On 29th May 1919, two separate groups of scientists gathered on both sides of the Atlantic, one in South America and the other in Africa. Their aim was to capture photos of the solar eclipse. It was a special occasion, particularly for Albert Einstein, a physics professor, who wanted to prove his scientific theory through the solar eclipse.
In his relativity theory, Einstein had postulated that an object as massive as sun should bend light coming from other stars. A solar eclipse seemed to be the only opportunity to prove his claim, as during normal daylight, bright sunshine would just drown all other lights. It was a rare opportunity to prove or disprove the theory of relativity.
The solar eclipse was successfully photographed and contrary to widespread scepticism, the photos taken during the eclipse revealed that the predictions of relativity theory were in fact correct. The sun did bend the light. Einstein was right. Almost overnight, he was propelled from a physics professor to a science superstar.
There couldn’t have been a better time for this to happen, both for the scientist and the world who admired him. World War One had just ended, and its horrors were still fresh in people’s minds. All they wanted was some optimism and progress. Einstein’s concept of relativity along with his image of a scruffy-looking, absent-minded professor was hailed across the world, especially in Europe which was worst hit by the war.
1919 wasn’t the first instance scientists had gathered to validate Einstein’s notion of relativity. In the summer of 1914, an American team led by W. W. Campbell and a German team led by E. F. Freundlich travelled to Russia to capture the solar eclipse. As they reached their respective locations, all they could do was to set up their equipment and wait for the eclipse. Unbeknown to both scientists, a global catastrophe was about to erupt.
On June 28, 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia, kickstarting the First World War. Freundlich, being German, was taken as a prisoner of war. The American team was allowed to continue but all their efforts were thwarted by cloudy weather on the day of eclipse. Both expeditions failed in gathering any details whatsoever.
Einstein was clearly disappointed as he had to wait for five more years for the next eclipse. However, this also provided him with an opportunity to refine his theory— there were some errors that he noticed later. Additionally, post-war environment of 1919 proved to be much more conducive for his novel ideas to be widely accepted.
Had the 1914 eclipse been photographed, Einstein’s predictions would have been less convincing as there were some errors which he corrected later. He probably wouldn’t have been the science icon he happened to be in the post-war era. If you have tried to achieve something and have met an unexpected failure, or missed success by a small margin, try again—this time more wisely. You may get something better if it is the right time for it.
The following seven lessons are intended to help you handle an unexpected failure and try again to do better the next time.
Lesson One: Failure is a Part of the Game
If you have recently tried to achieve a goal and somehow failed, you are not the only one. Anyone who plays the game loses sometimes— there is no exception to that rule. This is the first thing to realize and accept after a failure: that you are not special, you are like everyone else. And like everyone else, you win sometimes, you lose on other times.
Lesson Two: Be Honest about Your Performance
Now that you have realized that you can fail like everyone else, it is time for another reminder: everyone makes mistakes, and once again, you are no exception. What is required at this stage is a brutally honest analysis of your mistakes and to make necessary corrections.
Alluding back to Einstein’s story, he was clearly disappointed that the solar eclipse of 1914 couldn’t be captured. But this failed attempt also gave him an opportunity to review and correct his theory. Sometimes, your failures are not caused by your own mistakes, but they work out for the better. An analysis can be helpful in either situation.
Borrowing the words from Jack Ma,
“The man who checks himself after a failure has a chance.”
Lesson Three: List Down Your Areas for Improvement
Mistakes are unpleasant but they are actually improvements in disguise. An unbiased analysis of your failures will allow you to reflect upon your mistakes, thereby helping you to identify areas for improvement. Based on your analysis, make a list of your improvement areas.
Lesson Four: Make an Improvement Plan
Once you have identified your areas for improvement, it is time to think how to rectify your shortcomings.Using your list of improvement areas, make another list prioritizing your tasks i.e. which tasks are more important than others, which of them need to be tackled urgently, which are low-hanging fruits, and which require a detailed action plan. Also, try to classify interrelated tasks into groups and see if it makes your plan smarter.
Lesson Five: Get a Coach
Some of your weaknesses in your improvement plan could be fixed rather easily with a little bit of commitment and discipline. However, if you lack certain necessary skills, consider hiring a coach or a mentor. You may even consider online coaching. Choose what suits you better.
Lesson Six: Practice Religiously
You may have the perfect improvement plan. You may have hired the best coach in the world as well. But ifyou are not executing your plan, things won’t improve. Be consistent and persistent with your improvement tasks. This is where your coach can help. Regardless of everything else, practice! practice! and more practice!
Lesson Seven: You Can Fail Again
Having an improvement plan would likely ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes and possibly make fewer mistakes next time. However, it does not mean you cannot fail again. Many of the successful people out there reached the summit before failing again and again. Try to do better this time and don’t be afraid of failing.