When something happens to us or we do something that can be called a failure, there are often ideas and feelings we attach to that experience, such as thinking we are lacking or insufficient, or have lost personal power or strength, or we call ourselves a person who does not succeed.
So we may think it isn’t just the situation, but our self that is a “failure.”
In this video on confidence, Jack Canfield (author of The Success Principles and many other inspiring books) notes that “Focusing on your failures negatively affects your self-esteem, and that prevents you from taking the risks you need to be successful.”
It may be a “natural” impulse to avoid risk and failure and associated feelings like fear and lowered self-esteem, but it will serve our personal growth more to look at our responses to failure when it shows up, or when we do something that fails.
In her Huffington Post entry The Paradox Of Failure: The Other “F” Word, Dr. Judith Rich writes about the value of learning from so-called failure.
She notes, “Most business schools teach their entrepreneur majors that failure is a necessary part of learning and innovation. Their motto is: ‘Fail early, fail fast, fail cheap.’
“Sounds like this advice could have application for the rest of us as well. In other words, when failure arrives at your doorstep, don’t turn it away, but invite it in. I know, it might sound crazy, but perk up your ears and get this.
“Failure comes with some goodies that are necessary steps on your way to success, so best you get to know this part of the process early on. Learn to make friends with your failed efforts as much as the ones that worked. You might just learn more from failure than from success.”
Personal development writer Marcus Buckingham notes, “What has become evident in virtually every field of human endeavor is that failure and success are not opposites, they are merely different, and so they must be studied separately.”
Many exemplars of success have had notable “failures.”
“Babe Ruth spent his childhood years in an orphanage and then struck out 1,330 times on his way to 714 home runs and baseball immortality.
“Oprah Winfrey didn’t let getting fired from her television reporter’s job and being told, ‘You’re not fit for TV,’ keep her from becoming one of the most beloved and successful women in television.”
From the book Great Failures of the Extremely Successful: Mistakes, Adversity, Failure and Other Stepping Stones to Success, by Steve Young.
Thomas Edison had some very helpful perspectives on failure. When a reporter asked him about the thousands of experiments he performed to develop an electric lamp filament, Edison replied: “I have not failed, not once. I’ve discovered ten thousand ways that don’t work.”
Another example was even more dramatic. This story is from the book Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success, by Jim Clemmer:
In 1914 Thomas Edison’s factory in West Orange, New Jersey, was virtually destroyed by fire. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were insured for only $238,000 because they were made of concrete and were thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s life work went up in smoke and flames that December night. At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, searched frantically for his father. He finally found him, calmly watching the fire, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind.
“My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “He was 67 — no longer a young man — and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, ‘Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.'”
The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph.
For more on this topic, check out the video “Failure: The Secret to Success” in my post Failure can limit or empower. Outstanding racer Danica Patrick comments abouts continually bumping up against the feeling of fear when racing – and also pushing against the limits of success. Maybe that’s one reason she is such a winning racer.
Also see more quotes and books etc on the page Failure.