The Beauty of Failure

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things just don’t go as planned. You experience challenges, setbacks and outright failures. You look back at your life and begin to count the few failures, losing sight of your many successes. What you forget is that so many success stories have resulted from failure to accept failure as an end result. If everyone gave up at their first failure, no one would learn how to ride a bike, read or tie their shoes. Accomplished people realize that failure is just a part of the path to success. Here are few examples of famous individuals who had a taste of failure before succeeding:

  • J.K Rowling, famed author of the Harry Potter series was penniless, recently divorced, and a single parent when she was writing her first manuscript – on a manual typewriter. After twelve rejections, a publisher agreed to publish the book, but recommended that J.K. keep her day job, as there was no money in children’s books. When speaking to Harvard’s graduating class in 2008, she said, “You might never fail on the scale I did, but it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case you fail by default.”

  • Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four. His teachers described him as mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. He was expelled from school and refused entrance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He may have been a slow starter, but he ended up winning the Nobel Prize and changing modern physics forever.

  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination. He went on to start a number of businesses that all failed, ending in bankruptcy. Not to be deterred, he kept his vision of a place where young and old could enjoy a land of delight and enchantment, despite being turned down hundreds of times for loans to finance Disneyland. He persevered, despite a succession of early failures, and the rest is history.

  • Orville and Wilbur Wright started a bicycle shop and began experimenting with flight. After years of hard work, experimentation and hundreds of crashes and failed prototypes, they finally created a plane that could get airborne and fly.

  • Michael Jordan, who might be the best basketball player of all time was cut from his high school basketball team. On the topic of failure, Michael Jordan has said, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to make the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over again in my life. And this is why I succeed.”

All these talented contributors who so positively changed our lives, had the same thing in common – persistence and the undying belief that through their failures they would ultimately achieve success.

The fear of failure is a profound force limiting many people from reaching their full potential. Of course, there are valid reasons for fearing failure. We live in uncertain times: We are still reeling from the recession; markets are unpredictable; job security is a thing of the past and countless other worries tell us to “play it safe.” But, playing it safe, while insulating you from failure, will surely limit your potential for success. Yet to fail big, like all of our previously listed heroes, is the hallmark of success. To maximize your potential for success, read on for some tips on how to overcome your fear of failure:

  1. Put Things into Perspective: Despite caution and best efforts, failure sometimes happens. Don’t dwell on the past and what happened. Will it matter a week from now, a month from now, next year? Acknowledge that failure is part of the learning curve and look forward, not backward. Looking back and dwelling on your failure sucks your energy. Instead, look forward to what will be and figure out what you will do differently to create a successful outcome. It’s the looking forward and taking action what will energize you and beat back your fear of failure, which is immobilizing.

  2. Identify what You Learned and Take Action: Every failure is an opportunity to learn, even if it is just to identify what doesn’t work. Ask yourself, “What did I learn?” and “What should I do differently next time?” Don’t be afraid to try again. Quitting and accepting the failure will not only prevent you from reaching your goal or dream, it will demoralize you, limiting your ability to take risks in the future. Instead, keep wrestling with the problem. Each time you tackle it in the future, you’ll learn more. Try a different approach. Take baby steps, but keep on trying.

  3. Research Alternatives: It’s often not fear of failure that limits our potential, but fear of the unknown. We procrastinate taking action because of all the “what ifs.” Get rid of the unknown. It’s never been easier to do research and identify your alternatives. Play out a “worst case” scenario and identify the pros and cons of each solution or approach. Have a contingency plan. That way, when things don’t go well, you can say, “I thought that might happen. Here’s what I’ll try next.” As you research alternatives, you will find that while some of your fears may be valid, some may actually not be that rational. Knock down the fear by filling the unknown void with facts.

  4. Hang Out with Positive People: To up your chances of success and increase your tolerance for failure, hang out with successful people and find out their secrets for success. Most will tell you that they didn’t become overnight successes; that their success was the result of persistence, hard work and picking themselves again and again after multiple failures. Most successful people will share freely and can be a great source of support and inspiration for you.

  5. Remain Optimistic: Create a positive, compelling vision, get excited and then go for what you want. Don’t miss opportunities and reaching your full potential because of being held back by fear of failure. Reflect on all your past successes and believe in yourself. Tell yourself, “I can do this” and then be steadfast in taking actions that will get you closer to your goal. Keep your eye on the target and understand that achieving great success is usually the end product of surviving equally spectacular failure.

Life is short. You don’t get many opportunities for “do overs.” Don’t let fear of failure limit your full potential for success. Seize the moment to create all the success you deserve in life. We will be cheering you on from the sidelines!

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