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Failure is an Integral Part of Success

Posted Apr 30 2008 7:00pm 1 Comment

Editor Note: This is a guest post authored by Ben Lumley of The New Horizons Project. Thank you Ben!

Success is 99% Failure.

~ Soichiro Honda

For many of us, success is something that we are constantly striving towards. Some of us are consumed by the idea of achieving success in whatever we put our minds to. It drives us forward onwards to bigger and better things. There are some people who take this too far and try to be successful at everything resulting in arrogance and a lack of respect for others. Unfortunately everyone seems to forget that failure is part of achieving success and that failure is integral to not only achieving success but also to appreciating it.

When you look at some of the successful people in the world, you will see that at times they have experienced failure and learnt from it, which has helped them become more successful.

Richard Branson, for example, failed exams at school, had business ventures fail, failed in attempts to go round the world in a hot air balloon, and got into debt. But all of these failures, whether large or small, have helped him to be more successful. Why? Because successful people learn from their mistakes and failures and use what they have learned to radically change the future for themselves. Without failure success is harder to achieve. By learning from your failures, from what has caused them, from what you contributed to the failure, and from what you can change, you can become more successful too.

Horses on the path

Practical Ideas

Here are some practical ideas for dealing with failure:

  1. Don’t see it as the end. This failure is just an obstacle to get round on the route to your ultimate goal. This might be the first stumble on your road to success, it might even be the hundredth but what is important to remember is that getting through it will only bring you closer to your goal. It is important that you view the failure as a problem to be solved rather than the end of the world.
  2. Think things through. If you run head long into any problem you bound to either make the same mistake again or create new problems. You need to be able to think correctly under pressure (T.C.U.P) in order to solve this problem and get over this failure and that comes from not rushing in but instead thinking it through.
    • Try to work out what has caused the failure. Was it something you or someone else did? Was your attempt at success just at the wrong time in the wrong place? Were there circumstances out of your control?
    • What options do you now have? Can you try the same thing again or do you need to try to approach the problem from a different angle? Do you need extra help and resources?
  3. Don’t be afraid. It is important that you don’t fear to try again, if you do you are likely to not put your full self into your effort, making it harder to get to your ultimate success.
  4. Plan for failure. I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction. The idea that thinking and doing positive things brings about positive things in your life, while negative thoughts and actions only bring about negativity in your life seems to really fit with me personally. I also think it is crucial, though, that you plan for failure and in a way expect it along your journey to success. Now I’m not saying that thoughts of failure should fill your mind rather that you should reflect positively upon it and see it as an inevitable learning experience. Having a backup plan for when things go wrong is not a bad thing, it is just sensible.
  5. Finally, learn from it. Successful people are always learning and so should you. People tend to only learn for what goes well in their lives, dwelling only on the positive, but really you should try to learn something from every eventuality whether good or bad. If you do this you not only get closer to achieving your success but also expanding your comfort zones. You will also find it easier to handle future failures.

A Simple Illustration

A simple illustration of how failure is vital on any journey for success can be seen in the notion of finding a light switch in the dark given in Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. When you are in a dark room and you are searching for the light switch you start groping around to find it. To start with, maybe you are looking at the wrong part of the wall so you readjust because you have learnt the light switch isn’t where you thought it was. Next, you find that you are groping around too low, so again you readjust. You are now narrowing your focus (in the dark) to allow you to reach your goal.

So you start to use the sensory information you got and begin piecing it together to give you a better idea of where the light switch is. This time you find something that feels like a light switch, but doesn’t seem to switch the light on; maybe it’s the switch for the AC or a power point. You know you are close because the two switches are next to each other. You try again and this time you find the light switch and on comes the light!!!

In all your attempts to find the light switch, apart from the last one, you fail but instead of simply giving up and living in the dark you quickly learn from what happened and try again. So why - when trying to achieve something amazing in your life - do you give up so quickly? Are not all attempts at success no matter how big or how small the same?

The Sense of Achievement

Failure also heightens the sense of achievement when you experience success. If you have felt what it is like to fail, you will more grateful and respectful of the success you achieve because you will know what it took for you to succeed. Only by truly experiencing failure will you know what it means to truly succeed.

Too many people these days give up when they fail and turn away from what they want to succeed in, deciding maybe to try something else. If you choose to do the same when you fail then you never achieve the things you want in your life. And when you are sitting in your chair in the latter years of your life, you will regret the fact that you gave up too easily. Achieving success isn’t easy but everyone should strive for some kind of success whether large or small and not give up when the going gets tough.

Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to stand up again.
~ Dr Thomas Wayne (Batman Movie)

My name is Ben Lumley and my blog The New Horizons Project will challenge you to think about yourself and the world around you by seeing things differently. I have a post about Compassion that the readers of UrbanMonk.Net might like.

Comments (1)
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You know what's kind of funny? Looking back on my life, the perceived failures are actually perhaps my greatest successes because they led to growth, enrichment, and BETTER opportunities than I might have believed existed. I think that perspective is really important when it comes to evaluating your life in terms of its success; oftentimes, it's the mistakes we make that end up turning us around in the right direction.
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