Creative Leadership

How to Move Past Failure

Recently I spoke to a gathering of business leaders, and when it was time for Q & A, the most often asked question had to do with moving past failure. For some, it was a business failure in their past, and for others, it was a personal failure. The number of business leaders interested in that question surprised me, and was a good reminder of how many of us struggle with reinventing ourselves after a major misfire.

If that describes your situation or someone you know, here’s a few thoughts:

Don’t hide your past failures. Everyone makes mistakes, and anyone attempting anything significant will fail more than once. Hiding it only makes you vulnerable to future embarrassment and the perception that you were trying to pull something over on people. Besides, your enemies could use it at some point, so come clean now, and they’ll have nothing to use.

2.  Embrace your failures. One of the best ways to move forward is to actually use your past mistakes in a positive way. Many careers are built on the experience people gain as a result of failure. For instance, a former con-artist who spent time in prison, then got his life together, now is a consultant to the financial industry helping them avoid fraud. A former drug addict got clean and in the process discovered a ministry to addicts. What have you learned from your past that could help you create a unique strategy for the future? At the very least, what did past mistakes reveal about your strengths, weaknesses, and choices that will keep you away from failure in the future?

3.  Rebuild your reputation, and start online. In the digital world, start by building a presence on the web. Build a website with positive information about you. Create a Facebook page or other social media platform. Start flooding the web with good stuff, and the bad stuff from the past will start to fade into the distance.

4.  Use the power of testimonies. Find people who believe in you, and get their support. Should anyone ask questions about your past, direct them to this new support team. Defending yourself isn’t nearly as powerful and effective as other people standing up for your ability and integrity.

5.  Finally, move from fear of the past, to faith in the future. God gave you a unique fingerprint for a exceptional purpose.  Mistakes in the past don’t disqualify you for promotion in the future. Your past is finished. Now, your future is up to you.

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  1. Thank you, Phil.  And bless you.

    Mark Levin says, “Some are wise, some are otherwise.”

    Much of my life I have been the latter and not the former.  But what you have written about starting over, Phil, is wisdom.  Again, thanks.



  2. Wow, great advice!  I know I’m scared to death of failure, to the point that it sometimes causes me to make decisions that hinder my ability to minister (Youth Ministry).  I tend to take the easy route and because of that my ministry isn’t as spectacular as it could be.  I’m aware of this and I’m trying to do better.  I guess I should just deal, fail, and learn.

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