Recovering From Failure

Andrew Schwabe

If you have not already failed in your current role, you will at some point in time. It may be later today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a couple of years. There is no doubt about it, you will fail at something. It is not possible to do it all, all the time. Before diving in too deep, first a quick story.

Recently, I began to study for a certification exam. The plan was to become the first one certified, forging the path for others to achieve certification. Weeks before the test, I went through all the materials I could find. Websites, videos, PDFs, everything. Taking my time, really preparing for the certification exam. As the scheduled exam time approached, the rate of studying decreased and reviewing the content increased. The morning of the exam my confidence was at an all-time high. I knew everything that could be asked on this exam, or so I thought. All this preparation for a one and a half hour exam. The questions were hard and focused deeply on select features. As I hit the submit button, I was not so confident in the results. Right there in my face instantly was a failing score...

This failure shook me to my core. All motivation for that day was lost, but I had to carry the load for some of the remaining activities for the day. That night I couldn't sleep. I was stuck thinking about the questions I missed. The next day I had to give my update of a failure to everyone on the team. Then another night of little to no sleep. I knew this was not healthy for me, my family, or all the people around me. Something had to change.

What are some quick ways to clear your head?


  • Walk the dogs
  • Go for a run
  • Lift weights
  • Clean the house/apartment


  • Read a book
  • Solve some puzzles
  • Play a video/board game
  • Binge your favorite TV show

One of my favorite things to do after failing is to go play with my kids. Seeing them grow is therapy on its own. Choosing an activity that allows you to fully clear your brain space and widen your focus to see the grand scheme. In this widening of focus, you will see that one failure is not the end of the world. It is merely a bump in the road. A challenge to learn from, for all your future successes. With a clear head, now it is time to get back at it.

What are some ways to get confidence back?

  • Start small
  • Choose something that you feel like you are really good at
  • Repetition
  • Get feedback from people you trust
  • Be mindful of what you are doing

With a clear mind and some confidence, you can do anything you put your mind to. There are going to be bumps in the road. They may feel like mountains and that life will never be the same. In some ways, life will never be the same, you should have learned something from each failure. You have learned what not to do for starters. Or at least this is one way not to solve a problem. Learning is everywhere, you may not see it all the time, but it is there and it is hard.

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