If you ask the average person "tell me about a time when you failed," they'll likely squirm in their chair. Talking about failure, thinking about failure, re-exploring past failure, it makes us uncomfortable. Somewhere along the course of our lives, it became ingrained in us to see failure as a negative, as something to fear and avoid at all costs. But if we actually did so, we'd be missing out on some of life's best lessons and opportunities.
Success is failure in progress. - Albert Einstein
To achieve something great, you have to be willing to make mistakes. When asked about how many failures he had before creating the lightbulb, Thomas Edison so beautifully put it: "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” As creators, innovators, artists, we need to approach life and its ups and downs with that same mindset. It's all an experiment. You try, you fail, you learn, and you improve. Scientists aren't looking to fail, but they also know success isn't guaranteed. The important thing is gaining new knowledge from each attempt so you can adjust the variables and get that much closer to your goal the next time. If you've never heard of it, check out the fail fast strategy (essentially, try something, get fast feedback, and then rapidly inspect and adapt). It's often used in Agile software development and startup models, but the principles can apply far beyond that.
The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude - Julia Child
And failure can be the perfect catalyst to new discoveries. Sticking with the scientist thread for a moment, Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish researcher, is credited with the discovery of penicillin. But do you know how this life-saving discovery came about? Through failure. Carelessness had led to his culture plate developing mold while he was away on vacation. Normally that would be a bad thing. But he noticed that the invader actually prevented the growth of staphylococci - the first step towards a medical breakthrough that would change the world forever. Sometimes failure can provide a happy accident you would have never experienced otherwise.
Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. - C. S. Lewis
If you've read this far and think success from failure only applies to those in technical fields, think again. Walt Disney, one of the most beloved creative thinkers of recent history was once told that he "lacked creativity," declared bankruptcy after having to shut the doors of his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram Films, and was rejected over 300 times for his Disneyland concept. But today he's one of the most well-known names in the world, with multiple theme park properties, IPs and a legacy that has survived well after his passing. So what would have happened if he had just given up somewhere along the way? No Mickey, no Imagineers, no special place in our hearts for Disney animated classics. Although it's hard to get back up after a setback, that's the only way to keep your dreams and potential moving forward.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford
That old adage: when one door closes, another door opens...it may sound cheesy, but there's truth in it as well. Failed lawyer founds a million dollar fast-food franchise (Colonel Sanders, we're looking at you), U.S. ice skating hopeful goes into fashion and makes it big (yep, that's Vera Wang we're talking about)...from fashion, to cooking, the arts, technology and the infinite spectrum in between, you'll come across story after story of failed ventures that led to people discovering a new passion or fruitful career change. The trick is, instead of sulking in your perceived loss, stay open and receptive to the possibilities. With the right mindset, who knows what can happen. Those "failures" might have led you right to where you needed to be.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. - J.K. Rowling
And yes, it's true, in the moment, failure sucks. It can make us feel worthless, useless, devoid of talent and intelligence. If we let it, it can weave a whole series of non-existent flaws and doubts into our waking thoughts. But the truth is, failure is an excellent teacher and catalyst for growth. When we look ahead, instead of behind us, we can see that clearly. So let's thank failure for helping guide our way, and let's step forward knowing it's an integral and valuable part of our journey - one to be celebrated for its teachings and openly shared with others as we continue to learn and thrive.
It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. - Bill Gates