowing disappointment and grief to overcome them rather than using these to direct a pragmatically effective response, those facing failure with a melancholy response miss out on potential lessons.

5.) The Hopeless Response

Hopelessness goes beyond simple sadness. Hopelessness is a developed attitude of impossibility toward all activities undertaken. The great danger of this response is the lack of perspective and the introduction of destructive hyperbole to the decision making process. Distortion of real circumstances and embrace of unreasonable negativity place lessons from failure in an inaccessible location.

6.) The Critical Response

Everyone else is always at fault. Those with this response are never the culprits. The organization is biased, or the competition is rigged, or the referees were terrible. The list extends indefinitely. An inflated sense of self prevents those who respond this way from recognizing fault of their own as it contributes to this failure. Though legitimate frustrations may present themselves, most often the critical response cripples the viability of any potential lessons which may be drawn from the situation.

7.) The Hold-Out Response

Holding out is to continually do the same things, adhering to the same habits, while expecting different results. This definition mirrors the definition of insanity quite closely, which might tip off the reader as to its reasonableness as a strategy for dealing with failure. The hold-out response is blind to the insufficiency of the actions which catalyze failure and wishes to dream and hope rather than do and achieve. This creates significant roadblocks for learning.

8.) The Self-Deprecating Response

The self-deprecating response is the act of demeaning self in an unnecessary manner to justify a set of circumstances. Derogatory attitudes toward self can damage self-esteem, confidence, and happiness in a potentially irreparable way. By damaging the confidence necessary to rebound from a failure, those responding in a self-deprecating manner miss potential lessons because the tools necessary to empower those lessons are so critically weakened.

9.) The Accepting Response

The accepting response is the one negative response closest to a “correct” response. This response entails a proper understanding of the causes and implications of a sequence of events, as well as a game plan with which to confront failure. Yet, these respondents don’t follow through. They merely exist as they are, refusing to improve though they care and know how.

10.) The Humble Response

The humble response, the correct response, sees failure as a step on the road to success. The humble individual holds failure up as a teacher, using its lessons to develop a strategy for success. The humble individual is hungry for more and is fueled by their hunger to do more and think bigger. Here, patience and even measure are employed within action. The humble response to failure will build champions and groom leaders.


All will fail. All will come to a crossroads where either progression or regression may be achieved. Many responses are available for use. Choose humble hunger and patient persistence. In the shadow of failure, choose success.

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