Transforming Failure Into Growth

How To Move On From Failure

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Allied Commander in charge of launching the attacks of D-Day during World War II. His success in that invasion would ultimately lead to victory over the Axis forces of Nazi and Japanese soldiers. As much as we admire his courage, preparation, and clarity of thinking when we look back at it now, at the time, the outcome was very much in doubt. No one knew if the invasion at Normandy would succeed. So much so, that Eisenhower composed a brief letter to submit to the president in case the invasion didn’t succeed. The note read,

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”


The quality of Eisenhower as a leader was on display not only in his successes, but in the way he was filling to face failure. We can learn valuable lessons from his example as we face the inevitable failures that we occur in our lives.


Don’t Make Excuses

There are always extenuating circumstances present when we fail. There are always things beyond our control that contribute to our outcomes. Sometimes our failure is brought about by the failure of others. It’s easy to make excuses, to blame others when things go wrong. Even if there is room for blame however, we must avoid it at all costs. Blame is toxic for everyone involved. Eisenhower was not willing to blame others (although he could have). He was ready to bear the full weight of the failure if the mission did not succeed. He even went out of his way to complement those under him, assuming the best, that they would handle themselves well.


Don’t Belittle Yourself

If the mission had failed, it would not have meant that Eisenhower was a bad leader. In his willingness to accept responsibility for the failure if it would have occurred, he never badmouthed himself. You are more than your performance, and a bad performance doesn’t make you a bad person. If you crush yourself every time something goes wrong, you will soon lose heart and struggle in whatever you attempt.


Own It and Move On

Eisenhower’s assumption of responsibility was short, clear, and to the point. There is nothing to be gained by wallowing in our failures. We need to own the failure, accept whatever consequences that may come, and then move on to the next challenge.


Failing is miserable, even in small things. But the way we handle our failures will go a long way to determine our success in the future. Everyone fails, but those who face it courageously are better able to handle the next challenge that life brings to them.