To achieve the greatest success, you have to embrace the prospect of failure.
The sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. The one that requires you to reach down deep inside, to fight with everything you’ve got, to be willing to leave everything out there on the battlefield—without knowing, until that do-or-die moment, if your heroic effort will be enough. Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books.
The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Unlike Edison, many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity. When we do make missteps, we gloss over them, selectively editing out the miscalculations or mistakes in our life’s résumé. “Failure is not an option,” NASA flight controller Jerry C. Bostick reportedly stated during the mission to bring the damaged Apollo 13 back to Earth, and that phrase has been etched into the collective memory ever since. To many in our success-driven society, failure isn’t just considered a non-option—it’s deemed a deficiency, says Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. “Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list,” Schulz says. “It is our meta-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.”
Related:10 Things Successful People Never Do Again
Failure Is Life’s Greatest Teacher
When we take a closer look at the great thinkers throughout history, a willingness to take on failure isn’t a new or extraordinary thought at all. From the likes of Augustine, Darwin and Freud to the business mavericks and sports legends of today, failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success. “Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there,” says Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. “Instead they choose to play it safe, to fly below the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they generally never attempt anything great at which they could possibly fail (or succeed).”
However, in today’s post-recession economy, some employers are no longer shying away from failure—they’re embracing it. According to a recent article in BusinessWeek, many companies are deliberately seeking out those with track records reflecting both failure and success, believing that those who have been in the trenches, survived battle and come out on the other side have irreplaceable experience and perseverance.
“The quickest road to success is to possess an attitude toward failure of ‘no fear.’ ”
They’re veterans of failure. The prevailing school of thought in progressive companies—such as Intuit, General Electric, Corning and Virgin Atlantic—is that great success depends on great risk, and failure is simply a common byproduct. Executives of such organizations don’t mourn their mistakes but instead parlay them into future gains. “The quickest road to success is to possess an attitude toward failure of ‘no fear,’ ” says Heath. “To do their work well, to be successful and to keep their companies competitive, leaders and workers on the front lines need to stick their necks out a mile every day.
They have to deliver risky, edgy, breakthrough ideas, plans, presentations, advice, technology, products, leadership, bills and more. And they have to deliver all this fearlessly—without any fear whatsoever of failure, rejection or punishment.”
Reaching Your Potential
The same holds true for personal quests, whether in overcoming some specific challenge or reaching your full potential in all aspects of life. To achieve your personal best, to reach unparalleled heights, to make the impossible possible, you can’t fear failure, you must think big, and you have to push yourself. When we think of people with this mindset, we imagine the daredevils, the pioneers, the inventors, the explorers: They embrace failure as a necessary step to unprecedented success. But you don’t have to walk a tightrope, climb Mount Everest or cure polio to employ this mindset in your own life.
When the rewards of success are great, embracing possible failure is key to taking on a variety of challenges, whether you’re reinventing yourself by starting a new business or allowing yourself to trust another person to build a deeper relationship. “To achieve any worthy goal, you must take risks,” says writer and speaker John C. Maxwell. In his book Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, he points to the example of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who set several records and achieved many firsts in her lifetime, including being the first female pilot to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean.
Although her final flight proved fateful, Maxwell believes she knew the risk—and that the potential reward was worth it. “[Earhart’s] advice when it came to risk was simple and direct: ‘Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.’ ” Of course, the risks you take should be calculated; you shouldn’t fly blindly into the night and simply hope for the best. Achieving the goal or at least waging a heroic effort requires preparation, practice and some awareness of your skills and talents.
Easing Into a Fearless Mindset
“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone.”
“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone,” Heath says. Although you might fail incredibly, you might succeed incredibly—and that’s why incredible risk and courage are requisite. Either way, you’ll learn more than ever about your strengths, talents and resolve, and you’ll strengthen your will for the next challenge. If this sounds like dangerous territory, it can be. But there are ways to ease into this fearless mindset.
Related:21 Quotes About Failing Fearlessly
Maintain a Positive Attitude
The first is to consciouslya mintain a positive attitude so that, no matter what you encounter, you’ll be able to see the lessons of the experience and continue to push forward. “It’s true that not everyone is positive by nature,” says Maxwell, who cites his father as someone who would describe himself as a negative person by nature. “Here’s how my dad changed his attitude. First he made a choice: He continually chooses to have a positive attitude.
Reading and Listening to Motivational Material
Second, he’s continually reading and listening to materials that bolster that attitude. For example, he’s read The Power of Positive Thinking many times. I didn’t get it at first, so once I asked him why. His response: ‘Son, I need to keep filling the tank so I can stay positive.’ ” Heath recommends studying the failures and subsequent reactions of successful people and, within a business context, repeating such histories for others. “Reward them and applaud their efforts in front of the entire organization so everyone understands it is OK to fail.
So employees say to themselves, ‘I see that Bill, the vice president of widgets, who the president adores, failed, and he is not only back at work, but he is driving a hot new sports car. I can fail and come to work the next day. Bill is proof of it.’ ” Finally, Heath stays motivated by the thought that, “if I become complacent and don’t take risks, someone will notice what I am doing and improve upon my efforts over time, and put me out of work. You’ve got to keep finding better ways to run your life, or someone will take what you’ve accomplished, improve upon it, and be very pleased with the results. Keep moving forward or die.”
Related:Fail Often and Fast
Seth Godin: ‘I’ve Failed Way More Times Than I’ve Succeeded’
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2010 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Failure is the stepping stone for success Swallow defeat
23 Aug 2012, Vol 0 Issue 1
It's almost impossible to go through life without experiencing some kind of failure. Failure is a part of life; everyone has experienced failure at some time or other.
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even,” legendary boxer Muhammad Ali had once declared.
(To Read the Real Life Success Story of the founder of Naturals, who bounced back after a failed venture that left him with a debt of Rs. 5 Crore, Click Here)
Yet the greatest barrier to success and one of the biggest fears in life that people have is - fear of failure. It is also the major reason that holds back people from realizing their full potential and achieving their goals.
Failure is the stepping stone to success (Photo: FreeImages.com/ Christopher Bruno - for representational purpose only)
Fear of failure immobilizes you, restricts you to your comfort zone, prevents you from moving forward in life and hampers your chances of success.
Defeat is not easy to swallow. There is no worse feeling than facing failure. Failure leaves you bitter, miserable and depressed.
It is then not difficult to understand why most people are afraid of failing. They prefer to play it safe by restricting themselves to their comfort zone and avoiding any risks.
But playing it safe can also be risky. It puts you out of action. You choose to forgo potential opportunities and push yourself into mediocrity. When you restrict yourself to your cocoon, you keep yourself from tapping your full potential.
Failure is a matter of perspective. Many think failure as the opposite of success. But failures are in fact the stepping stones of success. Nothing worthwhile in life has ever been achieved without a series of failures. Failure is, as James Allen has rightly pointed out, one of the ‘pathways to attainment.’
Buckminster Fuller, the renowned American philosopher, architect, and inventor, popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture once said, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence only of trial and error experience. Humans have learned only through mistakes.”
Fuller has to his credit 28 patents; has authored 28 books and has received more than 60 honorary degrees.
Successful people also make mistakes. They also fail but they don’t give up. Instead they remain steadfast. They overcome their fear of failure and are quick to learn from their mistakes.
There are numerous examples of celebrities, sportspersons, actors, authors and leaders who inspite of facing defeat did not give up on their dreams. They succeeded in overcoming their fear of failure.
Michael Jordan was cut from the school basketball team; Steve Jobs was fired from his own company; Warren Buffet was rejected by Harvard University, Richard Branson is a high school dropout, Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections and Thomas Edison, failed more than 1,000 times when trying to create the light bulb.
Failure did not keep these great people away from achieving their goals and becoming extra-ordinarily successful.
As Emerson said, “Life is a series of experiments, the more you make the better. Each failure is a trial in an experiment and an opportunity for growth. Even if a failure costs you financially, the educational benefits can far outweigh the loss.”
Overcoming fear of failure is a major factor toward the achievement of goals. The highly successful people are not the most intelligent, most gifted or blessed.
They are just ordinary people who view failures as temporary speed breakers on the road to success. They are successful because they have developed the skill of learning from their mistakes and are willing to move out of their comfort zone and take calculated risks.
When you try, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. But if you don’t try, you are sure to fail.
So don’t let fear of failure hold you back from reaching out for your goals. The key to success is not avoiding failure but to overcome the fear of failure; learn from your failures and use them to build yourself up.
"Failure should be our teacher not our undertaker.
Failure is delay not defeat.
It is temporary detour not a dead end." –Denis Waitley
The Author is a Motivational counselor, Speaker, Ophthalmologist, and Author of 'Principles of Success Made Easy-14 Easy Steps to Climb the Ladder of Success'