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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38 thoughts on “The 5-Step Plan to Success After Failure

  1. “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.”It’d be pretty cool if I were strong enough that you could sit on my shoulder. Not sure how to measure that, though.

    Until I figure that out here are my Feb goals: Increase my 5X5 bench from 71 pounds to 91 (I feel like that’s a stretch, but I’ve said it, so here we go), and squat from 111 to 126.

    And run two miles straight, no matter how slow, as long as slow doesn’t equal walking.

  2. Great post 🙂

    Personally I do weigh in more regularly than recommended. I tried doing it weekly and things went wrong. There’s other variables and I only did it for two weeks – hardly scientific, but I feel like ctrl + z helped here


  3. Thank you!  I really needed this post today.

    Over the next 29 days I vow to do a half hour walk before work (weekdays), yoga on the weekends and my rehab exercises 3 evenings a week.  Come March I can get stuck into the weights!

  4. Great post! Some one artistic should totally make a Steve-Kamb-No-Donut-Angel animated gif!

  5. For the next 29 days I am going to run at least three times a week.  So at least 12 runs.

  6. What an awesome post! I love it, had me in stitches! My commitment for February is to maintain eating the right foods and workout 3 times a week.  Even in the mist of moving town!

    Thank you for all you do!

  7. “Hell, you can even send me an invite to your pity party.  I’m not going to attend, but thanks for thinking of me.”

    Awesome line, I’m definitely going to be using this at some point!

  8. I am working out 5 days per week (different body parts), 5 sets of up to 10 reps per set, no more than 1 minute between sets, and 10 minutes of stair running 2-3 times per week.

  9. I totally needed to read this today. I’m NOT getting on the scale in the next 29 days. I’m going to focus on how I feel, not what a number says.

  10. Love this post.  I’ll be bookmarking it for every time I hit a snag.  NO pity parties here.  For February?  Be as dedicated to strength training as I have been with running.  Three days a week.  NO excuses.

  11. Excellent post, steve, solid advice.
    “Nothing drives me crazier than watching people try to do the same thing over and over again without success…and expecting different results!”  Yeah, talkin’ about crazy, you just gave one of the definitions of mental illness!
    I’m enjoying your posts and success.  and one of the few places I would really like to visit is Machu Picchu!

  12. Great post- I really needed to read this today. I vow to stay off the freakin’ scale every day- it is NOT my friend.

  13. For these 29 days, I vow not to skip out on my bboying, popping, swing dancing, and workout sessions just because I don’t feel like it, or cut it short because it’s not going well. I WILL get better in time.

  14. Great post! I took a Health Behavior course last quarter, and in regard to behavior modification, this is EXACTLY what I learned!

    But to keep with the theme of making vows for the next month, I vow to not miss any of the workouts that are on my calendar (and subsequently, I vow to respect the calendar).

  15. I’m just starting so my plan is pretty simple.  A week ago I signed up for a RampUp class at a gym near my house and it starts on Tuesday night.  I’m scared to go because I will definitely be the oldest and most out of shape person there…but I’m going to go anyway.  My February commitment is to do all the classes and then continue going 3x a week.  I’m committed to not feeling like I’m the freak and everyone is watching me. 

    And to figure out how to set a strength goal because I don’t know how right now. As well as continue on my healthier eating habits (which I’m getting pretty good at).

    Thank you to all… make me laugh, you give me hope and I will be grateful forever.

  16. duuuude.  this was a rough week for me.  really screwed up a few things, failed at some goals, and broke a few “rules” I have for myself.  as such, I’ve been having a Pity Party for a few days now.  so this is well-timed.  thanks for the awesome kick in the butt!  sometimes we just need someone to slap us across the face and remind us to suck it up!!  😀

  17. Some great advice there, you can’t really go wrong once you realise that there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. 

    I know that it’s a core NLP principle, but it really is a good way of looking at things. So that when something goes wrong you just say, ‘ok, that was interesting, that didn’t go quite to plan, what can I learn from that experience and do differently next time’.

    A key point that many people forget is that goals should be iterative (IE cyclical natural feedback systems) and totally open to change and feedback. Goals are not fixed end points, they are wayposts that simply give a direction to take.

    Having used that metaphor I also feel I should point out that a goal setting process should still be taken seriously enough to help someone plan their actions, devise what new behaviours, resources and habits they’ll need and create some sort of action plan….

    Either way, good post, at a good time, well written:)

    Keep up the good work,
    George Super Boot Camps

  18. Fantastic post, going to keep reading it, but my old anthropology BS won’t let me not post: Rafiki (the multi-colored baboon) is a mandrill.

  19. “It doesn’t matter. It’s in da past!” My favorite exchange in The Lion King…

    This post really resonates with me. Struggling isn’t fun, but it’s worth it.

  20. Awesome blog man. Just randomly found this while searching for some random fitness stuff. I play soccer and I’ve definitely given up on myself sometimes, but for some reason I keep getting back into it! Maybe it’s because I know I can turn it on and take it to the next level. keep up the good work. Love the pictures, cheers!

  21. I was needing some of this kind of talk today too. Thanks! I have had a rough couple days and the scale did not move for me this week after last week going up a pound or so. But thanks to your words of wisdom,I am going to leave the past where it belongs and get back on the horse again. It is a lifestyle change, that requires a long time effort. To stay on the straight and narrow every day is kind of unrealistic when you think about it but knowing that tomorrow is another day to get back to healthy living once again, really makes a different in your frame of mind and success. 

  22. Ithink having something tangible and measurable is very important as you know where you are starting from and what you need to get there

  23. My plan as a newbie:

    1.  Let go of and learn from my past.
    2.  Become friends again with food – and BFFs with the more healthy foods
    3.  Make a chart to track my calories and exercise
    4.  Increase protein intake and decrease carb intake
    5.  Refrain from buying anymore candy
    6.  Begin walking at least 15 min a day for at least 3 times a week
    7.  *Stay positive and refrain from being so judgmental against myself
    8.  🙂

  24. I do 4 cardio set a week, weight train at least 5 to 6 days a week and work out side. I just started weight training again with my arms. Up until that point I worked my legs and butt while focusing on the mid section. I like the idea of being able to protect myself and of course to look great while doing it. My motivation is that some people commonly underestimate a woman as weak, but not this one.

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