The Missing Link: Valuable Failures

By , Justin Ochoa, Personal Trainer
Every month in "The Missing Link," personal trainer and gym owner Justin Ochoa breaks down essential elements that you might be overlooking in your own journey to health. In his years in the industry, he's noticed glaring omissions, omissions which often play a crucial role in the pursuit of success. Your routine should be well-rounded, effective and fun, and Justin has the expertise and experience to ensure that you're covering all your bases in the pursuit of your goals. 

One thing I tell all my athletes and clients to strive for is progress, not perfection. The former leads to improvement, learning, skill acquisition and, ultimately, true success.; the latter often leads to self-doubt, burnout and/or loss of passion.
 
When you aim to make progress, you're committing to a process. And—whether you know it or like it—all success requires a process. When you aim for perfection, you're focusing solely on a destination, losing sight of the process of what it takes to achieve that goal. Focusing on the process and journey of what it takes to accomplish a goal is much healthier and more beneficial both immediately and long-term.
 
One of the most common reasons people try to "skip out" on the process is due in part to a fear of the inevitable failure that comes with trying to reach your goals. Many people are scared to fail, lose or not succeed immediately, but it's these valuables failures along the way to success that are the missing link for many people. Don't be afraid to fail in the micro to succeed in the macro.
 

Failure Is Essential

 
I fully understand how frustrating it is, in the moment, to take a loss on something and try to find the good in the situation. Nobody says failure must be enjoyable, but it is valuable. If your goals are big enough and truly challenge you to become better, it's also very likely that you'll encounter failure along the way.
 
So, while failing is no fun, it's important to understand how you can benefit from the situation without feeling like it's time to throw in the towel.
 
1. Experience
 
A failure extends the journey. More time working towards a goal gives you more experience, which allows you to learn more about the task and yourself as a person. It also allows you to problem-solve in new ways based on the knowledge that the old way didn't work.
 
Gaining experience is immeasurably important for long-term growth and, in today's world, is starting to be the most sought-after trait, not just in regards to your health, but also for job opportunities, career advancement and your ability to reach goals.
 
2. Resilience
 
We've all heard this phrase before: If you get knocked down nine times, get back up 10 times. This is resilience. Refusing to quit on yourself or those who depend on you because you know you have what it takes to get the job done is an admirable trait and one that is essential if you ever want to achieve anything in life. Failures build experience and that experience evolves into resilience.
 
Every time you fail at something and refuse to quit you gain a huge boost of work ethic, determination and will to win. There's nothing wrong with taking a loss as long as you take the time to acknowledge what went wrong and what you can do to prevent it from happening again.
 
3. Personal Growth
 
Becoming more experienced and resilient gradually leads to overall personal growth. If you look at it from a physical standpoint, consider exercise. The person who has more hours logged in the gym and has learned from their mistakes will be better suited for success than the person going into the gym for the very first time. From a mental perspective, the business-person who has more experience and challenges in their entrepreneurial endeavors is similarly at an advantage compared to the first-time business owner with no mentors or job experience.
 
Personal growth is so important to your path to success because it is often built on a foundation of experience, wisdom and varied learning experiences. The more you can understand about how you deal with adversity, what motivates you and your mental toughness, the better equipped you will be at handling those potholes in the weeks and months ahead.
 
4. Opportunity
 
Last but not least, failures lead to opportunity. As hard as it is to comprehend at the time of any unfortunate circumstance, everything does happen for a reason. When one door closes, another door has opened, but it's up to us to seek out that door, get in and slam it shut behind us.
 
Through failures, we gain experience, become resilient and grow both mentally and physically. Each one helps make us better and more prepared for the opportunities that may present themselves later or those that we go and create for ourselves.
 
One of the clearest examples of this opportunity benefit that comes to mind involves an NFL player with whom I work. Cut from his team in the middle of the season, he could have given up. Many wouldn't fault him for getting the news and looking at it as a loss or a failure. Instead, he used it as a learning experience, stayed focused on the goal and eventually got picked up by another NFL team five weeks later. Later that year, that team—his new team—went on to win the Super Bowl. Had he never got cut or if he had given up on his end goal after the setback, he wouldn't be a Super Bowl champion today. It's up to you and you alone to decide if an unexpected turn in the road is going to embolden you or break you.
 

How to Turn Failures Into Successes

 
Unfortunately, this can all be easier said than done. While it feels simple to plan for how you'll handle things not going as planned, it's more difficult to take on this mindset as it's happening and feels like your whole world is crashing down. In those times of struggle, it's important to take the time to sit down and reflect on what's happening, rather than running at the first sign of trouble. These three steps help me find positivity in negative situations and allow me to refocus my energy toward finding a solution, rather than dwelling on the problem itself.
 
1. Evaluate
 
First, take an unbiased look at the challenge. Ask yourself how the challenge could have been limited or avoided. Be honest with yourself about whether this was out of your control or if it was partially self-inflicted.
 
For example, many times, if you get fired from a job, it does not come without at least one warning. And if you do get fired abruptly, there is usually a specific incident tied to that decision. If you're in this situation, take a look at some of the factors that may have played a role in the ultimate outcome so you can identify areas for improvement.
 
2. Adapt
 
After evaluating the problem and coming to terms with what type of failure just occurred, it's time to adapt, putting our energy and focus on the solution. Giving unnecessary time and energy to the problem will only highlight the event and give it power; we want to work on the response to that event.
 
Imagine you evaluated the loss of your job and realize that you have been fired due to four consecutive months of drastic under-performance and two written warnings on the matter. After reflecting, you identify that your poor performance was due to the fact that you did not believe in the product you were responsible for selling. Moving forward in your job search, you should make it a point to only consider opportunities that you truly find interesting and about which you can be passionate. Otherwise, you may end up repeating this cycle anywhere you go.
 
3. Execute
 
After reflection, it's time for action. In this ongoing example, you could create a list of all the local companies that have good ratings as far as employee happiness and start applying there first. Or research companies that are in a field you admire or create products that are of interest to you. Armed with the knowledge that your poor performance at your last job was due in part to a lack of enthusiasm and happiness, you now have a plan of attack for avoiding that same trap and only pursuing opportunities that you find exciting.
 
Failures will happen at some point in everyone's life. The people who come out on top are those who value those missteps as stepping stones on their way toward their goals. The next time you find yourself face-to-face with failure, greet it as an old friend, reflect on its presence and learn how to use it in your pursuit of your own personal growth.

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