3 Ways We Can Learn from Past Success

The notion of “embracing failure” has become one that has become very popular in education over the last few years.  To me, the semantics matter.  “Embracing” is not the right term and does say something to the public outside of education.  Learning and growing from failure is something very different.  We can hate failure AND be open to learning from it. Both things can be true.

Resiliency is crucial, and failure is only finite if we don’t learn from it.

Still, I have come to appreciate the importance of putting our learners into situations that do not guarantee success as they learn to not only deal with adversity but grow from it.  I recently tweeted the article, that focuses on the importance of failure and adversity for a child’s growth, from a parents’ perspective (Read the whole thing here.):

We’ve all heard a lot in the past few years about the importance of failure. Take risks, fail fast, learn from the experience, and bring the knowledge you’ve gained to the next thing you try. We all know this is good advice–except when it comes to our children. Most parents should get better at encouraging their children to risk failure, and helping them benefit from it when it happens.

There are lots of great suggestions in the article and great reminders for caregivers and educators alike, but failure is not the only teacher.  Learning from success is also essential for us to grow.

As a young basketball player, I remember my high school coach really pushing us more after a win than after a loss.  I was always confused, and honestly bothered, by why he would be so critical after a win, but I understand fully now.  He wanted us to grow from the experience and not lose sight of what we did right in the past so that we could keep building success for the future.

With that all being said, here are three thoughts that can help you learn from success, as well as failure.


  1. What worked in the past and why?

    Focusing on failure can often mean focusing on our weaknesses.  Too much focus on “what went wrong” can leave us feeling defeated and that we can’t move forward.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t look at our weaknesses, but focusing on our strengths and how we got to the point of success is something that we can apply to other areas.

    For example, if you excel in your professional life, but your health and wellness are a struggle, what are the things you are doing in your work that could lead to success in your well-being?  You can’t necessarily carbon copy ideas, but there are lessons to be learned that can apply to other areas of your life.

    Success can be a great teacher in the areas where weaknesses need to be developed.

  2. Succes in the past does not guarantee success in the future. 

    I love this quote from William Pollard:

    Image result for Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

    One of my favorite shows in the world is “Pardon the Interruption” where two people talk about sports but in a curmudgeonly (is that a word) way.  Often when one team goes up in a playoff series, one of the commentators reminds the other that “the other team has coaches as well.”  This is a little reminder that people and organizations are continually making adjustments.

    As I have said many times, in a world that is constantly moving forward, standing still is falling behind.

    Contentment can lead to stagnation. Be ready always to adjust and readjust.

  3. Success might be something you experience as an individual, but it doesn’t mean you were the sole factor in the process. Give back.

    No matter how successful any organization or individual is, no one has ever done it solely on their own. Whether it was a supportive caregiver providing opportunities that we take for granted, a mentor giving advice, or someone recommending you for a job or position, there is always more to the success of an individual than usually meets the eye.

    Knowing that it is important to try your best to give back to others. Not only will this lift others up, but I know that I have learned a ton from the people that I have informally mentored through the process as well, and have grown from the experience.

    This doesn’t mean give up all of your time to everyone ever, but just a subtle reminder that success is rarely, if ever, an individual accomplishment.

Resiliency is not a lesson solely taught through failure. As we focus more on learning from failure, let’s not forget that a lot can be gleaned from success, especially if we want to recreate that pattern in the future as well.

Source: George Couros