(Part 3) How To Deal With Failure


Alright, so here we go with Part 3 of 3 in this series “3 Powerful Mental Toughness Strategies”.


This article is all about how to deal with failure


However, let’s firstly recap to see what we’ve gone through so far in this series.


In Part 1, we discussed my #1 strategy for building confidence, focus, discipline and powerful momentum every single day that will improve your mental toughness and create a powerful pattern of success to have you reaching whatever targets you set.


And that was what I like to call the ‘small wins’ phenomenon. Little tasks you do every single day that gives you a small win and creates a pattern of success and builds that winning momentum, self-discipline and confidence.


In Part 2, I went through the SMEAC mission planning process; Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration & Logistics and Command & Communications…


And how utilising this highly effective planning process will increase dramatically the chances you have on reaching your goals. It will ensure you have a detailed, step by step plan to follow that creates certainty and confidence in your ability, and how it will really help in those times when your motivation is lacking as you’ll know exactly what you need to do every step of the way.


So if you haven’t read the previous two articles, please go back and check them out as you’ll gain a clearer understanding of the ‘small wins’ phenomenon and the SMEAC mission planning process.


Click here for "[Part 1] 3 Powerful Mental Toughness Strategies".


Click here for "[Part 2] How To Build A Bulletproof Mission Plan".


So, one question I’ve received from a few people is….


Is the SMEAC mission planning process only for Military planning applications?


And the answer is: Absolutely not.


I simply used my personal example of attempting Commando Selection, as it was the process I went through, however I have since utilised the SMEAC process to thoroughly plan out the goals I have set within my business and personal life…


…and it’s worked just as well. So you can definitely use the SMEAC mission planning process for any goal you wish. Whether that’s personal, business, financial, relationships, health, whatever! It will work great in planning out your attack and helping you to reach your desired end result.


Ok, so onto the final part in this series. Part 3.


Part 3 is all about how to deal with failure and setbacks you encounter along your mission path.


Now every mission has problems and unforeseeable events that will try and derail your efforts. Like murphy’s law states:


Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!


You can have the best thought out plan and constructed a detailed and thorough step by step process to follow, but let me just say this… something will always go wrong. Your plan will never go exactly the way you want it to, so you need to know how to deal with setbacks and failure.


Now just think about how important this step is to your overall plan…


  1. You’re creating powerful momentum, building confidence and creating a pattern of success through all the ‘small wins’ your conducting every single day.


  1. You have the SMEAC mission planning process to form a thorough and detailed, step by step plan and work out exactly how you’re going to achieve your goals.


And now..


  1. Add in what to do when things go wrong in your plan, how you’re going to deal with setbacks and failures (which is what you’re going to learn in this article).


What do you think the chances are of you being able to complete your mission or reach your goals?


Quite substantial I would say!


If you follow the lessons I’ve outlined in this series, you’ll be able to plan for anything you want to achieve. Now how good does that sound?


Ok, so if that sounds good, read on below where I’ll teach you how to deal with failure and the exact process I used after I failed Selection for Special Forces twice to ensure I succeeded the third time, and how you can utilise the exact same process to deal with any setback or failure you encounter.




Dealing With Failure


Ok, so this is a subject I’m passionate about and love talking about, why, because it’s inevitable, failure is inevitable. We will all, throughout life, experience a number of setbacks and failures… If you get out of your comfort zone, push the boundaries, and set massive goals, at some point, you’ll experience failure. That’s just life…so it’s extremely important we learn to deal with those setbacks and failures to ensure we continue to push forward with whatever plans we have.


So let’s just say you’ve experienced some kind of failure. Then what? What will you do? Or what did you do?


I’ve failed often, and every one of those failures hurt. Winning is easy and much more fun, but failure teaches you so much more. It makes you resilient; it forces you to acknowledge your faults and reassess if what you’re doing is what you really want.


So let’s see many times I failed in my attempt to make Special Forces…


My path into SF went like this…


  • Joined the Army and Cavalry at 18 years of age
  • Attempted for Special Forces Selection (SAS) at 22 - failed
  • Left the Army at 23
  • Did private security contracting in Iraq for 2 years
  • Joined the Army Reserves at 27
  • Attempted the Special Forces Entry Test (going for Commandos) at 27 - failed
  • Reattempted the Special Forces Entry Test at 28 - passed
  • Attempted the Commando Selection and Training Course at 28 - failed
  • Reattempted the Commando Selection and Training Course at 28 - passed


So, as you can see, I failed 3 times in my attempts for Special Forces.


What kept me going?


Let’s first backtrack for a minute, as this will give you a better understanding of my mindset at the time.


After my initial attempt at Special Forces in 2003, I left the Army. I was bored in the Regular Army, and since I had failed selection, I wanted to move on. I had lost my motivation.


I engaged in a few different jobs, once I discharged from the Army. I worked as a furniture removalist for about 3 weeks (the hardest job I’ve ever had!). I worked in a bottle shop (the easiest job I’ve ever had …), before gaining employment at the Australian Zoo through my good mate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and great mixed martial artist coach Dan Higgins. Dan was working as Steve Irwin’s security manager and, like me, Steve loved wrestling, so I got the job. It was a great job, working at a great place, wrestling Steve during my work hours, and having quite an easy and enjoyable time.


But I was bored.


Another good friend of mine, who would later become the best man my wedding, was involved with a company attempting to win a contract in Iraq. Trent asked, if his company got the contract, would I work in Iraq.


I jumped at the chance. 1 month later, the contract was secured, and I was on my way to Iraq. I remember telling Steve, Wes (Steve’s best mate and Zoo director), and Dan I was taking the job in Iraq.


Dan turned to me and said, “Why do you want to go over there?” He was not sure of my intentions and motivations.


I looked at Dan and said, “Why do you fight? It’s just something I have to do.”


He told me years later that my answer to his question was one of the only times in his life he had nothing to say, because he got it, he understood. He wished me well.


I had this drive in me I needed to satisfy. I never got to experience combat while in the Military and saw this as a perfect opportunity to test myself and experience war, or at least, a war zone.


Plus, the money was great.


Since the moment I had failed SAS selection in 2003, I had a burning desire to know whether I was tough enough or mentally and physically strong enough to be a Special Forces Soldier.


Was this first attempt just a glitch? Should I have another try? Could I make it?


In Iraq, I had a great time. It was easy work and awesome money. I remember people who thought I was nuts working in Iraq asking me,


“Well, what’s your life worth anyway?”


“$500 per day… US” was always my answer. I got strange looks.


In Iraq, I saw the true ability and awesomeness of the United States Military. We had multi-million dollars gyms (some donated by Arnold Schwarzenegger), huge mess halls (eating areas), Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut. We even had Friday night fights. I had 2 fights for a record of 1:1.


Great times.


But, even with making great money with easy work and exciting conditions, I always had this burning desire. I constantly thought about Special Forces. I needed to know if I had what it took to be an elite Soldier.


I left Iraq in 2006 and attempted selection again. I re-enlisted into the Army Reserves, as I didn’t want to be stuck in the Army for another 4 years if I didn’t make it. Now, I know people talk about not having a way out or a plan B, as this will make it easier for you to fail. Well, I call this bullshit. You have to work hard, but you have to work smart also.


I vividly remember training for selection. 400m sprints carrying webbing totalling 7kgs and a rifle. The 2.4km runs with the same equipment and vomiting at the end (I was not a good runner). The many hours of solo pack marching at night and in the rain or in oppressing heat.


Then came the day of the Special Forces Entry test.


Pull ups, push-ups, sit ups, no problem. The run I did in 11.43 mins. The pass mark was 11.30 mins. I’d failed. They gave me another chance an hour later. I ran 12.20 mins.


After a failure, your confidence takes a massive hit. You self-loathe and self-denigrate. You may also make excuses for yourself.


But if you’re a true warrior… you self-assess.


I was weighing too much. Simple as that. I was 94kgs. I wasn’t a good runner, and every extra kilogram you have can add 5 seconds onto your 2.4km run time.


I needed to lose weight. I was training hard, and I knew I wanted it.


The staff from the Special Forces Training Centre told me I could do the next entry test in two months, just prior to the actual selection course beginning. I took it.


2 months later, I conducted the test again. I had lost a few kilos, but I was anxious, and it was a struggle. I crossed the line…. 11.26 mins. I’d passed. Thank God.


Next was the actual Commando Selection and Training Course. First up was the 3.2km run with the same 7kg of webbing and rifle I’d used for the 2.4km run. The pass mark this time was 16mins.


We set off on the run, my legs were heavy, and I didn’t feel good. After what seemed like an eternity, I crossed the line… 16.10 mins. I’d failed and was kicked off selection.


Let the self-loathing and deprecation begin.


Now, time to take stock. I’d failed SAS selection. I’d failed the entry test once, and now, I’d failed the selection course once.


Was I living in a fantasy world? Had I answered my question about whether I was tough enough? Was my attempt at selection and Special Forces finished?


I again spoke with the Special Forces Training Centre staff, and they informed me I could attempt the next Selection early the following year, but it would be my last attempt.


After this third failure, I really sat down and wrote out my ‘why’. Why did I really want to be in Special Forces? What was driving me? Was it realistic that I could make it?


I concluded all my previous thoughts and desires were still relevant, and I still needed to answer certain questions. I hadn’t made a good attempt at Selection. I was kicked off early last time, and I wanted another shot.


Early in 2008, I attempted selection again. It had been 6 months since my last attempt.


Day 1 and we were out in the hot sun doing an equipment check. It was draining. The inspection went for quite a while. Then it was time for the 3.2km run. We did a thorough warm up, too thorough. I was feeling drained.


We lined up. There was nervous energy in the air. I was nervous. This was my final attempt.


We set off. I felt shit. My legs were heavy and my breathing was laboured. I started to ask myself, what would I do now? What would I do when I failed the run? Would I just go back to Iraq?


There are few moments when you are truly at a major crossroad that can have a tremendous and life-changing effect on your life, depending on which road you take. This was my major crossroad, running down the main road on Singleton Army base..


I told myself to shut the hell up and deal with whatever came AFTER I had put in my maximum effort on this run.


I reached the turnaround mark at 7.15mins. The fastest time I had ever run for a 1.6kms. I felt buggered and a little surprised at my time. I began the journey back. I was getting tired. I hit the 2.4km distance at 11.30mins, which gave me 4.30mins to run the last 400m.


The last 400m on Singleton Army base up to the main gate is slightly uphill. It was tough. That last 400m run I will always remember. I knew it would be close, and I was exhausted.


I crossed the line… 15.48mins. I’d passed.


From that point, I was determined to get through selection, and apart from a moment or two of wanting to quit and pack it in, I persevered, and the rest is history.


What are the takeaways from this?


  • Be prepared to fail. It’s going to happen. It’s how you respond after a failure that will ultimately determine your success.
  • After a failure, reassess your ‘why’. Is the goal you’ve set for yourself still actually what you want? If the answer is yes, be honest about why and how you failed. What do you need to do to improve? How can you be better? This is what Carol Dweck calls the ‘Growth Mindset’. Every single failure is an opportunity to grow. It’s an opportunity to better yourself, to find out your weaknesses and improve on them to become better, stronger, faster more resilient.
  • Don’t fear failure. Try to have the attitude of: you never fail; you either win or learn. Failure is not final, it’s not an absolute. Failure is not who you are, it’s not your defining character; it’s simply a process which enables you to learn. It’s enables you to take on board constructive criticism. It’s a stepping-stone to winning.
  • And the more times you fail, the sweeter the victory.


And there you have it… “3 Powerful Mental Toughness Strategies”.


I truly believe that if you begin to implement what I’ve outlined in this 3-Part series, you’ll certainly be well on your way to reaching your goals. But, as I’ve learned over the years throughout my own journey, there’s sooo much more to mental toughness.


That’s why I actually decided to developed my Mindset course in the first place… to teach all the aspects of mental toughness and help people transform their mindset and apply what I’ve learned to really go after and achieve what it is they want.


So, if you want to take your mental toughness training to the next level and develop all the practical strategies to purposefully move forward with confidence, focus and a positive attitude, then stay tuned for tomorrow’s email where I’ll explain how you can gain access to my Complete Package (which includes the Mindset course).


I’ll be opening registrations for the new and revamped version of my Complete Package tomorrow for a short time only, so be on the lookout for the next email with details on how to access this course.


(Yes, you could go straight to my website and purchase the course…but don’t! Because it won’t be the most updated version and you’ll miss out on the special offer I’ll have for you tomorrow.)


So, just before I go I’d like you to do two things…


  1. Think of a failure you’ve experienced previously. Now think of one thing you can learn, takeaway and improve on, to make you better, stronger, tougher and more resilient…what is it? (Think the ‘growth’ mindset)
  2. Comment below and let me know that one thing, and also tell me what you’ve thought of this 3-part series 🙂


Talk tomorrow,


Rhys Dowden

Operator Edge


P.S. Remember, registrations for my revamped Complete Package open tomorrow, but only for a very limited time, so make sure you’re on the lookout for tomorrow’s email with all the details.


I’ll be sending the email out at 11am…you don’t want to miss this!