“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” —M. Scott Peck
“Success is 99% failure.” —Soichiro Honda
These two quotes embody my personal beliefs on failure, and I often refer to them when I find myself discouraged after experiencing failure.
It’s a shame most people are taught to adopt a negative attitude towards such failure – when viewed from a different perspective, it’s one of the best things that can happen to a person. Failure is a blessing in disguise.
I believe failure is correlated with success in three ways:
- Failure implies having actually made an attempt
- Failure forces you to acknowledge shortcomings and/or room for improvement
- Failure makes you stronger and more resilient
Failure Implies Having Actually Made An Attempt
If you’ve recently failed at something, it implies that you’ve done something that many people hesitate to do: you actually made an attempt at success.
Those who are afraid of failure often end up doing nothing at all. Whether it’s the guy who’s too nervous to talk to the cute girl at the bar or the college student who has never learned to drive a car because of the risk of crashing, inaction is a symptom of fear.
Staying within one’s comfort zone and doing nothing often hurts less than putting oneself out there, only to be shot down in defeat. It’s difficult for people to put their egos aside and realize that in the long run, it’s always better to have tried and failed than to have done nothing at all.
Practice makes perfect. Making an attempt and then failing puts you one step closer towards achieving success, whereas inaction leaves you exactly where you are. I encourage you to take a tally of all of the endeavors, goals, plans, and desires you wish to realize in your future and ask yourself, “Why haven’t I achieved these goals yet? Is it because I am trying and still haven’t been successful? Or is it because I haven’t even tried yet?” If you haven’t made an attempt, it’s likely that fear of failure is holding you back.
Note: Another common reason for unrealized goals is lack of time. If you fall into this bucket, check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Failure Forces You to Acknowledge Shortcomings
Not too long ago, I convinced myself to start doing mock interviews multiple times a week. I had always been hesitant to do it for seemingly no good reason. Once I began though, I understood why I had been so hesitant. I was awful at interviewing. I stumbled over my words and was unable to string a smooth sentence together.
From that day forward though, I realized how important it was for my professional growth for me to continue doing frequent practice interviews.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s understood that the first step towards recovery is admitting that there is a problem. The same goes for personal growth. When you fail, you’re forced to acknowledge your shortcomings.
This isn’t a bad thing, considering that no one is perfect. If anything, it’s a fantastic teacher. Those who frequently fail also have the greatest clarity as to how they can improve and grow.
Failure Makes You Stronger and More Resilient
Failure is something that you can’t avoid. In fact, we’re all hard-wired to learn by trial and error, which makes failure built into how we grow.
People who embrace this are more likely to try new things and aim for more difficult goals without worrying about the ego-damaging nature of failure. This is so powerful, it influences how children tackle difficult problems at school; kids are who are rewarded for hard work (whether a success or failure) often perform better than children who are only rewarded for success, and are subsequently afraid to fail.
Anyone who has failed can attest, the mindset and experience you gain from failure are rewards in of themselves.
Learn to love failure. Learn to learn from failure. And most of all, never let the fear of failure alter the goals you set out to achieve.
Re-read the quotes at the beginning of this post and see if they resonate stronger after having read this article. I have these quotes on my wall near my desk, where I can view them frequently. If you feel you need a reminder as to how important it is to experience failure, I recommend doing the same.