How to Turn a Failure into a Success

Have you ever failed – no, I mean like really failed at something big like your career or your marriage or a friendship?

J. K. Rowling, whose failure in marriage and business left her a single parent living off unemployment benefits, says, “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” Rowling didn’t let those failures define her. She picked herself up and penned the “Harry Potter” series, which has sold over 450 million books and is worth more than $1billion. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We will experience it at some point during our lives. It’s how we respond to failure that determines the results and the success we reap as a result of failure.

In my coaching work, I’ve coached a lot of women and every single one of them has failed at something along the way. I’ve pulled the three biggest tips from the women who have resiliently risen from their failures to keep going.

Tip 1: You are not a failure

Have you ever set out to achieve something and didn’t hit the mark or, worse, your entire dream burned down into a pile of ashes right before your eyes? I’m talking about those times when all you want to do is curl up in a ball in a dark room and never have your face see the light of day again. You’re embarrassed, mortified, and the last thing you feel is strong and courageous like the self that started you down the path toward that dream in the first place.

Are you with me? I’ve been there, too.

The first mantra we often start repeating to ourselves when we see the ash pile is that we are a failure. Maybe somewhere along the way someone told you that you were a failure. Or you saw their hands craftily working to set you up for failure. Or, like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, you felt the weight of their feet on your neck and couldn’t get them off until you were surrounded by ashes.

It’s time to stop beating yourself up. Don’t let the naysayers and haters in your life define who you are. You are not a failure! Your setbacks may leave you feeling like a failure; however, they don’t define who you are. You are not a failure! If you’re facing setbacks and feeling like a failure, it means you’re a brave, courageous soul putting yourself out there by taking a shot at your dreams. You took a risk and didn’t reach success – this time. But you will try again. You are not a failure!

Tip 2: Flip the Script on Failures

Do you notice when you put yourself down? Often unconsciously, we beat ourselves up for mistakes, poor decisions, or the way we handled certain situations. As leaders, we often are consulted for our advice, yet we would never share our own self-talk when advising others. We would never advise others to repeat to themselves, “I’m stupid” or “I’m incompetent” or “I’m a failure”. What should we advise ourselves and others?

In a well-known study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Ethan Kross and Ozlem Ayduk found that encouraging people to use the third person (their names or pronouns) or second person (“you”) consistently helped them control their thoughts and ruminate less. One of my coaching clients tried this. She was usually resilient when she faced a setback; however, one recent setback seemed to continue to haunt her and she couldn’t get passed it. When she caught herself engaging in negative self-talk or ruminating on that past shortcoming, she found the following mantra to be very helpful, “NAME, you are safe. NAME, you are loved.” Soon, the failure faded into the background and she rarely thought of it anymore.

The next time you catch yourself needing to advise someone or even yourself on how to flip the script on failures, I encourage you to give a third-person mantra a try and see how it helps you stop focusing on past failures so you can start focusing on future success.

Tip 3: Go after success again

I’ll never forget that call from my husband on a humid August day as I returned to my office after lunch. Our 6-year-old daughter took a curve too tightly on her bike, fell and broke her arm. The bones weren’t protruding through the skin, thankfully; however, the fracture required surgery and an overnight in the hospital. Truthfully, I don’t even like biking, so I could have let that accident be the end of our daughter’s bike riding journey. However, I knew that I could not let that be the end of bike riding for her as it would impact her mental state for the rest of her life. As soon as her arm healed, our daughter fought through the painful and haunting memories as she climbed back on her bike and rode again. Biking is not her favorite thing to do, but she knows she can do it and is not afraid to do so.

Too many of us know people who faced setbacks in their careers, marriages or life, and they adopted that victim mentality. After a setback, they told themselves that they couldn’t handle marriage or couldn’t ride a bike. In reality, their “can’t” is often a cover for they “won’t”. If they allow themselves to believe they can’t do something, then they have a license to stop trying. They don’t dust themselves off and pursue success again.

Sometimes, we self-sabotage after a failure by limiting beliefs that tell us we’ve reached our peak and we can’t achieve success again. Or we experience impostor syndrome and feel like our prior successes were flukes and every time we don’t attain our goals, we fear that others will discover that we are impostors. It can take a lot of work to move forward and pursue success again after a failure.

If you’re reeling from a failure and feeling nervous about pursuing success again, I encourage you to find the support you need – whether that’s a friend who can help you see your worth again; a therapist who can help you heal from the pain; or a coach who can help you uncover your dreams and step out with courage toward success again. You are not a failure. You are safe. You are loved. You are worthy of going after your dreams and being successful!


We are bound to meet failures and setbacks at some point in life and, when we do, it’s important to remember that we are not defined by our situation or our failures. We can flip the script on our self-talk so that we stop allowing our past failures to haunt us and, instead, allow space for us to look forward toward our dreams and goals again. Finally, getting back up and pursuing success again is the best way to shift our mindset toward a successful future.

Work with me

Harness that motivation you feel right now to leave those failures behind, rise up and pursue your dreams again. Ready to pursue success again? Click here to schedule a time to discuss who we can work on your dreams together.

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