How To Be Comfortable With Failure

My knee was scraped, my elbow was bruised and all I wanted to do was give up.

Most kids in my neighborhood didn’t know how to ride a bike anyway. My training wheels weren’t so bad. And some of the other kids weren’t even at that point!

So why keep trying to ride a bike?

I had spent a full hour with my dad riding around in this parking lot doing nothing but falling over and over again. I was crying and screaming bloody murder for him to let me stop.

But my dad demanded that I keep trying. If nothing else, I was going to learn how to stay persistent. Besides, he knew that I was getting closer with every try. So I got up one more time, eyes red with tears, feeling like there was no way I would ever learn how to ride a bike.

I got into position – sweating, shaking and praying that the fall wouldn’t be too harsh this time. My dad grabbed a hold of the seat and the handlebars. I started pedaling, my dad holding my balance until I had some momentum.

Then, once again, he let me go. I had more speed this time, more balance. I was still shaking, but the bike was going forward. I was doing it!

All of the frustration, all of the pain, all of the anger toward my dad for making me do this, all melted away in my exhilaration that I was finally doing it! I was finally riding a bike!

Then, of course, after that day I would be able to ride a bike for the rest of my life.


Your story about learning to ride a bike was probably pretty similar to that. Unless you were born with super-human balancing abilities, you probably fell down, became frustrated and thought about quitting.

In the moment, the whole process of learning how to ride a bike is painful. It hurts falling down, it hurts feeling like you just aren’t “getting it” and it hurts failing over and over again.

As soon as you figured it out, however, you felt exhilarated!

This was probably one of the first major goals that you accomplished in your life – and you had a lot of reasons to be proud of yourself!

Then you could look back on this accomplishment with a huge smile. You could be glad that you were willing to fall down in order to learn how to ride a bike.

But you had to be willing to fail in order to succeed.

You had to be willing to get hurt, look stupid and feel frustrated as you tried over and over again without success. Because, if you didn’t fail, if you didn’t fall down and you didn’t get hurt; then you never would have learned how to ride a bike.


The first few months with Willpowered felt a lot like the first time I tried to ride a bike.

My writing was bad. It took a long time to express my ideas in words and I missed a lot of things in the editing process that made me look careless. I was embarrassed to even share my blog on Facebook because I was worried about what people would think.

However, what actually happened when I shared my blog was even worse than I imagined. They didn’t call my ideas stupid because they didn’t even read it! In fact, hardly anybody in the entire world read the blog.

I wrote every single day for months – and hardly anyone cared.

However, after almost 6 months of forcing myself to write 1000 words every single day. I was learning more about what people actually wanted to read. I was starting to express my ideas more fluidly. I was becoming a better writer.

Then I wrote a blog post called “10 Daily Habits That Will Give You Incredible Willpower” that changed everything.

It went viral on the Internet and tripled my daily traffic! The sense of accomplishment that I felt from that was like learning how to ride a bike for the first time. The months of writing when nobody cared had finally paid off!

From that point on, I had a steady stream of readers, subscribers and even students in my online classes! But in order to get there, I had to be willing to “fall” over and over again.


Most writers, artists, actors, entrepreneurs or any profession that requires practice and discipline to be good at, quit when they “fall down”.

They genuinely want to chase a dream and they even summon the courage needed to give it a try. But, because they are just getting started, they inevitably fail at the beginning of their journey.

Then when they fail, they feel as if they do not have any “natural gift” for this. So it is pointless to continue trying. Then they give up the journey toward their dream and return to their comfort zone.

Imagine if a child learning how to ride a bike had this mentality!

What would happen if the child were to try to pedal forward, fall, get hurt and dismiss the whole idea of bike riding as something they clearly have no “natural gift” for - so it isn’t even worth trying.

If this were us when we were young, then nobody would have learned how to ride a bike! We would have all given up after the first or second attempt and gone back to our comfortable training wheels or tricycle.

Luckily, our parents knew that, when it comes to riding a bicycle, failure is a necessary part of success.

The same can be said for learning anything new, or developing yourself in any way. If you are not failing in your life at least some of the time, then you are not pushing yourself enough. [1]


It goes against our nature to be “okay” with failing – even if we recognize that it is a necessary part of success. You may never fully embrace failure, but there are some things that you can do to make it easier.


Self-awareness is the first step toward self-improvement. Simply reminding yourself that failure is an important and necessary part of success – rather than something to be feared – will help you embrace it. [2]

As a gentle reminder, look back at your life and your failures. Did any of them lead to the permanent damage that you originally worried about? Or did they lead to some actual successes – like learning how to ride a bike? 

These subtle reminders will help give you a good perspective on your immediate fear of failure.


One of the worst learning mistakes that people make is attaching their ego to their failures and their successes. Your ego is what will lead you to believe that you have no “natural gift” for something, so it isn’t worth pursuing. 

The ego always wants to look good and feel justified.

So when learning something new, you must detach yourself from your results – especially at first. Everyone is bad at something at first. Even the most “talented” among us were terrible when they first started. So attaching your ego will only bring you pain. [3]

Of course, detaching your ego isn’t easy. The best way to do so is to think like a scientist.


There are few professions that are as comfortable with failing as scientists. When learning something new, a scientist will come up with a hypothesis about what she believes will happen – but she does not attach this belief to her ego.

She simply runs her experiment. If her hypothesis is wrong, who cares? The important thing is that she learned something new about the world. The goal is not to prove that she is right. The goal is to learn.

When you are learning a new skill, your goal is not to be great right away – it is to learn.

When you were learning how to ride a bike, you had a “hypothesis” of how it was done. You tried it, and probably failed the first time. So you had a second “hypothesis” about how to ride a bike. It was probably wrong again.

But you kept going because your goal was not to be great, but to learn how to ride.


There are few better examples for how to approach learning something new than your childhood self when you learned how to ride a bike. You probably failed several times – and got hurt in the process! But you kept trying, and now you’re glad that you did.

Too many of us do not take this same approach to learning now that we have entered our adult lives. We now fear failing. Instead of seeing it as a necessary part of learning, we now see it as a sign that we are "no good" and should give up. 

To overcome this tendency, you must see the value in failure. You must recognize that it happens to everyone and detach your ego. Then approach the learning process like a scientist, who views being wrong as part of the process. 

The master and the quitter both failed when they were beginners. The only difference is that the master had the courage to keep failing until he eventually succeeded. 


  1. Colvin, G. (2008). Talent is overrated: What really separates world-class performers from everybody else. New York: Portfolio.
  2. Shelly, D. & Wickland, R. (1972) A theory of objective self awareness. Oxford, England: Academic Press. x 238 pp
  3. Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. New York: Viking.