The 5-Step Plan to Success After Failure

You failed at something.

Maybe  you’ve already given up on your New Year’s Resolution.  Hell, maybe you don’t even remember what your New Year’s Resolution WAS.  Or maybe something else happened in your life that would be considered a fail.

Long story short: We’ve all been there. 

We all fail at something at some point in our lives – it’s what separates us from the animals.

“But Steve, that doesn’t make ANY sense, and it’s definitely not true.” you’re probably saying.

Okay you’re right.  But shut up, and go with it.

Here are five actionable steps you can take to get back on track immediately after failing.

Suck it up, sucka!

First and foremost, stick your right hand over the lower left half of your chest.

(No, your other left).

Do you feel a heart beat?  Fantastic, you are officially “NOT DEAD.”  If you don’t feel a heart beat, I’m impressed you’re reading this, so you can stay.

As I like to say: “Did you wake up this morning?  That’s a good start.  Build on that.”

I’ll give you a few hours, maybe even a day or two to feel sorry for yourself.  Hell, you can even send me an invite to your pity party.  I’m not going to attend, but thanks for thinking of me.

Do what you need to do to get your failure pity/guilt out of your system.  Put on angry music, mope, go cry in the bathroom, rage, whatever you need to do.

And then freaking SUCK IT UP.

So you failed – big deal.  Sh** happens.  What’s important is that your failure doesn’t result in a downward spiral. So, after sucking it up…

Figure out why you failed

Lion King Rafiki Quote

Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.
[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick] Simba: Ow! Jeez, what was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past. [laughs] Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.

Yup, I quoted a Disney movie…try finding that on another fitness site designed for people above the age of seven!

The mutli-colored baboon does, in fact, make a good point.  If you failed and sucked at something, CONGRATULATIONS!  You just discovered what particular method doesn’t work for you.  As Tony Robbins will tell you -“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” (thanks Caleb!)

The ONLY way a failure is a bad thing is if you refuse to learn from it.

So figure out WHAT went wrong:

  • Did you try to lose weight by running on a treadmill and starving yourself?
  • Did you try to get healthy by weighing yourself daily?
  • Did you try to quit smoking by going cold turkey?

Yeah, this part might be painful – but it’s so important.  Identify what your goal was, what the outcome was, and why it went wrong.  If you’re being 100% honest with yourself, identifying these issues shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

Plan your new approach

As it has been said by people far wiser and better looking than me: “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

It’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Nothing drives me crazier than watching people try to do the same thing over and over again without success…and expecting different results!  It’s like trying to jam a square block in a round hole and then getting pissed after the seventh try when it doesn’t work.


  • If eating less and running more didn’t work six times before – that probably isn’t going to be the method that sticks.
  • If stepping on the scale every day causes you to freak out when it goes up half a pound – clearly daily weigh-ins have a negative affect on you.
  • If setting weight loss goals make you angry – then continuing to set weight loss goals is a horrible idea!

Instead, may I suggest some alternative ideas?

Set strength training goals When my friend Staci wanted to get in incredible shape, she realized that starving herself while spending 3 hours a day on a treadmill turned her into a weak twig.  Instead, she shifted his focus to “I wonder how strong I could get?” She tracked each of her workouts, and started making her decisions based on “will this help me or hurt me in my quest to getting stronger?”  I’d say it worked.

Adjust how you’re going to eat better Saint went from just “eating less calories” to “eating the right kinds of food.  Eating less calories got him part of the way to his goal…but not all of the way.  Adjusting his diet allowed him to focus less on counting calories and more on just eating the right stuff.  Combined with some heavy strength training – Saint dominated his goals after two years of failing.

Build habits instead of setting goals I love this one.  Joe weighed 310 pounds, and was afraid of stepping on the scale and getting depressed at the results.  So, instead he set different goals – never eating more than ______ number of calories, and working out 4 times a week – no excuses.  Yeah, the first month was brutal, as his body wasn’t used to exercising….but he powered through it because he REFUSED to accept any excuse as to why he’d miss a workout.  10 months and 128 pounds later…I’d say he did pretty well 🙂

What’s important with all of the goals above is that they are all SUPER SPECIFIC.  “getting in shape” doesn’t work.  “I wanna lose weight” is far too generic.

Be crystal clear with what you want determine your level 50, and then you can start working towards it.   It might be a strength goal, it might be a “lose x% of body fat by this date” goal, it might be a habit forming goal.  Whatever it is, the more specific you are, the more you can plan on how to get that goal accomplished.

Track it.

Notice any similarities about the success stories above?

Each nerd tracked their progress to make sure they were on the right path.  Saint tracked his body fat percentage and workouts.  Staci tracked her workouts.  Joe tracked his calories and made sure he worked out 4 times a week.  They all took before and after pictures to see how their bodies changed.

It’s quite tough to know how you’re doing unless you have bench marks to know if you’re progressing:

  • If your goal is strength – track your workouts!  I use a simple excel sheet to see exactly how much I’m lifting and how much I need to lift next time to show that I’m stronger.  If you did three sets of five reps of 135 pound deadlifts, then next time aim for 3 sets of five reps of 140 pound deadlifts.  If you can do 8 push ups in a row, next week go for 9.
  • If your goal is eating better – track your calories for a few days and determine what you’re normally eating.  Want to lose weight?  500 less calories per day (roughly) will result in one pound loss per week.  Maybe you set a goal of eating 18 good meals per week and 3 cheat meals.  Track it!
  • If your goal is consistently working out – put your workouts into your calendar, and refuse to budge on missing them.  Set an alert for 5:30PM every other day to work out.

WRITE IT DOWN.  I’ve covered how to properly track your progress extensively here, so I won’t go into it too much…

Above all else, I recommend one thing:


Take a picture of yourself from the front, the side, and the back.

Repeat this process on the same day, every two weeks, once a month…whatever works for you.  I like every two weeks.

If you’re strength training and eating clean, your scale might not move nearly as much as you think it should.  Hell, depending on your genetics and how hard you’re training, your weight might even go up at some point…but the scale does NOT tell the whole story.  On a month to month basis, if your body is changing for the better (by comparing your pictures side by side), it should be clear to tell if what you’re doing is working or not!

If your body composition isn’t changing in the way you want it to…then it’s time to repeat steps 2-4.  Figure out what you’re doing and what’s not working, adjust, and then start tracking again.

Shut up and start

I need a commitment from you.

A commitment to shut your face, look yourself in the mirror, and hold yourself accountable.

I can’t come to your house and drag you out of bed in the morning and tell you to exercise.  I can’t sit on your shoulder while wearing angel wings, playing a harp, and tell you not to eat that donut.  That would be really creepy.

You have to WANT this for yourself.

If you failed at your New Years’ Resolution already, good – glad we got that out of the way.  As Rafiki told us, the past is in the past…all we can do is learn from it.

After work today, go home and make a change.  There are 29 days in the month of February – what positive changes or habits are you going to make?  If you need to pump yourself up, start here.

In the next 29 days, I vow to not miss a workout.  3 intense strength-building workouts per week for the next two weeks, and then five workouts per week for the final two weeks (I’m trying to get in the best shape possible before cruising on The Rock Boat with my friends on March 1st!)

What’s ONE change you hope to make over these next 29 days?  

How are you going to start TODAY after work?



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