One common trait among people who cope particularly effectively with failure is their ability to acknowledge the failure, put it in perspective, and seek causes, not blame. As the Dalai Lama XIV suggests in The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Inner Peace (2009,)
If a misfortune has already occurred, it is best not to worry about it, so we do not add fuel to the problem. Don’t ally yourself with past events by lingering on them and exaggerating them. Let the past take care of itself, and transport yourself to the present while taking whatever measures are necessary to ensure that such a misfortune never occurs again, now or in the future.
American investor and superstar hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio writes in his very instructive Principles: Life and Work (2017,)
I learned that everyone makes mistakes and has weaknesses and that one of the most important things that differentiates people is their approach to handling them. I learned that there is an incredible beauty to mistakes, because embedded in each mistake is a puzzle, and a gem that I could get if I solved it, i.e., a principle that I could use to reduce my mistakes in the future. I learned that each mistake was probably a reflection of something that I was (or others were) doing wrong, so if I could figure out what that was, I could learn how to be more effective. I learned that wrestling with my problems, mistakes, and weaknesses was the training that strengthened me. Also, I learned that it was the pain of this wrestling that made me and those around me appreciate our successes.
In short, I learned that being totally truthful, especially about mistakes and weaknesses, led to a rapid rate of improvement.
Much is written about the notion of failures as gifts, but the key to dealing with failures is to attribute those failures to weaknesses in a thought process, not to personal flaws. Failures expose a weakness in your underlying process, which you can now fix. Fine-tune your tactics until you find out what does work. Dalio instructs,
When a problem occurs, conduct the discussion at two levels: 1) the machine level (why that outcome was produced) and 2) the case-at-hand level (what to do about it.)
Idea for Impact: Don’t rationalize failures and magnify them in your mind. Fix them. Then, reflect on what they teach about what didn’t work. Inquire, “What was missing?” rather than “What went wrong?” The latter results in finger-pointing. The former opens up possibilities and results in personal growth.
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