How to Fail Miserably and Wind Up on Top

Posted January 22, 2019 by Mark Perna

Have you ever hit rock bottom? You know what they say about rock bottom—there’s no way to go but up. That’s a nice thought, but when you’re actually there, actually facing obstacles that seem insurmountable, it’s hard to take that abstract idea and turn it into practical action.

But it can be done. I’ve proved it.

The Failing Miserably Part of My Life

I have failed in almost every area of my life (okay, maybe every area). At different times, and sometimes at the same time, I have missed the mark with spectacular blunders. I’ve failed as a husband and dad. I’ve failed at dieting. I have also failed on the job and in my financial life. But here’s the thing: I don’t know of a single successful person who never failed. What makes them successful is that they don’t camp out at the place they failed. They don’t allow their failure to define them.

Failure is how we learn. This has been demonstrated in the academic realm, and I believe the underlying principle applies to every part of life. When things are going smoothly, there’s little motivation to make changes and expend effort in the areas that need it. But failure has a way of grabbing our attention.

What Changed…and Why

For me, it was a seeming avalanche of failures that woke me up to the need for decisive action. At that time, so many things needed to be fixed that I almost didn’t know where to start. It would have been easy to never start, to just remain overwhelmed and drift along in the waves of the consequences. But I knew that was not the life I wanted. All I could do was start small, so I did. I prioritized the areas that needed to change and began to methodically work on them.

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This required more than just pulling myself up by the proverbial bootstraps. I needed fresh insight, beyond my own internal monologue, to help me navigate these problems and find new ways to address them. On my commutes and during other times, I started listening to audiobooks by motivational authors like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, and many others. I didn’t just listen passively; I mulled over what was being said. I thought deeply about how it applied to me. As my thought life took a new direction, my actions naturally followed. Slowly I began to dig out of the rock-bottom hole I’d dug for myself.

Honestly, it took years. My relationships, my parenting, my weight, and my professional life were all major areas that required so much more than band-aid solutions. They required entirely new thinking and habits. Along the way I often failed again, reverting to old patterns and thoughts, but I didn’t allow myself to stay there. And that’s the secret of successful people.

Yesterday’s Failures, Today’s Success

Today, I’m no longer buried by my failures. In fact, it’s precisely because of those failures that I am now successful and on top of life. It’s those very failures that I embrace today—though they were difficult to experience, they are the most valuable and cherished parts of my past. They made me a better man, father, husband, and professional in my industry.

I’m on top, but I still continue to look upward to further growth, greater knowledge, and new goals. If you’re facing a failure on whatever scale, remember it’s an opportunity. And the only way to go is up.

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About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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