The Key to Confidence is…Failure?

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There are hundreds of books and articles out there dedicated to helping people build confidence. I’ve read more than my fair share. I’ve even written some. And today, I’m diving a little deeper into a concept I’ve touched on, but haven’t fully explored: the notion that the key to confidence is failure.

You might be thinking that this makes no sense. After all, isn’t it the fear of failure that undermines our confidence to begin with? How can failing make us feel better about ourselves and our abilities?

When we stumble, make mistakes or don’t achieve our goals, we have two choices. We can call it a day, pack it up and go home, or we can do the hard work of understanding why and where we went wrong. Doing so involves asking tough questions, seeking out critical feedback, and engaging in the kind of self-reflection that can feel uncomfortable. But once we’ve failed and grown from the experience, we can move forward confident in the lessons we’ve learned. We know better, so we can do better. Our confidence comes from the knowledge that failing doesn’t mean disaster. It means opportunity for growth.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

-Michael Jordan

So, the next time you feel your confidence waver, know that 1) It’s perfectly normal to have self-doubts, particularly when you’re doing something you’ve never done before; 2) You’re not always going to get it right. You’re going to fail. It’s inevitable; 3) Failing forward, i.e., learning and growing from your failure, will ultimately give you the confidence you need to succeed. So, fail often. As C.S. Lewis once famously wrote,

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

Have you had a failure help you grow? Share your stores in the comments!

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