You can go online and find many a slogan singing the praises of failure. Here are a few of them:
1. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy 2. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley 3. “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.” – Ellen DeGeneres 4. “It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.” – Ellen DeGeneres 5. “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Chris Bradford 6. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison 7. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill 8. “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho 9. “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill 10. “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie 11. “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis 12. “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki 13. “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill 14. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash 15. “Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling 16. “No human ever became interesting by not failing. The more you fail and recover and improve, the better you are as a person. Ever meet someone who’s always had everything work out for them with zero struggle? They usually have the depth of a puddle. Or they don’t exist.” – Chris Hardwick 17. “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad
Meditating on these sayings, many uttered by multimillionaires, you would be forgiven to think that failure is something to be aimed for, even celebrated.
I say no! Failure should not be your goal.
Look at #10 above. “We are all failures?!” That’s unacceptable.
Imagine saying that to your child, even with the best of intentions. “Don’t worry darling. You are a failure. You’ll do better next time.” You would never say anything like that, not if you wanted to encourage them to keep going.
Okay. I get it. I actually like all the slogans listed above except #10). In essence what they’re all saying is:
“Failure isn’t the opposite of Success; Failure is the partner of Success.”
It took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to invent the lightbulb, it took James Dyson 15 years and 5,127 prototypes to finally create his bagless vacuums. There is no doubt that there is something to be said about giving failure credit for achieving success.
However, why not go into any endeavor thinking you will succeed on the first try? Why not hate failure with every fibre of your being? Why do we wear failure like a suit of honour, trumpeting our failure from the rooftops, at every speech we give?
I’ll tell you why. Because we, the public, prefer that.
Take these two scenarios.
- A twenty year old musician goes on American Idol, gets discovered, gets a music deal, and becomes a superstar overnight.
- A forty year old musician who has been playing in dive bars for years, playing for peanuts and a beer, finally gets discovered and becomes a superstar.
Who do you respect more? Clearly the one who paid their dues. They played for the love of music, right? For them it wasn’t about the money, it was about the music.
But couldn’t we say that about the overnight success. They performed for the love of music as well. They just struck oil on the first strike. They didn’t have to struggle to make it. And we hold that against them.
We don’t like easy success stories. Everyone should struggle, not just us. The success stories that sell, are ones fraught with failure after failure, rags and more rags before riches, ten bankruptcies before success, and on and on. Even that overnight success will attempt to find something to spice up their tale like getting up at 5am, to practice 6hrs a day, since they were 2 years old. They have to do that because no one is interested in a yarn without failure. We can’t relate to it. We’re jealous.
Sooo…here’s what I’m saying. Let’s not wear failure like a badge of honour. It’s nothing to be proud of. You didn’t do anything to achieve it. It wasn’t the realisation of a worthwhile goal. Certainly how we react to failure is key to success, and we can talk about that. What we should celebrate is success whether it is achieved on first strike or 100th or 1000th.
Success is success!