Nobody likes to fail. Yet failure is the secret to success. If you haven’t been rejected a number of times, the current mantra goes, you just haven’t experienced success.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, swears by this premise. At Virgin, they encourage and even celebrate failure. There’s an underlying theme there that, without trying something new and failing, it’s virtually impossible to innovate and grow.

Branson says, “Do not be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again. Making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is part of the DNA of every successful entrepreneur, and I am no exception.”

Wherever you are on your career path, it’s time to acknowledge that failing is common, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

But here’s the thing. There’s one superhuman quality — a mindset — every person needs to master on their journey of failing forward. Without it, you may as well toss in the towel now and never try again.

I speak of resilience.

The science of resilience and how to cope well with failure

We all face challenges and unexpected events in our lives. The key is how well we are able to cope with life’s surprises. In resilience, we adjust to changes and challenges as well as develop the ability to “spring back” emotionally after dealing with a stressful period.

Research on resilience suggests a number of traits to help us following difficult and stressful life events. These characteristics for building resilience can be divided into three major themes:

  • Attitude: Providing the outlook, focus, and psychological support that can lead to personal growth
  • Resilience skill development: Learning and applying techniques for problem solving: changing your perception, empathic listening, and communicating effectively with others
  • Healthy lifestyle: Supporting the physical and emotional energy needed to recharge

Psychologist Rick Hanson, the New York Times best-selling author of Resilient, says one of every human being’s basic needs is satisfaction (the other two needs are safety and connection). When this need for satisfaction — whether at work, starting a business, or pursuing your dream of choice — is met by drawing from these four mental resources, we become resilient.

  1. Mindfulness: Staying present in the moment as it is, rather than daydreaming, ruminating, or being distracted
  2. Gratitude: Appreciating and feeling good about what already exists
  3. Motivation: Pursuing opportunities in the face of challenges
  4. Aspiration: Reaching for and achieving results that are important to us

Practicing resilience in the pursuit of your dreams

If you’re an entrepreneur, setbacks will occur — you can bet on that. This is why your success is wholly dependent on your ability to bounce back and look at each failure as a learning experience, and a part of your failing forward journey.

Marcos Andres Antil, CEO of XumaK, a provider of end-to-end services in the digital marketing and e-commerce space, has an inspiring story of resilience.

Migrating as a child from a small town in Guatemala to the vast metropolis of Los Angeles, and having to learn English and integrate into a new education system were some of the first challenges he had to face and overcome.

But it did pave the way for his success later in life. “Being resilient to different circumstances and learning to be persistent and humble in the face of challenges has been the base for everything that I do,” said Antil in an email.

“Entering the field of computer science at the university — without knowledge of programming, and then applying these acquired skills to create XumaK required will and persistence,” he said.

XumaK (an ancient Mayan word that means “to bloom”) survived the brutal 2008 financial crisis with fewer than 20 employees, and now thrives with more than 150 employees implementing dozens of digital marketing solutions around the world.

“We continue evolving [while] following XumaK’s true values — always going the extra mile, [and] always seeking excellence in all that we do,” said Antil.

The opposite of a resilient mind

Having a coping mechanism when facing hurdles or getting crushed is key to bouncing back. Wrong ways to cope with failure include “freezing in place” or “running around chaotically,” says psychologist Steven Hayes, Nevada Foundation Professor in the behavior analysis program at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Other behaviors shown to be counterproductive include avoiding your emotions, harshly judging your thoughts, rehashing the past, fearfully anticipating the future, and acting impulsively.

The right way to cope, says Hayes, is to accept your thoughts and feelings and view them with curiosity. At the same time, think consciously about what you really care about in life, and how you want to be in the world. Then, says Hayes, organize your behavior around those values you’ve identified as near and dear to you.

Originally published at