Inspiration: Why Failure is Just a Story You’re Telling Yourself

Have you ever been moved by a powerful speaker?

Think Oprah Winfrey, or Steve Jobs, or even Coach Boone from Remember the Titans.

Or, the political examples of Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi. These figures literally possessed the ability to move millions and shape history with the power of speech. 

Speech, when directed with consciousness, clarity, and energy, holds the tremendous potential to motivate, inspire, and impel the world towards action.

With a bit of awareness, you too can harness this transformational power within yourself to alter your life completely.

Your Greatest Power

Your speech can be your greatest ally or your most treacherous enemy.

How? Consider this.

We know that others can inspire (or demoralize) us with their speech.

But, when you think about it, who exactly is really speaking to you all day?

That’s right. You are.

Consciously or unconsciously, you’re employing this dynamic tool of speech on yourself every waking hour, 365 days a year via your thoughts. Thoughts are essentially the stories we tell ourselves in an attempt to make sense of the world. Our thoughts have the power to moves us towards higher possibilities or to destroy us completely.

So how are to speaking to yourself? 

You could be feeding yourself a glorious diet of inspiration, empowerment, and compassion. Or, you could be feeding yourself the poisons of fear, insecurity, and guilt.

Whatever you feed, that’s what grows. The quality, tone, and vibration of your daily thoughts are the greatest predictors of your destiny.


Because persistent thoughts become emotional patterns.
Persistent emotional patterns become our core identity.
Our core beliefs determine our actions (E.g., “I can do this” or “I can’t do this”.).
And our actions, in turn, determine our destiny.

We live in a universe of cause and effect. It’s very fair that way.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of
your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought”
– Gautama Buddha

“As a man thinketh within himself, so he is”
– Proverbs 23:7

Change Your Narrative, Change Your Life

So what you getting at here, Alex? Is positive thinking the magic solution that will fix all my problems forever?

For one, I’m not advising to get into some sort of pollyanna positive thinking safety bubble, nor to pretend there aren’t weeds in the garden when there are weeds in the garden.

Rather, I am encouraging that we recognize the facts of reality just the way they are, while also realizing our interpretation (the story) of that reality is 100% determined by us. 

A simple example:

Let’s say 2 kids get cut from the high school basketball team. One kid sulks because he believes the coach hates him and that it’s all unfair. He says to himself, “Anyways, I don’t even like basketball that much really, so why try.” He gives up.

The other kid is disappointed as well, but rather than getting angry and wallowing in victimhood, he gets curious. “What do I need to improve? Where’s the learning opportunity here? How can I work harder until next year so the coach has no choice but to pick me?”

Same facts, the same reality. But different interpretations of that reality open up completely different dimensions of possibility and growth. 

That’s the power of the stories we tell ourselves.

How many times have you seen that dynamic play out at work or in your relationships?

Because the failure is never in coming up short of our target. The failure is in giving up, giving in, and blaming the outside world, other people, unfair circumstances, or even God for our situation. 

But what is a failure, really?

Failure is Only a Story

Thomas Edison famously failed thousands of times. Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Tim Ferriss, and hundreds of others experienced great failures before finally breaking through. In fact, if you study great people, you’ll find their success typically comes on the back of their greatest failure. 

What stories were they telling themselves to push forward through the adversity?

They didn’t wallow in self-pity, nor did they blame the outside circumstances. They looked within. Without fear and guilt, they asked the simple questions of, “What can I do differently going forward to achieve a different result? Where is the learning in this challenging situation?”

Consider a wildly different example. An oak tree. Only 1 in 10,000 acorns ever successfully grow to become an oak tree. Only 1 in 10,000! Are those other 9,999 all failures? Does nature have a terrible batting average? Are oak trees total losers as plants?

Or is it simply the nature of the process? Just as oak trees wish to grow and expand to the maximum extent possible, so too we as humans desire continuous growth in our own lives. Perhaps it is simply the nature of the process of life that most things don’t work out the way we intend at our first attempt. Perhaps it’s best to accept and embrace that as a part of the growing experience. By adopting that awareness, we can then tell a different story to ourselves when adversity inevitably strikes.

Failure is not the end in and of itself, but a stepping stone towards a higher possibility.

My Challenge to You

I challenge you the next time something in life or business feels like a failure, to try telling a different story to yourself.

Because whether it’s in sports or an entrepreneurial venture, 99% of the suffering is not in the “failure” itself. 99% of the suffering is the story we make up in our mind about what it means. E.g., “I’m a bad person,” “They don’t like me,” “This always happens to me,” “This is unfair,” “I’ll always be mediocre” etc….

This is what I call the multiplier effect. What was an initial pain of 10 points gets multiplied into a pain of a 1,000 by the distorted magnifying glass of the mind. A pain of 10 is fine. Adding guilt, shame, or resentment to the mix is totally unproductive.

Instead, get curious! Approach it like a child eager to learn without the burden of self-consciousness. What can I learn here? How is this painful experience making me stronger? How can this fuel my desire to work even harder next time? Zen mind, beginner’s mind as the masters like to say.

2 Magic Mantras

Adopt these two mantras into your core operating system and see how it transforms your life.

1) I am grateful in the moments of success for it brings great joy to me and loving energy I can share with others

2) I am grateful for the moments of adversity and suffering because it makes me stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

Wherein lies the failure?

There is no failure.

Only growth. 

Dream big. Be relentless.

Fly on.

By Alex Blanton

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