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Failure is the first stage of success.

It is an opportunity to learn and begin again with deeper insight and an improved plan. It is important to realize how significant failure is as part of your success strategy. Nothing you have achieved in your life has come without failure as a precursor. To find more success, fail more often. Of course, you can fail intelligently.

I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and career. Each time I take personal responsibility for learning from them.

Do not be ashamed to make mistakes or admit being wrong. Don’t go out of your way to make foolish mistakes, but when you do, own them. Take responsibility, clean it up then move forward.

Perspective Learning Forward (Controlled Crashing)

What does surfing have in common with jumping out of airplanes? Both taught me lessons about using failure and setbacks to my benefit. Both have strategies, skills, and techniques to essentially deal with failure.

PLF is a military acronym for the parachute landing fall technique I learned at the Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 1986. I have since adapted the acronym to as Perspective Learning Forward. I use it when I fail, crash or wipe out in life. This is a direct application of Forward Focus in the S.U.R.F. Strategy.

Airborne School is three long, intense and grueling weeks of rigorous physical training, the hot Georgia summer and an instructor in your face most of the time. We had to master how to rig our chutes, how to load and exit the aircraft, how to maneuver our parachutes while in the air, and how to clear the landing zone. What we spent the most time on was the skill of controlled crashing.

A parachute slows you down so you do not crash into the earth at terminal velocity. However, there is still considerable speed when you land. Maybe you have seen sports parachuting and how fast their approach is. In the last few seconds, they pull down on chords to collapse the chute and slow it down. With the exception of elite units, most of the army parachutes do not have this feature and there is little you can do to slow your descent rate. Even with a parachute, your impact is about the same as jumping from 12 to 18 feet without a parachute.

Over time, the army perfected a method of landing to absorb and spread out the impact of the fall and lessen the effect of the crash. This technique, known as a parachute landing fall, or PLF, allows the body to collapse to spread the impact out over several points of contact, rather than landing on your feet and doing severe damage to yourself. The PLF is about position upon impact.

Each point of contact must come in the right order and with the correct form to allow the body to act as a collapsible spring. The correct position is feet and knees together. The correct order of points of contact is (1) feet, (2) side of the lower leg, (3) side of quadriceps, (4) buttocks and (5) back. All this happens quickly in a fluid, collapsing motion.

We spent days practicing this from every imaginable angle. Because you are a passenger of the wind and do not control your direction, you need to prepare to execute a PLF in any direction. Front PLF, left PLF, side PLF—again and again, we would practice falling. We slid down cables and did PLFs in the sawdust. They had a sadistic device called a swing-landing trainer that started you on a platform about eight feet high. Wearing a harness attached to a pulley system, you were swung into motion by an instructor. At the instructor’s whim, he would let go forcing you to do a perfect PLF…or do it again and again and again. We drilled and drilled on how to fall, culminating in a drop from a parachute hooked up to a 250-foot tower that pulled you up and then dropped you like an amusement park ride on steroids. This was the last step before jump week and was the pure essence of Terro-Phoria— exhilarating and terrifying. Drills, training, practice every day for almost two weeks took the conscious thinking out of the equation and allowed the reaction to be embedded in my subconscious.

I will never forget learning how to fall. This has helped me significantly in my life when I have found myself hurtling toward the ground out of control. Just as the army uses a PLF to teach soldiers how to fall, we need to practice Perspective Learning Forward in our lives when we fail or feel like life is crashing in around us.

When you feel like you are wiping out, Perspective Learning Forward enables you to take a different view on your situation. Learn from your errors and look ahead to how you can use that knowledge and experience to create a brighter future. This provides you with an advantage over most people who shut down after being wiped out by a failure. PLF helps you confidently get back on your board with your lessons learned.

Henry David Thoreau observed, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

When you act with purpose and courage, especially in difficult times, you sow the seeds of future success. When you fail, look for ways to adapt and do better.

You might just find strength and ability you didn’t know you had.

This post is an excerpt from the book Stack the Logs! written by Kahuna Business Group’s Founder/ CEO Frank F. Lunn.

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