Discouragement and failure are two of the surest steppingstones to success. — Dale Carnegie
Unless we maintain a forward-directed focus and a strong belief in our self, it will always be easy to allow our failures to block our progress. Failures do not identify who we are. Failures are lessons that teach us what did not work. Realizing that there are no mistakes in life without lessons is the first key to seeing that our mistakes, or—as you may refer to it— failure, is an opportunity to learn or experience something new. There are no mistakes without lessons. Everything happens for a reason, for our learning.
You probably don’t remember learning to walk. But can you imagine what your life would be like if, after your first fall, you had said, “Well, that was a major mistake. I failed. I guess I’m not meant to walk. I give up.” You’d be crawling through life. Not a pretty picture. Sounds ridiculous; yet, that’s exactly what you do when you call yourself a failure at something and carry that around in that expanding sack on your back. All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me…
You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. — Walt Disney
Walt Disney was rejected over three hundred times by bankers who thought his Mickey Mouse idea was absurd. The city of Anaheim rejected his original idea for his theme park, fearing it would only attract riffraff. Walt was a man with a strong sense of self. He realized that failure was not the end, just an opportunity to learn what didn’t work and try again.
In his article “Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan Were Failures” (Under30CEO.com), Scott Cowley writes:
“Michael Jordan, considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, is described as ‘single-handedly redefining the NBA superstar’ and yet, to get there, he openly admits to failing more than most. In a famous ad campaign launched by Nike, Michael is quoted as saying that he has, ‘lost almost 300 games’ (that’s more games than many NBA players have court time in), ‘missed over 9000 shots at goal’ (again more shots than an average NBA player even takes), missed 26 times he was given the ball to take the game-winning shot.’ Jordan goes on to say that the reason he has succeeded boils down to his constant failure and his use of failure as motivation to shoot for success. In other words, Jordan viewed failures as stepping stones towards success. His shooting average was just below fifty percent. So, to score, he would have to take two shots, one to fail and the other to score.”
Thomas Edison, considered the greatest inventor of his time, was responsible for over one thousand different patents, some of which were refinements of previous inventions, but many were completely new ideas. Edison is famous not only for his inventions but also for his attitude on failure. To him, failure was simply another stepping stone on the road to success. Unlike Michael Jordan’s rate of one failure for every one success, Edison’s rate of success was significantly lower. Unlike most of us, Edison continued to try, and try again. The famous story tells that Edison failed to perfect the light bulb, despite having made 9,999 attempts. Rather than accepting failure, he said, “I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work.” His 10,000th attempt was successful.
Can we heed the learning of these two great men and others like them? Could we use our failed attempts, not to define us or create despair, but as outcomes that showed us what didn’t work, so that we could discover a different time or method that does?
Pause to Write.
Where in your life can you use your failures to find your way forward? Write what comes to your mind.
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