Here are six lessons, which build on one another, that show how we can use failure to help us achieve success.
1. Understand Failureâ€™s Potential
Any failure, even the worst failure we can imagine, has the potential to be good and worthwhileâ€¦ if we can learn from it and build upon it. James Joyce rightly wrote, â€œMistakes are the portal for discovery.â€ But we have to make the commitment to discoverâ€¦ to look at that failure and build upon it. If we donâ€™t, then failure canâ€™t work its magicâ€¦ and weâ€™ve let ourselves down!
â€œFailure has been good to us,â€ Ali says of Xuqa. â€œEach big failure has helped us make our company betterâ€¦ and has opened our eyes to another success.â€
â€œA failure is a man who has blundered but is not capable of cashing in on the experience.â€ â€“Elbert Hubbard
2. Surround Yourself with Others Who Understand the Importance of Failure
The world is full of people who donâ€™t understand the benefits of failure. They tell us to â€œplay it safeâ€, that our â€œdreams arenâ€™t worth the effortâ€, and that our goals are â€œimpossibleâ€. We need to stay away from these peopleâ€¦ and instead find people who believe in the strength of the human spirit, and who believe in us!
â€œA life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing.â€ â€“George Bernard Shaw
â€œI cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.â€ â€“Bill Cosby
3. Expect and Embrace Failure
Failure is an inevitable part of life and successâ€¦ 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 isnâ€™t so hard. It becomes manageableâ€¦ and beautifulâ€¦ and challengingâ€¦ and worthwhile.
Thomas Edison knew better. He didnâ€™t try to invent the phonograph thinking heâ€™d get it right on the first try. Rather, he knew that â€œGenius is 1% innovation and 99% perspiration,â€ 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 doesnâ€™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.
â€œEvery failure teaches a man something, if he will learnâ€¦â€ â€“Charles Dickens
â€œIf I find ten thousand ways something wonâ€™t work, I havenâ€™t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. Just because something doesnâ€™t do what you planned it to do doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s useless.â€ â€“Thomas Edison
5. Use Knowledge to Move Forward
Learning isnâ€™t good enough. Itâ€™s one thing to know all twelve steps necessary to recover from alcoholism, for instance, but itâ€™s another thing entirely to make the choice to recover from alcohol abuse by using those steps. Learning from our failures is importantâ€¦ acting on that knowledge is even more important!
Alexander Fleming didnâ€™t have to keep the mold that seemed to be eating away at the bacteria. But he did. He didnâ€™t have to then run tests on it. But he did. Those were important steps, but they were steps that wouldnâ€™t have mattered if he didnâ€™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. Donâ€™t Give Up
Oftentimes, in life, we think weâ€™re doing the right thingsâ€¦ but we arenâ€™t getting the results we want! We donâ€™t move forward as quickly as we thought we would, or perhaps, we donâ€™t move forward at all. So we consider giving up. We think that maybe failure isnâ€™t everything itâ€™s chalked to be. The most important secret of failing successfully is this: believe in the of failure power even when it doesnâ€™t seem to be working.
â€œThere are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth – not going all the way, and not starting.â€ â€“Buddha
â€œMany of lifeâ€™s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.â€ â€“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.