A word so reviled in modern culture that to even consider it as a worthwhile experience is laughable, a common belief which is damaging the potential for progression and growth. The ultimate sin is not failure itself, but the belief that failure is a deficiency and, as such, something to be laughed at and avoided (I’m not saying you should strive for failure, just that it’s not as bad as many believe).
With quotes such as ‘failure is not an option’ etched into the collective mindset it’s no wonder the general populace holds the opinion of failure being nothing but a complete waste.
To state the obvious, success is what everyone is and should be aiming for, however, failure is not the antithesis of success. They’re not separate from one another and are far more entwined than most would care to believe.
If you were to look at the history of some of the worlds most successful people, I guarantee that the majority of them will have dozens (if not more!) of failures for every single success.
Thomas Edison, most famous for inventing the lightbulb, is a prime example of this. Edison actually had around 1000 failed attempts at creating the light bulb. When a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed 1000 times, Edison replied,
“I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
It’s the same mentality you should be adopting in every aspect of your life, especially those concerning your entrepreneurial endeavours. The failures are not important, as Winston Churchill said, ‘It is the courage to continue that counts.’
We’ll all fail at some point, as long as you learn from your failures and keep trying, you’re on the right path.
Fear of Failure Restricting Your Potential?
It’s human nature to steer well clear of anything we think might be a threat to our health, progress or survival. In a professional atmosphere, this means you’ll stay away from anything which you may think have a detrimental effect on your future employment prospects.
It’s an understandable and relatable fear, however, placing failure as your own public enemy #1 doesn’t guarantee immunity. Regardless of your plans, at some point, it will happen to you, you will fail at something.
By constantly playing a game of cat and mouse with failure and taking the safe or easy path to ensure success, there’s a very real chance that you’ll never escape the confines of mediocrity. I’m not saying this to belittle or chastise, but if your fear of failure stops you from taking the big chances, you’re never going to get the big payoffs. As long as you can pick yourself up and continue after a failure, it wasn’t the failure you thought it was.
I’m going to hit you with a final quote before wrapping this section up, this one’s once again from the great Winston Churchill.
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
The thought of failure is scary, so scary it could inhibit your potential. The best way to approach failure is to not consider it, by doing so you take away it’s power and ability to stifle your progress.
Failing to realise your end goal with your initial plan of attack is only a failure if you then decide to give up. What should now be abundantly clear is that failures are there to be learned from, used to devise a more effective plan and springboard yourself to future success.
If you’re still not a believer in the power off embracing failure, maybe the following information will convince you.
Extremely large business have always had a strong focus on the success of it’s employees and are quick to mete out punishments when someone experiences a failure.
Fortunately, a number of companies are now beginning to see the benefit of hiring those who have a failure or two in their work history. A prime example of this new trend comes from one of the largest companies in the world, Google. Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google brings up some good points in this interview with the NY Times and relates failure to the nurturing of humility.
“Without humility, you are unable to learn. Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure, they, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.”
To add to this, I’d like to voice my own thoughts on failure found through my own personal experience. I agree that arrogance and overconfidence are results of continued success, and failure is a great leveller instilling humility in those who experience it.
I also think that failure is able to temper those who have failed at something they’re passionate about. Many have been stuck in the trenches, fighting a losing battle against inevitable failure. In my experience they invariable seem to emerge far more knowledgeable, capable and prepared at the conclusion, placing them in a far better position for future problems.
Whilst experiencing failure, especially multiple times, doesn’t end in eventual immunity, it does help you manage the panic that can take over at the onset of the issue as well as better deal with the fallout post failure.
Whilst hardly a badge of honour there are benefits to becoming a veteran of failure. You’ll have gained valuable experiencing ensuring you’ll never make that same mistake again, will be better prepared to deal with future failures and, more importantly, will bring proper perspective for your successes.
I’d love to hear if any of you have a good experience that came about after a failure. Or if you have any great tips for dealing with failure, have a word in the comments below!