The Survivor

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“Fall down seven times, get up eight”.

This is the mantra of the Survivor. A survivor is another of the six attributes of an Achiever—and an important one. How is failure a part of achievement? The successful ability to overcome failure is absolutely in the DNA of those that achieve. 

History is the best place to look for examples. Abraham Lincoln, often referred to as the best US President had to overcome a life of failure:

 -He was defeated in the State Legislature election in 1832. 

 -Experienced a business failure in 1833.

 -He lost an election for Speaker of the House in 1838.

 -Lost a nomination for Congress in 1843.

 -He wasn’t renominated in 1848.

 -He was defeated for the US Senate in 1854.

 -He lost the nomination for Vice President in 1856.

 -Lost another Senate election in 1858.

 -Was elected 16th US President in 1860.

Getting up from failure (I’ve heard Survivors call this “Failing Forward”), takes commitment, focus, discipline, humility, and integrity. You see the antithesis of these survivor attributes in those who refuse to fail well.

 “I can’t think of any failures I’ve had. I don’t look at life that way.”

 “I didn’t do anything wrong; this is your fault.”

Non-survivors will go to great lengths to avoid admitting failure. I suppose it represents a blow to the ego, or maybe it’s just old-fashioned self-fooling. Either way, these folks are missing an opportunity for self-reflection, growth and building a stronger character. 

Other non-survivors simply become avoiders. The idea of taking a change on something and risking failure is simply overwhelming. The settle into a safe routine never venturing out to see what might happen if they try. 

Part of the risk may be the belief that the entire world is watching your failure, and you may never live it down. “Oh no, what will everyone think of me?” For this, I’ll quote my dear Grandma Green: “People don’t think about you as much as you think they do!” She was good at keeping us humble.

So, how do you step out of the comfort zone, take risks, endure failure, then get up and move on? Here are some tips:

  1. Read a few autobiographies. There’s nothing like hearing from your historic heroes, and their trials to remind you, no one gets it right every time. A little of that context can be good for you. There are plenty to choose from. My most recent read was “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.”
  2. Once you’re down, make some notes. What just happened? What was the risk? What did you learn? What will you do next time? WHEN is the next time?
  3. Manage your self-talk: You are neither a victim nor a worthless failure. You are just someone who failed. Keep going. 
  4. Don’t expect perfection. In our 24-hour new cycle and ever-present social media options, it may seem that getting everything right the first time happens to everyone but you. What I love most about sports are those players that climb to the top of their game often failed hundreds of times previously. They just kept going. 

As I saw on a poster in the back room of a Running Retailer recently: “If running is hard, run more.”

That’s a good mantra for us all. 


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