Here are six lessons, which build on one another, that show how we can use failure to help us achieve success.

1. Understand Failure’s Potential
Any failure, even the worst failure we can imagine, has the potential to be good and worthwhile

if we can learn from it and build upon it. James Joyce rightly wrote, “Mistakes are the portal for discovery.” But we have to make the commitment to discover… to look at that failure and build upon it. If we don’t, then failure can’t work its magic… and we’ve let ourselves down!

Failure has been good to us,” Ali says of Xuqa. “Each big failure has helped us make our company better… and has opened our eyes to another success.”

“A failure is a man who has blundered but is not capable of cashing in on the experience.” –Elbert Hubbard

2. Surround Yourself with Others Who Understand the Importance of Failure
The world is full of people who don’t understand the benefits of failure. They tell us to “play it safe”, that our “dreams aren’t worth the effort”, and that our goals are “impossible”. We need to stay away from these people… and instead find people who believe in the strength of the human spirit, and who believe in us!

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.” –George Bernard Shaw

“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.” –Bill Cosby

3. Expect and Embrace Failure
Failure is an inevitable part of life and success… sometimes we get it in large doses and sometimes in smaller ones. But if we understand that we alone have the power to make our own failures positive or negative, then embracing failure isn’t so hard. It becomes manageable… and beautiful… and challenging… and worthwhile.

Thomas Edison knew better. He didn’t try to invent the phonograph thinking he’d get it right on the first try. Rather, he knew that “Genius is 1% innovation and 99% perspiration,” as he said. And he was willing to sweat a little bit and fail thousands of times before he got it right. It was that kind of commitment to massive failure that gave him the opportunity to achieve many great successes.

4. Learn From Failure
Failure can only be helpful when we decide to learn from it. And learning doesn’t happen by default or osmosis. Rather, it requires that we take the time to understand what went right and wrong, and then figure out how to replicate the good stuff, and eliminate the bad stuff.

  • Every failure teaches a man something, if he will learn…” –Charles Dickens
  • If I find ten thousand ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless – Thomas Edison

5. Use Knowledge to Move Forward
Learning isn’t good enough. It’s one thing to know all twelve steps necessary to recover from alcoholism, for instance, but it’s another thing entirely to make the choice to recover from alcohol abuse by using those steps. Learning from our failures is important… acting on that knowledge is even more important!

Alexander Fleming didn’t have to keep the mold that seemed to be eating away at the bacteria. But he did. He didn’t have to then run tests on it. But he did. Those were important steps, but they were steps that wouldn’t have mattered if he didn’t take one final step: to search for practical applications of the bacteria-eating mold. It was his willingness to apply the knowledge learned from his failure that enabled him to discover the applications of penicillin.

6. Don’t Give Up
Oftentimes, in life, we think we’re doing the right things… but we aren’t getting the results we want! We don’t move forward as quickly as we thought we would, or perhaps, we don’t move forward at all. So we consider giving up. We think that maybe failure isn’t everything it’s chalked to be. The most important secret of failing successfully is this: believe in the of failure power even when it doesn’t seem to be working.

  • There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth – not going all the way, and not starting.” –Buddha
  • Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” –Thomas Edison

If we want to succeed in whatever we do, then we need to learn how to welcome failures into our lives, and use them as building blocks for our successes.