Lessons of Failure

Far too often, students in our public speaking and leadership courses recall their ‘failures’ as challenges that define their present & future outcomes — rather than a bump in the road to their success. They often recall these experiences of ‘failures’ in vivid detail and explain that they truly feel they will never overcome the shadow of past. In a larger sense they suffer from what cognitive distortions or thought patterns that cause them to perceive these experiences inaccurately. Often these cognitive distortions reinforce negative thoughts or emotions and leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless. Nothing can be further from the truth. Failure is reality of life, but it is less a desperate dismal end than a hopeful beginning. Here in we will explore some ways one learn from failure and approach the future with brimming optimism.


Failure is a fact of life. In high stakes roles that public speakers and leadership hold failure is unavoidable. Rather than assume the failure defines our future potential we should accept it as it is. Our failure as speakers may come in the form of a speech that fell on deaf ears or a scathing negative review from our peers. Whatever it is — no matter. We have to learn to accept our own experiences, learn from them and positively move forward.

Own Failure

Our failures are not things to cower and hide from. We should own our failures by gaining a deeper understanding of them and their place in our learning journey. Owning our failure means now deflecting responsibility for its existence in our past. Instead, this involved bravely accepting and embracing our failure. If for example, we as leaders in an organization have failed help guide our team to an agreed upon goal, it is critical we own that failure. Not to hold it over our heads for eternity but to learn from it and improve future leadership outcomes.

Lessons Learned

Every failure is a learning opportunity in disguise. Rather than see failure as an insurmountable obstacle we should see the lessons it yields. If our startup pitch didn’t attain our funding goals, we can learn from the experience for next time. Rather than feel demoralized, we should seek to understand what we can learn to improve our next pitch. The lessons of failure are the precious but only to those that explore its fundamental purpose.

Stay Positive

Life is always a series of challenges, but of them staying positive in the face of adversity is often the biggest. The challenge of a ‘failure’ calls us to bring forward the most positive within our selves to see beyond its dark and hazy shadow it often casts. Our past define us or negatively color our potential future. If our outlook is negative it is hard to see things as they really are. We have to see outside our current challenges and hold fast to the potential learning that comes by staying positive.

Will you learn from failure or live in its shadow? The choice is yours. Choose to redefine your future and the yield will be many fold. What is your experience with dealing with failures. Leave us a comment below and let us know. As always we wish you endless success.

Joseph Guarino is a professional public speaker, trainer and owner of the Institute of Public Speaking a Boston based international public speaking & leadership training organization. As a seasoned public speaking trainer & professional speaker he enjoys helping other succeed in this worthy and rewarding craft. The Institute of Public Speaking offers a variety of public speaking courses for individuals (1 on 1 training), executive speech coaching, one day public speaking bootcamps, advanced public speaking bootcamps and public speaking seminars for corporations & groups of any size.
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