3 Simple Steps to Turn Failure into Success

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~Anais Nin

I’ve always been an optimist, looking for the good in situations, even when they seem like the bleakest thing that could happen to me or the people around me.

But failure is a difficult one to turn on its ear.

You know when you don’t reach your goal. You know when you don’t get what you wanted.

Now I know the Rolling Stones sang “You can’t always get what you want…but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” And you know what? Those lines never sat well with me—to just sit and accept it.

So, even though I know there are reasons I didn’t make it big as a recording artist—and that my Pilates business didn’t fulfill me, and that I’ve experienced the sting of working at companies that decided to shut down—I have always refused to simply shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh well!”

I decided to find a new way to handle failure and to not only look at in a more optimistic way, but also find within it clues for my next move.

Here’s what I discovered.

Failure is a step toward your ultimate success.  It’s a lesson.  A challenge. A chance.

When I struggled with my Pilates business, for example, I realized I needed to ascertain where the bulk of my money was coming from and then do more of that. So I made a plan and moved forward. I started doing more of what I loved and what was bringing in income, and less of what wasn’t.

If you’re also dealing with failure, I recommend these three steps to turn it into success:

1. Reframe.

Try to look at the situation from different angles. You might ask your friends or family members to give you their honest feedback. Don’t just look for the type of support that will feed your ego; seek out perspectives from people who may not have been supportive during the process.

The important part of this step is to listen, take in the information, and then synthesize everything you know of your failure into a complete picture of what happened and why.

Try not to react emotionally to anything you discover or that people express to you.

2. Revise.

While you’re gaining a new perspective, be open to ideas for moving forward. People might offer them without you asking. Be prepared for that. Allow them to speak, thank them for their feedback, and move on.

When you feel like you have enough ideas to form a new plan of action, write them out on paper.

You may have to detach a little bit and pretend you’re looking at someone else’s situation, especially when people are offering varied suggestions.

For me, the word revise is a nice way to give myself permission to let go of this failure or path completely.  Be willing to step back from anything that isn’t working in your life.

3. Refocus.

Once you have a new plan or at least an idea of how you want to proceed, the most crucial thing you can do to overcome feeling like a failure is to embrace your new path and focus.

As hard as it may be, you can’t spend any more time second guessing yourself or replaying the pity party of why it didn’t work “the other way.”

Now, in my case, Pilates was easy to reframe. I know I’m happy to be a certified teacher and it served me to follow that path while I was on it. I still do Pilates and keep my own practice strong, so that in the case that some day comes where I do want to teach again, I can. But for now, I’m good.

My struggles with singing have not been so easy to reframe or revise, mostly because it’s painful for me to talk about this with anyone. I’m still trying to fully release my feelings of failure in the music industry so I can move on empowered.

Still, I know I accomplished what I set out to do on some level.  I wrote and recorded music with some amazing people—Grammy Award winning producers—and I was able to get a CD up in the iTunes store. For me, that’s really cool.

I love that I can go there right now and find my music. It’s a beautiful marker for something I was extremely passionate about.

Now It’s Your Turn

Ask yourself if you’re holding onto a failure or disappointment in your life. Why are you hanging on to it?

Seek support from other people who know you and who you trust to give you gentle feedback—especially if the “failure” feels fresh, even after many years.

Decide how you will move forward and use what you’ve learned to create a new plan, to let the past go to make room in your life for your new dreams.

In this way, failures don’t feel so final; they feel like a twist on a path of exploration. That’s a path I’m happy to take.

Reframe. Refocus. Revise.  Rinse. And repeat.

Photo by Mobilephotos@heidenstrom

About Anne Samoilov

Anne Samoilov is a writer & online project manager who uses her background in health & fitness to help women achieve their goals. Anne is the author of The White Space Solution: Make Room for Your Best Life and Work. Visit for help increasing productivity, reducing stress & reaching your goals.

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  • I really agree with #2 Revise. Most people want to tell you what they think about your situation especially when it’s unsolicited. Listen and move on is the best way I find to deal with it but you have really made some great points in this post, Anne. keep ’em coming.

  • Glad you enjoyed it! Maybe it’s the optimist in me but I really do look at “failures” this way. I never give up – and in some areas of my life I just keep revising revising again and again until I find what works.  I really appreciate your feedback 🙂

  • Great article. So true. Love the simplicity of the steps we can use to shift our awareness back to the success. thank you for this!

  • I like to keep my systems simple… work, personal, health, whatever. When it gets to complex I really can’t commit to it. Ya know? Thanks for the comment Catherine!

  • Tracy | Chief Princess

    Well worth reading. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. 

  • This is great Anne! I just found out some top notch business schools are also including failures are case studies and also some folks are even going as far as listing their failures on their CV.  You’re right, we do learn the most from our failures! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, vison and light! AWESOME read! 

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. Sometimes you just have to let go and stop klinging to old goals and dreams that simply will not come to fruition. The timing of your post is amazing. This is just what I needed today. Thank you.

  • Linda Sommers

    Revising is so important to me too.  I’m glad you mentioned it Anne, it doesn’t come up very often and is a much more productive thing to do than to dwell on failures and mistakes.  We are only re-infecting ourselves with that same energy.

    Love your optimism!

  • Great post Anne! Great steps in moving forward and finding empowerment from a “failure”!

  • Yeah – I even go as far as to never even say failure when it comes to something not turning out the way I think it should… I go with it, find a way to move forward and really do walk to the walk.

  • Linda you are kind… I was just talking about optimism the other day because some people look at that as a character flaw, but I find it is a choice… I MUST be this way in order to not spend time feeling sorry for myself and essentially never growing. So glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Funny – the timing of this post also fits nicely with an article I wrote earlier this week on letting go to move forward.  So happy to hear it was just what you needed!

  • Oh – that’s interesting. I’d love it if you’d share your article with me.  I also love finding case studies that show wins and “losses”…would be really interested in reading anything you find!

  • My pleasure Tracy! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Excellent, I found your post other post! And I like it even more. I have the sneaking suspicion that you are a Pisces. Is that right Anne? Just a random guess from the little I have read on your website. 

    But yeah, Numbers 3 and 6 really stick with me on that list, as well as 19 and 20. Making a conscious decision to drop something of value from your life, weather its a person, a job, a hobby, or a goal, is soo hard. I have been trying to mentally prepare myself for this for a couple weeks now, and I have really struggled with letting go of a dream I thought at one time was well within my grasp. I think I am finally at peace with it, and re-prioritizing my thought process and actions. 

  • Chris

    That was beautiful. I can relate so much to the story of the music industry, as I am at that critical point where I’m starting to admit to myself it isn’t working, and maybe it’s time to move on to something better. An intense realization when that’s all you’ve foucsed on your entire adult life. A question –

    Did you ever try any sort or therapy (occupational, etc) or lifecoaching when you were transitioning and figuring out your next move?

  • Great article.

    I find that so much of modern society is concerned with obtaining status over fulfillment, money over happiness, as if those were the same thing.

    If we’d only learn to live with less, we would have the time to do what we loved more and even support ourselves off those things that we might consider play.

  • Word! Thanks Cory – this is so true – and what I’m striving to do every single day.

  • I didn’t try any – and I have to say – it might have been a good idea.  Sometimes for me singing is still such a touchy point.  I sing to my daughter, but it’s like I don’t even want to think about singing out and playing out and how good that felt.  Lately I’ve been sooo much better at letting it rest as a beautiful time in my life….and now with my daughter – allowing her to experiment with her voice (she’s 4!) is such a joy to watch… that I almost forget about feeling bad.  She’s my new song.

  • OMG you kill me. Yes I am a pisces…you got me.  I’m definitely getting to be more at peace with the painful ones that seemed like if I don’t this I’ll die – clearly I didn’t but it’s tough.  I responded to someone above about this which you might find interesting.  🙂

  • perfect timing Anne !

  • {nodding head!}

  • Carterchris

    🙂 that’s amazing — thanks for the reply

  • Pingback: Stop.Breathe.Action Recommended Blog Posts #1 « Stop.Breathe.Action()

  • Just what I needed since I am going through a situation in my own personal life. I will remember the 3R’s!

  • A million thank you’s for this.  I too refuse to take it lying down.  Time to re-group, learn from it and soar.  

  •  Great article. Sometimes, it really amazes me how we even cling unto our failures, because we want to keep things fixed, when in reality everything is evolving and flowing.

  • I like this article because it points to the impermanence even of failure. Since everything is changing, so we can change even our failures.

  • Tinarose29

    so true I think if we just learnt to let go life would be so much better, easier said then done, but it can be done

  • Anonymous

    The one challenge is being kind to yourself if you can’t reframe or revise something…I know that this is my best practice and what I always aim to do if something doesn’t turn out the way I want it to.  But – sometimes it’s harder than others… in those moments I also let go of my need to figure it all out and change course. Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Enjoyed all your steps Anne!  Twists and turns make a more fascinating story 😉

  • I think that this is one of my favorite posts. I lost my job in December – after a tumultuous summer and fall personally – not related but happened at the same time. Anyway, I have so many ideas and have just been stuck. I can not seem to gain any kind of real momentum.
    For a long time I was really really angry at an old employer – that has faded. Oddly I am not so angry at the employer that let me go – it was meant to be and while this is the hardest time of my life right now (single Mom, unemployed and maneuvering a stressful separation) this is where I am supposed to be. What will come out of this right now I have no idea – but lots of ideas. 

  • Carl Kevin

    This article
    really inspires me not to give up. This made me to become hopeful and have
    courage in facing life’s challenges. I can somehow relate to this topic because
    I’ve been into failure many times. You may read my blog about my life.
    Thank you very much for these nice article.

  • kalyan

    that supeb methods to success

  • ben

    Awesome! thanks for sharing!!

  • kj

    when one has no ideas left