Oct 6, 2022

Can Failure Be Empowering? The Author of Can’t Hurt Me Says Yes

The idea that failure could lead to positive outcomes might seem contradictory. After all, the word itself means “lack of success.” 

But David Goggins, author of the bestselling Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, has a different perspective: Failure is inevitable—and often painful. But with the right mindset, failure can be the catalyst for reflection, learning, and a stronger resolve to succeed.

Read on for more insight. 

Failure Can Hold You Back—But It Doesn’t Have to

Failure can feel like falling face first onto cold cement. But according to Goggins, it isn’t the falling that holds you back. Yes, it hurts, and recovery takes time. But the decision to stay down is what keeps you from achieving your goals. 

Sometimes, the fear of falling can be so scary that it stops you before you even take a step. Goggins has been there. He says, “Once, I was so focused on failing, I was afraid to even try.”

But after a decorated career as a Navy SEAL and numerous grueling endurance events like ultra-marathons and triathlons, Goggins learned that failure could push people toward their ultimate goals. 

5 Ways to Make Failure a Stepping Stone

In Can’t Hurt Me, Goggins shares five ways that anyone can make failure a stepping stone to success: 

  1. Accept That Failure Is Inevitable

You will fail. To think otherwise is to avoid countless opportunities for growth, experience, practice, and the development of grit. 

Remind yourself that everyone fails and that failure is a pause in the story, not the conclusion. Like Goggins says, “It’s possible to transcend anything that doesn’t kill you.”

  1. Assess and Reflect on What You Learned

After a failure, embrace your inner Navy SEAL and inventory the experience. Write down what happened, why you think it happened, and detail the consequent fallout. This analysis will reveal new insights into your motivation, resources, and objectives. Plus, it will help you see what you can do differently next time. Again, focus on the who, what, where, when, and why of the failure—not the sting of it. 

  1. Make a Plan

After you inventory the failure, you’ll have the information and, crucially, the objectivity you need to formulate a new plan. That plan should be based on what you know about the failure, not how you feel in its aftermath. With the right data, you’ll be able to see the landscape with fresh eyes, take what you’ve learned, and strategize effectively to achieve your goal. 

  1. Try Again

This part is crucial. Unfortunately, it’s not easy. The mental struggle that often accompanies starting over is real. But Goggins says, “Most wars are won or lost in our own heads.” Remember that failure is never permanent if you’re willing to try again. If the mental chatter is too much for you, silence it by putting one foot in front of the other as you implement your new plan.

  1. Surround Yourself with Encouragers, not Sympathizers

Goggins reminds readers that failure isn’t comfortable—yet we tend to surround ourselves with people who “speak to our desire for comfort.” Sometimes even your closest friends and family members can hold you back – either because they want to protect you from failure or they’re jealous of your potential. Whatever the reason, they keep you playing small.  

Surround yourself with people who encourage you to try again rather than doling out sympathy for the pain of your defeat. These cheerleaders will help you dust yourself off and pursue excellence. 

Face Your Failures

Goggins says, “We have to face the failures of our life and learn from them. They cannot be forgotten.” So, the next time you fail, fight the urge to tuck that experience under the rug. Instead, embrace it – or even celebrate it – as evidence that you’re trying to improve. With the right mindset, you can turn temporary stumbles into stepping stones to success. 

What did you learn from this blog post that will help you reframe your thinking around failure? Share your favorite quote with us on Twitter using #canthurtme.