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How to train your brain to be resilient to failure

In this week’s Secrets of the Most Productive People, we speak to Intern Queen CEO Lauren Berger about how to see failure as part of the journey to success.

How to train your brain to be resilient to failure
[Photo: Boce/iStock]

It’s probably no surprise that most people who have attained some sort of success experience failure at some point in their lives. It’s a painful but often necessary path to growth, and if you take its lessons and pointers seriously, you might just find that it allows you to operate at a level that you didn’t think was possible.

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Of course, it’s up to you to act on those lessons, but you don’t need to look too far to see the possible payoffs. As Michael Grothaus previously reported for Fast Company, many businesses we know today wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for failure. We wouldn’t have KFC had Colonel Sanders stopped trying after failing 1,000 times to perfect his fried chicken recipe. The Disney Company might not have existed if Walt Disney hadn’t been fired from a newspaper in Missouri “for not being creative enough.” The iPhone might not have existed if Steve Jobs wasn’t forced out of Apple in 1985.

But as we discuss with InternQueen.com CEO and founder Lauren Berger on this week’s podcast episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, bouncing back from failure isn’t always a tidy process. You often need to allow yourself to process the unpleasant feelings that come with failure, before you can rationally assess what you can do better next time, or as Berger told us, “Figure out how to turn the no’s into a yes.”

Here are some ways you can learn to train your brain to be resilient to failure.

  1. Write out your feelings and thoughts. While you’re processing your emotions, it can be helpful to write it down. This way, you’ll learn to identify what triggers those things and experiment with ways to manage them when they do come up. Being resilient to failure isn’t necessarily about not letting it affect you, but figuring out coping strategies so you can bounce back from it effectively.
  2. Challenge yourself on a daily basis. Training yourself to be resilient to failure is very similar to training yourself to be comfortable with discomfort. One of the best ways to do this is to look for small challenges you can take on so that the stakes for failures are low. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to see failure as just another process to go through in life. In turn, you’ll be more resilient.
  3. Build a community. When things are going wrong, it’s easy to feel alone and think that no one else is going through what you’re going through. But this is far from the truth. Chances are, there’s someone going through exactly what you went through, and came out of it on the other side. Talking to those people can help you put things in perspective. 

You can find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts. How do you deal with failure? Tell us about it with the hashtag #FCMostProductive and click here to subscribe to Secrets of the Most Productive People so you don’t miss an episode.

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About the author

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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