I doubt there is a person alive who enjoys the prospect or experience of failure. But for those who value success, failure is a necessary part of that journey.
A popular NLP concept is that ‘there is no failure, only feedback’. And Thomas Edison really understood this principle when he viewed his many attempts to create a commercially viable lightbulb not as failure but that he had found 10,000 ways in which it did not work.
What this shows is that success is a process. That you have to learn to get up when you fall down; learn from your mistakes; and have a relentless vision to keep you going.
Any person who has failed in any endeavour will be in good company – other ‘failures’ include:
Steve Jobs who was fired from his own company;
Walt Disney who was fired for lack of imagination;
Oprah Winfrey who was demoted as a new anchor for being unfit for TV;
The Beatles who were rejected by Decca who didn’t like their sound and thought they had no future in show business;
Einstein who couldn’t speak until he was 4 and whose teachers said he wouldn’t amount to much;
Bill Gates, a dropout from Harvard, founded Traf-o-Data. The product had too many bugs and the company closed. He is now the richest man in the world;
Marilyn Monroe who was told by Colombia Pictures that she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be an actress.
So, you see, failure is not an affliction. It doesn’t have to define you. It is your attitude to it that defines you. With all the people mentioned, they used it to spur them on. They learned from their mistakes so that they could improve, and improve some more. And improve again.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers describes the ‘10,000 hour rule’, emphasising that success is rarely by accident but rather by practice. Somehow, in this world of ‘instant fixes’ we have lost sight of the fact that anything worth having takes effort. And persistence. And the ability to not take things personally but rather to use every challenge on the ladder towards success, knowing that you will slide down the odd snake as you work your way up, only so that you develop resilience, resourcefulness and insights that will serve you well.
The Three Worst Things You Can Do
If you make a mistake, the three worst things you can do are:
- Pretend it didn’t happen. Denial is no friend.
- Take it personally. Blaming and shaming get in the way of learning and growing. Think of the difference between “I am a failure” and “It was a failure”. One is a about identity and the other is about process and results.
- Give up. When you give up, you miss opportunities. Sometimes success us just around the corner. You also deny yourself the sense of achievement you can only get when you have worked hard to achieve something, navigated difficult waters, climbed a mountain or five, and made it. You don’t get that sense of achievement when everything is easy.
Show me a person who has not failed at some point in their lives and I will show you someone who has not reached their potential or who has lived within the safe but entirely unexciting and unrewarding confines of their comfort zone.
If you would like more help in overcoming a fear of failure, or learning how to grow from failure, why not book a session? You’ll be glad you did.
(C) Tricia Woolfrey 2019