According to Google, failure is “the lack of success.” It is the “neglect or omission of expected or required action.”
It is outdated ideas like these that make us feel like failure is a shameful thing.
I recently attended a talk about “The dirty F-word,” where the speaker discussed how reluctant we all are to discuss our failures or even acknowledge them. This got me thinking. See, like anyone else, I’m embarrassed to admit defeat. I’m disappointed, and occasionally humiliated, by my failures. However, I am also fortunate enough to understand the importance of my failures and to understand that most of them are not failures, but lessons.
This isn’t a new theory of course, but it seems to be one we tend to forget. Many people are happy to shout from the rooftops about their successes, but seem reluctant to even acknowledge their failures, let alone publicize them. But what if we weren’t so averse to broadcasting our mistakes? What if, instead, we used them to teach ourselves, and support others, to see the lessons and achievements those failures have given birth to? Forget telling people not to repeat our mistakes, instead encourage them to embrace risk and appreciate their own failures; to live life embracing trial and error as opposed to trying to develop a foolproof method.
Most people will freely talk about how they can bounce back from a fall but they don’t tend to talk about how they fell in the first place. As Chumbawamba says, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” But why were they down in the first place? What did they learn from being there?
I truly believe we cause long-term damage by burying our failures. We need to understand the consequences of our mistakes, so we can build ourselves a bigger, better, and stronger future. But we also need to appreciate that our failures haven’t broken us and that we can continue to take risks. This can only be done by addressing our failures, not burying them.
Here are a few of my favorite inspiring quotes about failure (via Goodreads):
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston S. Churchill
“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.” – Marilyn Monroe
I, for one, have made many mistakes and had some spectacular failures. My largest to date would be investing in an online business without doing my full due diligence. It cost me both financially and from a sense of pride. However, the lessons I learned about finance, due diligence, online business, relationship building, and research are entirely responsible for my current successes in business.
So, what do we do now? Well, I’m certainly not going to be discouraged by my failures. In fact, I’m going to start openly talking about them. I’m going to encourage others to do the same and to take chances in life, because there isn’t such a thing as failure, there are only lessons. This isn’t to say we should live recklessly; it’s to say we should learn from our successes and our failures with equal balance, and use them to create a richer life.
Will you join me?