Failure is a thought that drives fear in the hearts and minds of many people. In fact, it can have a paralyzing effect. But what if we told you failure was a good thing? That instead of being afraid of failure, you should embrace it like a long lost friend?
If you want to see the magnitude of failure unfold, watch a sporting event like the Olympics. For every heat that a Usain Bolt or a Michael Phelps wins, multiple losers are sent packing their things back to the hotel room. At the end of every event, there can be only one winner.
The Olympics best represents a harsh truth in a world that has grown to be highly competitive: There will always be more losers than winners.
Quite a frightening thought, isn’t it? You invest time, money and other resources only to come up short at the finish line.
But here’s the silver lining: Not all who fail are losers and not all who succeed are winners.
Confused? Read on!
The Reality of Failure
We all love a happy ending.
The guy gets the girl. The blackmailed, young lawyer exposes the corrupt firm and gets his life back. The Quarterback makes a miraculous “Hail Mary” pass to win the Superbowl.
But life is not a Hollywood script. Everyday we write our own story. Each page adds to a chapter in our lives until we close it and start a new one.
We are not guaranteed a happy ending; but we have the power to write one for ourselves.
Entrepreneurs are popularly referred to as risk takers. They have made a conscious decision to take charge of their own career and find financial freedom. Entrepreneurship is a huge, significant and often life-changing declaration of independence.
They risk the comfort of a steady monthly salary with benefits to build a career where the level of income equates to total productivity. But more often than not, this cannot be achieved from the get-go.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 50% of small businesses fail within five years. 96% are no longer in business within 10 years.
These figures are enough to strike fear in the hearts and minds of many aspiring entrepreneurs.
What is the secret of those who survived and continued to thrive after 10 years?
Surely those 10 years were not all smooth sailing. There would most certainly be moments where the thought of quitting crossed the mind of the proprietor. Obviously the decision to push forward paid off for some.
In business as in life, every decision you make will result in only one of two possible outcomes: success or failure. Not every decision will be the right one. Even if you have the most talented people in your payroll, mistakes can happen.
What matters is that:
- You make a decision regardless of the outcome.
- You have alternative courses of action in place should the decision run contrary to your preferred outcome.
When confronted with the prospect of failure, you only have 3 choices: Fight, Flight or Freeze. The decision you make can very well set the precedence for the rest of your career.
In the next section, we shall explore the reasons why you should never fear failure. Instead of running away from failure, you should run to it and welcome it with open arms!
5 Reasons Why You Should Not be Afraid of Failure
If you’ve ever attended a seminar on success, the speaker will focus his or her talk on one area: Failure. Why? Because it is difficult to understand much less appreciate the meaning of success without acknowledging the value of failure.
Have you heard of one-hit wonders? They are talented people who found success right away but were unable to sustain it for a number of reasons.
For some, they could not handle the pressure of higher expectations. There was no benchmark for failure. The bar was set very high from the get-go and they had no sense on how far they could possibly fall.
It is often said that you cannot achieve success without failing first. But it is not the act of failing that sets the wheels of success into motion. It is how you perceive failure that will determine whether you will savor the sweet taste of victory or relive the bitterness of defeat.
Here are 5 reasons why you should not be afraid of failure:
1. Failure is Your Best Teacher
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
- Henry Ford
University prepares us to face the world and all of its challenges. It tries to establish the conditions to get us ready when we embark on our respective careers. We go through progressively higher levels of learning as we become more proficient in our chosen fields of expertise.
But everything remains theoretical until we apply our knowledge in the real world; in real-life situations. That’s when failure takes on a different meaning. Everyday at work is a competition.
As a private 9-to-5 employee, you are competing with everyone else for that promotion. As an entrepreneur, you are competing for market share.
Sure it is human nature to be upset and frustrated whenever you fail. But failure signifies a flaw in performance or execution. Once you have gotten over the disappointment, go back and review what you did and find out where you went wrong.
This is why failure is your best teacher. It helps you identify your potential weaknesses so you can work on them. And failure is a teacher who will not quit on you.
Failure will be there every step of your journey to give you an extra set of eyes; or a filter to spot your mistakes. The only way you can appreciate the value of failure is to embrace it; accept its reality.
2. Failure Helps You Reach Your Best Potential
“It’s not the mountain that we conquer; but ourselves.”
- Sir Edmund Hillary
Not everyone who Michael Phelps beats in swimming goes home a loser. Many set personal bests or national records for their country. They may have fallen short of the podium but they walk away a better version of themselves, physically and mentally.
You will not succeed unless you test yourselves against the best. You may get the worst beating of your life, but the experience can trigger exponential growth if you approach the challenge with the right attitude.
It all starts with setting realistic goals. You may not beat the champ but at the very least you will improve your performance. You may not have gotten the job, but you will relish how far you’ve come. You may not have won the bid, but pat yourself on the back for being one of the last two bidders.
People who are afraid of failure tend to operate within their comfort zones. If you want to grow, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In time, everything becomes easier.
3. Failure Improves Your Focus
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots and lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.”
- Michael Jordan
The phrase “Failure is not an option” is attributed to former NASA Flight Director Gene Krantz who successfully led the agency’s operation to save the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission.
People who are not afraid to fail shine their brightest when the stakes are high. They are willing to take the chance because they have full confidence in their ability to get the job done. That is why they are called “clutch players”.
They understand the magnitude of the risk involved. But instead of making them fearful, it heightens their focus so they can look past the possible consequences. In their minds, there is no doubt they will succeed.
Without accepting the reality and consequences of failure, you will never take chances. And without taking chances, you will never experience success.
4. Failure Makes You Tougher
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Psychologists studying the mindset of world class athletes who rebounded from a significant loss came to one conclusion as to why they were able to recover and start winning again.
They said these athletes immersed themselves in the experience of failure. They did not brush it off; instead they wallowed in it and allowed the pain to consume them until they grew numb to it.
Once they have gotten past the pain of failure, they are able to perform at a higher level because nothing is holding them back. They have gone through the worst experience possible.
What else could top that?
This is the same mindset exhibited by Howard Schultz when 217 of 242 investors rejected his idea of Starbucks. Or by JK Rowling after 12 publishers wanted her vision of a school for wizards to vanish.
The more they fail the more resilient they become. Dealing with failure becomes natural as breathing air.
5. Failure Keeps You Grounded
“It’s fine to celebrate success; but it’s more important to heed the lessons from failure.”
- Bill Gates
What makes billionaires like Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos going despite his massive level of success?
He doesn’t stop and admire his handiwork. Instead he keeps going; Bezos continues to find ways to make Amazon bigger and more dominant in the industry. Not all of Bezos’ ideas were successful. Do you remember his drone delivery system? Neither would Bezos if he had a choice!
But the drone delivery system was the by-product of his relentless drive to provide consumers the highest level of customer service.
Bezos’ drive to succeed was not influenced by his desire to acquire more wealth but by a need to innovate. His ideas may fall short or fail to deliver, but he will not stop trying.
Bezos sees opportunities in failure. At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are closing up shop, Bezos is opening physical locations of Amazon!
7 Inspiring Stories of Failure
Their names have become synonymous with success. They have transcended their industry and have grown to become icons. People love them; they are widely admired and respected because their works have touched the lives of billions across the globe.
But the road to entrepreneurial success was never easy for them. It was paved by several moments of failure.
- Walt Disney – Disney endured several business bankruptcies and was once told he was “not creative”. His own family even ridiculed his idea for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.
- Arianna Huffington – The founder of the most popular online publication was once rejected by 36 publishers. Huffington has a net worth of $50 Million.
- JK Rowling – Divorced, depressed, penniless, writing in coffee shops all while raising a child, Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before landing a deal that made “Harry Potter” the $15 Billion brand it is today.
- Howard Schultz – 217 out of 242 investors turned down the idea of coffee shop franchise. But Schultz’s resilience eventually brought 25,085 Starbucks coffee shops into our lives.
- Sir Richard Branson – Branson’s first business failure came in 1968 with his publication, “Student Magazine”. He once famously said he has failed more times than he succeeded in his career. His net worth? $5.1 Billion.
- Bill Gates – The world’s richest man once launched a service called Traf-A-Data which did not work. So he founded Microsoft.
- Harland Sanders – It is hard to believe that Col. Sanders recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken was rejected by 1,009 restaurants. Today there are more than 20,000 KFC outlets worldwide.
There are more inspiring stories of people who turned failure into success. He or she could be your friend or family member. Everyday there are people working hard to achieve success.
What is worse than failure? Not taking the risk; becoming a dreamer forever instead of a doer. Don’t worry about the outcome; achieving long-term, sustainable success is a marathon not a sprint. What you need to do is to take that first step and turn your dream into a reality.
Did you enjoy reading this article as much as we did writing it? Do you have personal stories of failure that you want to share to our readers? Please add your comments below.
We would love to be inspired by you!