Feedback, Failures, and Finding Success

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

“Most people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

– Napoleon Hill

“Adversity causes some men to break; other to break records.”

– William Arthur Ward

“Champions have the courage to keep turning the pages because they know a better chapter lies ahead.”

– Paula White 

It is easy to find motivation in the words of successful people. There are hundreds, if not thousands of quotes regarding the value of feedback, failures, adversity, and resilience in relation to success. World-class coaches, athletes, and entrepreneurs preach the value of passion, patience, and perseverance; how we must be willing to fail in order to succeed, for it is through failure that we often find success. Yet, few people talk about the actual experiences. How does it feel to fail? How do you process constructive criticism? How do you overcome adversity?

Feedback and Failures are the prerequisites to success. Regardless of talent, work ethic, knowledge, or skills, we all encounter adversity. We understand that in order to succeed, we must overcome the obstacles in our path. However, most of us neglect to acknowledge that feedback and failures trigger significant emotional responses. Feedback can feel subjective, and failure can appear fatal. In retrospect, it is easy to connect the dots, but in the moment, frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, and regret hinder our ability to see the bigger picture. Regardless of the context, feedback and failure hurt. You will experience feelings of inadequacy and disappointment, and that is okay. Similar to grief, there are stages to feedback and failure.

The Stages of Feedback and Failure are Confusion and Frustration, Reflection, Acceptance, and Adaptation. Initially, we struggle to process the incident or information; we are unable to comprehend what has happened. Next, we begin to contemplate and reflect on the event in an attempt to better understand the unexpected outcome. Reflection provides the time, insight, and peace of mind necessary to reach acceptance. Upon acceptance, adaptation commences. In the context of feedback and failure, adaptation represents positive change; the modifications in attitude, behavior, mindset, knowledge, and/or abilities that ultimately move us toward success. Everyone experiences the Stages of Feedback and Failure in some capacity. Regardless the degree or duration, we each navigate through Confusion and Frustration, Reflection, Acceptance, and Adaptation on the path to overcoming adversity.


Historically, I have struggled with feedback. I understand the value and necessity of constructive criticism, yet it remains difficult to process. The first two stages seem to last an eternity. There have been instances in which I have spent weeks battling frustration and reflecting on the situation; acceptance and adaptation seemed impossible. Failure generates an even greater struggle. I am blessed to say there have been few instances in my life that I have failed to achieve what I set out to accomplish. That being said, when failures occurred, the aftermath was devastating. I internalized the turmoil, battled the emotions, and ultimately overcame the adversities. Therein lies the problem.

We are all trying to maintain an image; we do not want anyone to see the chinks in our armor, but it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to struggle; it is okay to fail. We need to invite people into our lives and create a support network. Vulnerability, communication, and relationships will accelerate the rate at which we progress through the Stages of Feedback and Failures, and ultimately find success.


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