Soccer player Kyle Rote Jr remarked, “There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to become a winner, but there is really only one way to be a loser, and that is to fail and not be able to see beyond it.” How people perceive failure and cope with it, even if they have the ability to see beyond it and continue progressing, influences all aspects of their lives.

However, it seems that acquiring this ability is challenging. The majority of people don’t know where to start in acquiring it. Even positive-minded individuals struggle to learn to view failure positively.

For example, I’m considered an extremely positive person (My book titled “A Winning Attitude: The Key to Your Personal Success” has been available in bookstores for a few years now). But I didn’t always have a knack for overcoming adversity. I wasn’t adequately prepared for it.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to become a winner, but there is really only one way to be a loser, and that is to fail and not be able to see beyond it.” – KYLE ROTE JR

This is certainly not something that was attempted to be taught to me in school. And it’s not a lesson children receive nowadays either. In fact, the education system often amplifies the negativity that taints people’s feelings and expectations regarding failure. I invite you to examine the perception of failure I once had, and compare your experience with mine:

1. I was afraid of failure. An experience I had in college, and my reaction to it, is typical. I was a freshman, and it was the first day of class. I was attending a history of civilizations course, and as I entered the classroom, the professor declared arrogantly, “Half of you will fail the exam.”

What was my first reaction? Fear! From that day on, I didn’t fail any exam. And I wasn’t interested in experiencing failure again. So, the first question I asked myself was: What does the professor want? School became a game I wanted to win. I remember memorizing 83 dates to pass the exam, simply because my professor believed that one had mastered the material if they could cite the dates. I got an “A,” but I had forgotten everything three days later. I had managed to avoid the failure I feared, but I hadn’t actually accomplished anything.

2. I didn’t understand failure. What is failure? As a child, I believed it was a percentage. A grade of 69 and below equated to failure. A grade of 70 and above represented success. This perception wasn’t beneficial for me. Failure has nothing to do with an isolated event. It’s a process.

3. I wasn’t prepared to face failure. When I graduated from college, I ranked in the top 5 of my class. That meant nothing. I had played the college game wonderfully and absorbed a lot of information. But I wasn’t prepared at all for what awaited me.

I realized this right from my first job. As the pastor of a small rural church, I worked very hard in the first year. I did everything to meet the community’s expectations, and then some. But to be honest, I was just as concerned with being liked by everyone as I was with helping others.

Every year, our congregation voted to renew its leader’s mandate. And many of the previous elected officials boasted about the unanimous votes they had received. My expectations were high as I prepared to receive my first unanimous votes. Imagine my surprise when the results were revealed: 31 in favor, 1 against, and 1 abstention. I was devastated.

When I got home that night, I called my father, a retired pastor, former district superintendent, and college president. “Dad,” I lamented, “I can’t believe it. I worked so hard for these people. I gave them everything.” I was on the verge of tears. “Someone voted against me, and that person wants me to leave the church! And an abstention is no better than a rejection. Should I leave and join another community?”

To my surprise, I heard laughter on the other end of the line. “No, son, stay,” my father said, chuckling. “That’s probably the best vote you’ll ever get.”


That’s when I realized how unrealistic my perception of success and failure was. The years I spent in college only reinforced the mistaken representation I had of failure. And since I’ve been helping business leaders realize their potential and improve themselves, I’ve found that the majority of people are in the same situation.

In Leadership Magazine, J. Wallace Hamilton asserts: “The overall increase in suicides, alcoholism, and certain types of nervous depression is evidence that many people are practicing to succeed when they should be practicing to fail. Failure is far more common than success; poverty more widespread than wealth; and disappointment more common than satisfaction.”

Practicing to fail! That’s quite a concept and it’s what prompted me to write this book. At this very moment, you have the opportunity to enroll in a course that was never offered to you in school. I want to teach you how to face failure confidently and keep moving forward regardless of the circumstances. Because in life, the big question isn’t whether you will have problems, but how you will deal with them. Will you overcome adversity or let it overcome you? (…)

This text is an extract from the book “Overcoming adversity: How to use your mistakes as a springboard to success” written by John C. Maxwell.

We invite you to read the following article “SEEING OBSTACLES IN A NEW LIGHT“.

School. School.

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