Thomas Edison, who was considered as a kid to be stupid, once said, "I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Edison knew that there is no success without failure. Failure is simply learning what will and won’t work. Imagine if Edison quit after the 1st attempt, the 3rd attempt, the 999th attempt? Albert Einstein couldn’t speak until he was 4 years old and was also considered to be of below average intelligence. Henry Ford failed and went broke five different times before he became successful. Walt Disney was fired once for his alleged lack of imagination. Imagine the world if these people allowed failure to define them, not refine them?
Thru failure comes learning, thru learning comes improvement, thru improvement comes excellence, thru excellence comes legacy
Fear of Failure
Think of a time when you didn’t try something because you were afraid to fail. It happens to all of us. Prior to becoming a triathlete, I was asked to join a team of triathletes and train with them for a full distance Ironman. I didn’t want to. I was afraid that if I joined, I would fail. If I failed, it would mean that I’m not good enough, I’m a failure, and that I don’t have what it takes. Haven’t we all felt that way? Maybe your fear of failure is tied to a potential new job, a potential new relationship, a potential new class or skill, a potential new activity, a potential new social circle. Realize your fear, and then give it a shot anyway. Nobody is perfect - we’ve all failed! If you fail, at least you’ll be in the company of 100% of the rest of the human population.
Refine, Not Define
My favorite analogy is that failure is more like a bruise than a tattoo. Failure isn’t permanent. Failure doesn’t define you. If used properly, failure will refine you. That’s the concept of failing forward - learning the lessons from the experience, applying those learnings, and trying again. Yet too many people are afraid that failure will forever define them, so they take the easy way out. Thru failure comes learning, thru learning comes improvement, thru improvement comes excellence, thru excellence comes legacy. Thomas Edison’s story best exemplifies this concept. He failed 1,000 times, but instead of using that failure to define himself as a failure, he used it to refine himself as one of the greatest innovators of all time. Failure doesn’t define you, it refines you.
A Winning Perspective
“Fail fast, learn fast, win fast, and win big” ~ Scott Howe. Failure is awesome! It’s your way of telling the world I haven’t yet figured this out. It’s your way of telling the world I am getting closer to the solution because I found another approach that won’t work. It’s a stepping-stone on the way to victory. Failure is a tool. It’s an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to reassess your approach. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate patience, resilience, character, and fortitude. It’s an opportunity to set aside your ego, humble yourself, and accept that neither you nor I are perfect. We’re human. We’re broken. We make mistakes. We’re imperfect... and that’s okay. While we were in fact wonderfully made and designed for accomplishment, we were also made to fail. The failure, however, was never meant to define us— it was meant to be a stepping stone on the way to success.
Making Failure Actionable
Start by doing an honest introspection of how you currently handle failure. Do you get angry, blame others, get defensive, or make excuses? That’s okay if you said yes - most people do. Starting this second, you have the power to change that response going forward. Make a commitment to yourself to demonstrate resilience when, not if, you fail. Accept failure as a part of life. Allow yourself and others to fail. Consider failure to be a learning opportunity. Make it a point to ask yourself a few key questions: what went wrong, why did it go wrong, what could you have done differently, how can you apply these learnings in the future? By using these techniques in both your personal and professional life, you can reduce your fear of failure and turn failure events into opportunities to become better than ever.