Nobody likes to fail. Failing is horrible. It’s a sign that you’re a failure and will never achieve anything worthwhile in life.

Or is it?

When we look at other people, we only see their successes. We don’t see their hundreds of unpublished manuscripts, or the rejection letters, or the failed marketing tactics. We see that they have something that we want, and we’ll never get it because we suck and they’re awesome.


Stop right there.

Go splash some cold water over your face then come back.

I’ll wait.


Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

You do not suck.

That published writer is no better or worse than you are.

You are as awesome as you want to be.

If you think you suck, you probably do.

If you think you’re awesome, you will be.

It’s important to be humble, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your skills and achievements.

I used to play down the fact that I wrote, edited, published, and marketed a book in a year, but now, I’m proud of it. I know each book I write will be better than the next. I also know I’ll never learn as much in a year as I did when I worked on What Happens in New York.

But I am always learning.

Life is a journey, and it’s not finished until your last breath.

I spend a lot of my time around software developers. It amazes me that even the devs I know that write don’t adopt their agile development mindset to their writing.

In agile development, you’re always learning and always striving to be better. The project is never complete. You’re always looking for ways to make it better. You put out the minimum viable product, or MVP, then constantly improve on it.

For you, as a writer, it could be a blog. You start off with no direction, write regularly, and gradually find your voice and direction. (This is what happened to me.)

When you see the world with an anti-failure mindset, you are the one that suffers.

You don’t learn anything, and you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes because you didn’t assess what went wrong.

When you embrace failure, you learn from it. You accept that you’re only human.

And you don’t fail 1000 times, you find 1000 ways that don’t work. But it only takes finding one way that works to change everything.

When you embrace failure, you learn from it.

So give yourself a break.

Stop punishing yourself when you fail.

Instead, eat some chocolate, take a few deep breaths, then assess what went wrong. It might hurt at first, but you’ll feel better for it. It gets easier. Eating your favourite comfort food stops you from associating failure with pain: you learn to associate it with something you love.

Matthew Syed’s book, Black Box Thinking, completely changed the way I approach failure. It made me realise just how damaging it is to punish yourself when you fail.

Your homework is to go away, read that book, then come back and reread this post. You’ll see things in a completely different way. If you’re ready to.

This was originally posted in The Writing Cooperative.