You Are the Only Person Tracking Your Failures


Failure has a negative stigma attached to it. Nobody enjoys failure. Most people avoid it like a plague.

In fact, the only thing worse than being labeled a failure is experiencing a series of failures. Enough failures strung together in a short period of time is often more than enough to convince most people to quit an activity.

But I have good news. You are the only person tracking your failures. Think about it. Nobody in the world has enough time to keep track of all the failures you experience over the course of a week or a month or a year. Someone close to you might notice you fail at something occasionally but they can’t possibly know exactly how many times you have failed. More importantly, said person has their own failures to worry about as opposed to thinking about yours.

Consider a superstar high school student who applies to 10 different elite universities and only gets accepted to one. From their perspective they failed nine times and succeeded only once. But from the perspective of everyone else all they know is that the student got accepted into an elite university. Only the student herself could possibly track her failures.

Or consider the superstar college graduate who interviews with 10 different elite companies and only gets an offer from one. From their point of view, they know they failed nine of the interviews and only got an offer from one. But from the perspective of outsiders all they know is that the college grad got an offer from an elite company.

So what does this mean? It means that no one on earth is aware of all the failures you have experienced (nor do they probably care to know). So if you feel like you are a ‘failure’ just know that you are solely responsible for giving yourself that label. Nobody else can label you as a failure. Only you can label yourself as one since only you are aware of how many times you have actually failed.

To the employee who has asked for a raise at his past three jobs and been denied all three times – ask for a raise at your current job. Your current manager isn’t aware of your past unsuccessful attempts at getting a raise.

To the college grad who has been denied by 10 different companies – apply at yet another company. They aren’t aware of all the times you have been denied.

To the single guy that has been turned down by 5 girls in a row – ask another one out. She isn’t aware of the other girls that have turned you down.

The point I’m trying to make is that despite how many failures you have experienced, you are not a failure until you have decided to call yourself one. Only you are capable of being held back by your past failures. The rest of the world is not aware of them.

So don’t stop seeking progress and improvement because you are afraid of failing yet again. Try, try, and try again. It’s very likely that you will fail, fail, and fail again. But only you are cognizant of these failures.

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13 Replies to “You Are the Only Person Tracking Your Failures”

  1. Fantastic post. One of the best books I’ve read is “Go for No.” It’s a cheesy story about a salesman who learns he should set his monthly goals based on how many “no’s” he wants to receive instead of how many “yes’s.” The idea behind the story is not being afraid to fail and by seeking out more “no’s” you’ll end up getting more “yes’s.” Something I really need to work on myself. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I like to tell people that we were born to be mistake factories. You can’t learn unless you fail. Sometimes we fail hard, but other times we’re able to rise above our circumstances and come out better for it.

    We’ve had a few super-spendy months where it felt like we were completely off track with our finances. We felt so defeated. But I framed those months as opportunities to learn and move on.

    1. I think the ability to look beyond past failures is especially important in the personal finance space. It’s easy to get caught up in past financial mistakes but it’s vital that we move on from these mistakes if we ever want to reach our financial goals. I also love the term ‘mistake factories’, I’ll have to integrate that into my vocabulary 🙂

  3. In addition, those failures (if that’s even what they truly were, though perhaps they weren’t great fits anyway) can teach lessons that will lead to future successes.
    There are so many of those I’m glad I learned early when the stakes were relatively small and those lessons still serve me well today.

  4. This is good but be careful to evaluate your failures correctly. Evaluating one’s own failures against one’s success, but, failure for failure’s sake, like the fetishization of failure in Silicon Valley creates a negative loop where one isn’t weighing failures to success but actually using number of failures as the metric.

  5. FPF,
    Very nice post. I couldn’t agree more. It is so easy to get caught up in a cycle of negative reinforcement. It’s important to realize first of all that failure is necessary to gain experience. Second of all, most people have no clue what is going on in someone else’s life when it’s so difficult to keep track of one’s own life in many cases.
    Take care,
    – Ryan

  6. It’s so freeing to know that no one is truly paying attention to my failures but me. Thanks for saying that, I needed to hear it. I especially like the bit about how people don’t actual care about knowing how many times you failed, they are too busy paying attention to their own failures.
    This concept works in reverse too. Typically when we look at wildly successful people rarely does anyone bring up all the times that they failed on the path to success. We just see their success and assume they got it on the first try. This idea of not tracking failures can help bring down this illusion and make it seem like success is obtainable for anyone… because it is.

  7. This article is so helpful! Sometimes I think, oh everyone’s going to see I’m a failure and write me off so I should give up, instead of, no one knows about any of this, I still think I’m a winner – I’m going to keep trying. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Hello, I’ve been reading this blog for several years now but i noticed you dont post any more content. Why? I know you have several websites, but im only aware of the one about Cincinnati. Can you display your other sites? Also, in terms of starting a blog what do you recommend? Is WordPress a good thing? What do you think of it? Thank you.

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