Nobody learns the hard lessons in life without some element of failure.
When we let someone down, we learn why. When we fall short of our own expectations, we become aware of our growth edge. When we crumble under pressure, we become attuned to our weaknesses. There is a “lesson” inside each and every defeat–and those who ultimately reach their goals see these moments as valuable opportunities, not punishments.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the learning process any less painful.
There are some lessons in life you just can’t learn without falling down, scraping both knees, and getting back up again.
1. You can’t learn responsibility until you see the effects of your negligence.
When you make a promise to someone, they rely on you.
In business, especially, nothing teaches you the value of your word and the responsibility it carries like letting someone down. It’s the reason why young entrepreneurs tend to be so much more reliable than someone who has lazily made their way through a formal education system. Young entrepreneurs tend to learn this the hard way very early on–and work relentlessly to never let someone down again.
2. You can’t learn patience until you’re forced to be patient with someone else.
I’m certain this is how every parent feels.
When you’re working a job, when you’re a kid, when you’re young in the world, you expect everyone to cater to you. You want others to be patient with you. You want them to understand you, to give you what you need to succeed. You look to the external to give you the reassurance you seek internally.
As you get older, it’s not until the roles are flipped and you have to provide someone else with all those things and more, that you realize what true patience means. You can’t understand patience when you’re the one asking for it. You can only understand it when you’re the one who has to provide it.
3. You won’t learn the impact you have as a business owner until you have to let someone go.
Especially in entrepreneurship, hiring and firing is reduced to a mentality of shifting around puzzle pieces until you find the right combination for a successful model.
But the reality of the situation is that people you hire become dependent upon you for their livelihood: their rent, their food, their family, etc.
It’s a humbling lesson to learn that when you ask someone to be part of your team, they’re taking a gamble on you just as much as you’re taking a gamble on them.
4. You can’t improve what you don’t personally understand.
This is a life lesson as much as it is a business one.
In order to make any real progress or improvement, in any department, you have to first understand (yourself) what the root issue is. Sure, you can add people into the equation that can help or provide guidance, but it’s your responsibility to take the time to get in the weeds and understand what needs fixing.
Too often, people look for others to both point out the problem and provide a solution.
This is a mistake.
5. You can’t rely on someone else until you can first rely on yourself.
Life is full of expectations that fall short.
Part of learning what reliability truly looks like means creating that sort of relationship within yourself. How will anyone be able to count on you if you can’t even count on you? And how will you know who you can count on if you’ve never been able to count on yourself?
It takes introspection and practice in order to acquire this skill set.
But once you have it, it becomes one of your most invaluable tools.
6. You won’t know your full potential until you’ve been pushed past the point of failure.
Nobody sets out to do their best on the first try.
What allows you to see what your “best” really looks like is in you trying to do your best, seeing where you end up, and then asking yourself how you can do even better.
This is precisely why improvement and growth is a process–not a destination.
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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.