Forget Your Failures, Progress Is All That Matters

onlyprogressmattersFailure can be overwhelming. Even perceived failure can be.

I would know. I used to always make a big deal when I failed at something. Not always visibly, but I would always be affected in a major way. Lose all motivation, sometimes even my very will to live.

Earlier this year, I entered a Japanese speech contest for the first time ever. I had written the speech quite carefully, and practiced a fair amount. But I became insanely nervous. I was shaking. I had 3 major pauses and the overall presentation ended up being pretty terrible.

People who had nowhere near my experience ended up beating me, along with one of my seniors. I was devastated. I had been so emotionally invested in the idea of winning, that I ended up walking a 2 hour walk back to my cousin’s place in the cold. I felt numb. Worthless.

I felt like I always used to when I failed at something. I told myself: “It’s always like this.” “I always fail.” And completely disregarded the fact that I was willing, for once, to challenge myself. To try something new. The fact that I made some actual progress. And that’s perhaps the greatest mistake anyone can make.

Don’t allow failure to skew your perspective. Think of the failure as an isolated incident, unless there is a precedent of course, and any shortcomings on your part as completely fixable problems. Figure out what you could have done differently, take it to heart in your renewed efforts, and move on.¬†

Because all that really matters, is progress. As long as you keep it up, and learn from your mistakes, you will eventually reach your goal. If you fail once now, the only thing that matters, is slowly moving forward again. The failure is completely unimportant. Think a little about why you failed perhaps, but only as a way to guide your continued efforts.

I’m nowhere near my goals. I still struggle with motivation, my moodiness and insecurity, and trying to figure out what on earth I am supposed to do with my life. But that’s okay.

Because with every word that I write, I am inching closer to the person I want to be. With every challenge, I am leaping forward. Every day I see some progress, no matter how little. And that’s enough.

I don’t need to succeed right away. That’s not how things work, and that’s okay.

In my last post, I talked about letting go of expectations, which is something I highly recommend. But it’s not always possible to completely let go of them. When you fail, and feel disappointed, just remember the progress you made. Take a few deep breaths, put on some fighting music( Eye of the Tiger comes to mind) and keep moving forward.

Forget your failures, progress is all that matters.

Think of yourself like the creek in the picture. Every roadblock becomes but a turn in your course. Eventually you will reach the luscious waters of success.

Another picture from Miyajima. I walked past what might have been the only guest house on the island, up what seemed like a private pathway, past some old private houses or rental huts, and all of a sudden this creek appeared before me. It caught my eye and I decided to take a few pictures.

If you feel lost and want something to take your mind off of things, you could always participate in my project Month To Make A Difference. Where you would focus on doing as much good as possible for 30 days, and if you want, contribute your own experiences, what you achieve and how it affects you, in text or video format.

14 Responses

  1. SJ Scott October 24, 2013 / 5:27 pm


    Once again great advice. I would say the same thing about the opposite too! Don’t get too high on your SUCCESSES.

    Take too much pride, or get too many accolades for the good things you have done and the mind thinks you are done, and you MAY stop achieving.

    The thing you need to reinforce is exactly what you said for the failure. THE PROCESS and the progress.

    People place too much emphasis on outcome. Feeling crushed if they do not do as good as they want, and possibly a bit egotistical if they do better than expected.

    What really matters is the work. If you are busting your butt and constantly learning, then failures will simply be a way-station to success, and success will generate more success.

    At least that is how I see it.


    • ragnar October 24, 2013 / 6:02 pm

      I couldn’t agree more SJ, I just felt like tackling just the one issue in this post, but you managed to sum up my whole philosophy for goal achieving pretty nicely in that one comment.

  2. Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca October 26, 2013 / 1:05 am

    We’re so inclined to beat up on ourselves over failure, and it isn’t helpful AT ALL! I tell myself that if I never failed, that would mean I was never trying.

    For that reason, I see rejection letters as badges of honor.

    Keep trying, keep failing, and keep learning!

    • ragnar October 28, 2013 / 7:42 am

      It will make the day it get’s accepted so much sweeter am I right? Best of luck!

  3. James Robinson October 26, 2013 / 9:05 am

    Agree. We should learn to accept that failure is a part of success. We should not dwell on it and instead try and try again until we hit the mark

  4. cj October 28, 2013 / 12:39 am

    I’d have never learned any Bach on the classical guitar if I paid much attention to failure, Ragnar. I have failed many thousands more times than I have succeeded, but it is the successes that I remember most, thank goodness.

    Love your writing as always. Have a most pleasant one!

  5. Steve October 28, 2013 / 2:00 am

    This is great advice for anyone who has had a setback or failure. It’s not the end of the world. Rather, we should change our perspective on it. Most of the time, it’s not as bad as we think and there’s usually something to learn from the experience.

    I like your attitude of seeing it as a challenge. I’m big on challenges too. Like anything challenging, you don’t always win. To be honest, that’s what I like about them. I don’t always want to win. Otherwise, I don’t learn how to be someone who takes failure well. That’s not a good thing.

    • ragnar October 28, 2013 / 7:44 am

      If you always win there’s no real thrill is there? I figure if everything starts to work out for me I would be just as bores as when nothing was.

  6. Winifred Reilly October 28, 2013 / 3:29 am

    Hey Ragnar

    Nice post.
    I expect that I’ll spend the rest of my days working on my ability to let go of my failures. I used to be paralyzed by my mistakes. Of late, I brush myself off an keep going.

    By the way, I’m taking Jon’s guest post class. A ton of work. Totally worth the money and effort.

    • ragnar October 28, 2013 / 7:46 am

      Winifred you and me both. I have a really irrational fear of failure and rejection, so learning to let go is a slow process!

      That’s awesome, I was considering signing up, but I decided to save and give some of the money to charity. If I get a full time job again, I will most likely be taking the class too. As it stand I am just taking advice here and there, and seeing where the road leads me.

      Thanks for sharing!

  7. Jackson Anderson October 28, 2013 / 8:12 am

    Hey Ragnar!

    It’s a hard one “failure”.

    It really is all in our heads and it’s amazing how hard it is to take that one step forward when in all serious any result is better than current.

    Yet, here we all are. Over and over. Talking about it like it’s this mysterious thing.

    Possibly it all stems from our bringing up in Western schooling where failing a test or exam or whatever was the end of the world and it basically meant we were worthless (at least in the Teachers eyes) and now in adulthood we find it harder to face.

    But like you said man with each word you write, each challenge you undertake (japanese presentation is pretty full on man, 2nd language + public speaking in one?!) even with “perceived failure” you’re another step closer then you were before!

    All the best man!

  8. Kevin Cole October 29, 2013 / 2:09 am

    Failure is what make you of it. It can either bring you down or lift you up to greater heights. I really loved your part in here about inching closer and closer to your goals. That’s exactly how I look at it and it reminds me of a quote from Buddha that says “A jug fills drop by drop.”

    Failure happens. Consistent forward action is the only way to capitalize on it.

    Not sure if you realize this – but I am seeing noticeable improvements in your writing. It flows better and I can feel what you are saying. It seems like you are coming into your voice. Keep it up brother.

  9. Randy November 9, 2013 / 10:23 pm

    Maya Angelou said it well…”You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them”. This could apply to “failures” as well?

    Ditto on Kevin Cole’s last paragraph.


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