The Most Important Skill in Life — Don’t Give Up

October 13th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

I watched as my nephew tried to stand on his feet at nine months old. He fell down and returned to crawling before trying to stand again. A few minutes later, he ignored his fears as he pulled himself back onto his feet, wobbled with his first step, and then fell again.

What if infants feared failure? Most of us would probably still be crawling around on all fours. Our fear of failure is irrational; it is supported by an illusion that failure means we are worthless.

The reality is that we cannot fail; we can only produce results. Psychologists recommend we respond to these results with questions such as “What have I learned?” What did I discover that I didn’t start out to discover?” “What worked, or what didn’t work?” Mistakes are portals for discovery. When you try something and produce a result that you did not intend, but find interesting, pursue it. Don’t give up.

It is a paradox of life that we have to learn to fail in order to succeed.

People can fail and still be successful because they don’t give up. Here are 5 traits that distinguish successful people from average performers:

1. Keep At It

  • When average performers fail at something, they try something new.
  • When successful people fail at something, they don’t give up. Instead, they attack the same problem again and again until they succeed.

Rather than run from the failure that is keeping you from success, learn from it and embrace it. Others encounter an adversity, and then give up, moving to other projects until they find something at which they finally succeed. People with mental toughness don’t give up. They keep at it until they find the answer to the problem.

2. Bounce Back

Great leaders, whatever organization or walk of life they are from, always go back to the same failure to explain their success. The failure, without exception, was traumatic and personally very difficult. It made them feel as though they’d hit rock bottom and filled with desperation. As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

3. Choose Your Attitude

The odds are good that if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. Since adversity in life is a given, our success and happiness depend upon our ability to grow because of it. One of the most important decisions you make every day is the attitude with which you greet the world and the obstacles that come with it. Don’t give up; every day, you choose your own happiness.

4. Flexible Mindset

People have one of two belief systems about how the mind works. We have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that each time they attempt something it’s a reflection of their intelligence. A fixed mindset sees things in a winner/loser frame and therefore tends to see little that can be done to change the outcome.

But people who are taught that the brain is elastic and that they can become smarter and more competent—that the brain grows, like a muscle, when you work it hard—are less afraid to fail, they succeed more.

5. Be Patient

Success is a slow-cooker, not a microwave. Often showing patience is boring—most of us are stimulated by drama, immediate gratification, and creativity. But patience is a skill, not an inherited trait. Catch your mind from ranting that you shouldn’t be in this situation—you may have lost the battle, but not the war. Don’t give up and keep your eyes on the process—the results will take care of themselves.

The number one skill in life is having the mental toughness to not give up. Failure is life’s great teacher so don’t give up. While it may take a little effort to find it, as Viktor Frankl wisely reminds us, it is always possible to wrench something good out of misfortune.

Failure is where success likes to hide—in plain sight.” ~ Scott Adams

What failures in your life have moved you in a better direction? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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16 Responses to “The Most Important Skill in Life — Don’t Give Up”

  1. I’ll just say one thing. I don’t measure a man’s success for how high he climbs, but for how high he bounces when he hits bottom. It’s all about never ever giving back. Everything happens for a reason and everything bad that happens can make you stronger.

  2. Terri Klass says:

    I am with you LaRae that without failure, we cannot achieve great and sustainable success. I especially loved how you spoke about a great leader not trying new things when something didn’t work out, but staying the course until it works out.

    I know that when I can adjust my thinking from being closed to being more open-minded, I am more successful at resolving a challenge. Our minds are so powerful. In fact, I experienced this recently as I took on a project with an organization that has real issues with transparency. I initially wanted to give up on it, but I forced myself to think differently and challenged myself to find ways for them to honor a more trusting culture. It’s taking time, but I feel it’s well worth it.

    Loved the post!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Great to see you, Terri!

      If that goal or project has heart, then it’s always worth it. And that is the key…that is what will motivate us to always keep moving forward.

      The company you’re working with is lucky to have you on their team.

      Sometimes it’s scary how powerful our minds can be! But I truly do believe our attitude is what will carry us through at the end of the day.

      Have a great week!

  3. Excellent Post LaRae. It reminds me of an old adv in a magazine for a luxury watch stating that “success is a mind game”. This is a statement I found hold as true in almost every path of life. The way we see things shape the how we perceive the connections, advantages & disadvantages of a situation and our respond in that situation. If we see a problem then we indeed have a problem. If we see a challenge then we find a way to cope with. It is a matter of view, right (mental, psychological and physical) attitude and desire to act in the bottom line. Your 5 points/arguments just emphasize that in the end we have to choose our attitude towards a situation. wonderful reading. Thank you for sharing.


    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thank you, Takis. You make an excellent point: “If we see a problem, then we indeed have a problem.”

      Our attitude toward challenges and obstacles is probably the single most important deciding factor on whether we’ll suceed or not.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Dan Forbes says:

    LaRae, I have learned more from failure than from success. And, it’s the struggles of life that teach us the greatest lessons. I have no trouble keeping at it or bouncing back. It’s the patience thing I need to work on most. Thanks.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Yes, patience is a hard one. The only way I can get my mind around it is by going back and remembering how long it has taken for things to work out in the past…sometimes this helps me to keep from getting discouraged about how long it’s taking in the present.

      Dan, you are continually in my heart and prayers.

  5. Bill Benoist says:

    Love this post, LaRae.

    Each of your five traits has a common denominator successful people share: the power to choose with how to react. As you point out, the tough don’t give up.

    Thanks for a great read!

  6. Lolly Daskal says:

    Everything you said, is spot on, we need to keep moving forward, we need to learn to bounce back, we must have the right attitude and mindset and it takes patience…..

    To fail and to get up takes courage.

    to have courage takes heart….

    The number one skill starts within.

    Very insightful post! Truly enjoyed it!



    • LaRae Quy says:

      The word courage is derived from “heart!”

      Yes, if we start with heart, the failures we encounter will be looked upon as opportunitities to learn as we continue our journey. If the path has no heart, a failure will be enough to push us in another, easier direction but will never lead to true fulfillment…

      Thanks so much, Lolly!

  7. Karin Hurt says:

    Love the pic and the post. Yesterday we went through an appreciative inquiry exercise at church. Time after time it was the crushing failures that people attributed as the most significant in defining the success they have today. Our lowest times provide opportunities to step back and reconsider and define our values.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Great point, Karin. As I read your comment, I was reminded of Jonah and the whale…Jonah was able to be the man he was capable of becoming only AFTER emerging from the belly of the whale. He had no message whatsoever to give until he had first endured the journey, the darkness, the spitting up on the right shore—all in spite of his best efforts to avoid these very things.

      Thanks for that insight!

  8. Great post LaRae! I think the patience part is the hardest for many of us that are going for it in life. But with persistence, we MUST be patient. Things will come at the right time!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      This is so true, Cynthia.

      Persistence and patience seem to go hand in hand, and yet both are really hard when you’re up against a deadline and the boss needs results. My tack is to try to find something redeemable about the failure and then reassess whether I’m truly pursuing a goal that has meaning or whether it’s just busy work…I’ve found that so many times I kept banging my head against the wall for so-called goals that had no heart or meaning for me. That was when I started to look at the difference between mental toughness and just plain old hard-headednes!

  9. Alli Polin says:

    I’m still working on patience in many parts of my life but I can see why all five qualities play together to create success. It’s funny, that bounce back… I can pinpoint defining moments that changed me as a leader forever. I didn’t cower in fear that the same thing would happen again but instead assimilated the knowledge and have carried it with me… forever.

    Love the metaphor too, LaRae!

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