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When you fail, remember that you are merely one step closer to success. The setbacks you face make you smarter and more resilient, equipping you with valuable knowledge that prepares you for victory. 

As I explored success and failure stories across various disciplines—business, politics, academia, science, and technology—I was struck by a paragraph from Forbes. “There was a man who failed in business at age 21; was defeated in a legislative race at age 22; failed again in business at 24; overcame the death of his fiancée at 26; had a nervous breakdown at 27; lost a congressional race at 34; lost a senatorial race at age 45; failed to become Vice President at age 47; lost a senatorial race at 49; and was elected as the President of the United States at the age of 52. This man was Abraham Lincoln. He refused to let his failures define him and fought against significant odds to achieve greatness” (Forbes, Five Ways to make peace with failure). Further analysis of President Lincoln’s efforts revealed that many doubted his skills and determination. Yet, he proved them all wrong. 

Analyze, Learn, and Take Action 

When facing failure, approach it as market feedback, avoiding blame, negative self-talk, and regret. Focus on learning from unsuccessful decisions whether operational, interpersonal, or unassessed market conditions. In my case, reflecting on failures over the last 20 years, they were often people mistakes. I trusted individuals who were unethical, ego-driven, and ruthless. Hence, I now prioritize starting with people, ensuring those I chose to have in my life are ethical, energetic, partnership-focused, and complement my skill set. Learn to say no to anything less, as the few people you surround yourself with shape your average. Don’t be swayed by the surface; instead, consider if a person enhances your life and professional success. 

Lesson from Adam Altman (ChatGPT CEO) 

I read and listened carefully to articles and videos from the ultra-successful AI CEO Adam Altman. His relentless commitment to himself and his team stood out. He frequently reflected on the likelihood of failure but also acknowledged the potential for being really right would happen only once or twice. Early in his career, Altman understood that as an ambitious person, you must “give yourself a lot of chances to get lucky.” (Sam Altman, how to be successful). 

Actionable Thought: Shape Your Future, Don’t Dwell on the Past 

Obsessing over failure will not turn it into success. Instead, it intensifies the pain and traps you in an emotional prison with only negative options and outcomes. Rather than dwelling on the past, focus on shaping your future. Taking positive steps toward a greater future quickly eliminates the negative thoughts that hold you back. 

One of the most powerful lessons is realizing you can figure out what to do in any situation, even seemingly impossible ones. The more times you do this, the more you will believe it. However, optimism is crucial. Self-belief is the most powerful trait for achieving compound success. Successful pessimists are a rare breed.