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Learning to Fail (The best key to success)

November 19, 2010

Photo Courtesy of The Birkes

Throughout our lives, especially when we are younger we get the idea that failure is somehow a bad thing. In school if we don’t answer all the questions correctly, we get a bad grade, sometimes a big “F” for “Failed”.  In church we are told that if we don’t believe a certain way or do certain things we will have failed god and won’t get in to heaven. If we botch an interview and don’t get that job we wanted, somehow we aren’t good enough and we have failed to succeed in business.

There are countless other examples as well, but you get the point.  All in all, we are taught that we should do everything we can to avoid failure because failure means we aren’t good enough and there is shame associated with that.

Unfortunately, the fear of failure is something that keeps a lot of us from even attempting to do great things.  We don’t want to take the risk of falling on our face because we are scared of the repercussions.  We are scared that our friends and family will think less of us if we attempt something big and it doesn’t work.

And that’s a shame.  Its a shame because failure is actually the key to success. If you aren’t willing to fail (over and over again sometimes), then you will never get to make an impact on the world, or do something worth remembering.  If you aren’t willing to fail, then deep down you might just be afraid of success.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
~ Sir Winston Churchill

We learn by failing. Think about your own life and the times that you have failed.  The only way we really learn is to try something until we get it.  After all, if we weren’t willing to fail at walking, eating, speaking, writing, etc… then where would we be?  It seems that failure is actually part of what makes us human.  The problem is that as we get older, we seem to forget that.  Once we have the basics of surviving down, we tend to stop trying new things and we lose the motivation to try new things and fail in the process.

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen

So if you want to do something great, the first step might be to try something you have never done.  Try something new and fail completely at doing it.  Enjoy it.  Laugh about it.  Learn from the experience.  Then try it again.  Immediately you will be better since you’ve already tried it before.  You might not be the Michael Jordon of your chosen task, but eventually – by failing over and over again – you just might be that guy.

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  –  Michael Jordan

It always helps to get examples of why something is worth failing for.  Hopefully the following list will help to encourage you to start failing more.  The more you are willing to fail, the closer  you will get to doing something great and possibly changing the world in the process.

  • John Grisham’s first book was turned down by 12 publishing houses and 16 agents.   Once he was finally published, his first book sold over 2 Million copies in the first printing. One of only two authors in history to accomplish this.  The other being J.K. Rowling.
  • Speaking of J.K Rowling…  Before writing the Harry Potter Series and becoming one of the richest women in the world, she was almost homeless, clinically depressed and without any type of income or support to speak of.  If that isn’t failure, I don’t know what is.  She followed her dream and is now worth over $1 Billion dollars.
  • Walt Disney was fired from his first job at a newspaper because (he was told) “He lacked imagination and had no original ideas”.
  • How about the guy who eliminated slavery in the United States?  I’d say that Abraham Lincoln is just about as successful as anyone in history.  Yet before he became President in 1960, he was defeated for legislature in 1832 and then elected in 1834.  He was defeated as Speaker of the House in 1838 and then defeated again for a nomination for congress in 1843.  He was elected for congress finally in 1846 but lost his renomination in 1848.  After that he was defeated for Land Officer in 1849, defeated for senate in 1854, defeated for Vice President in 1856 and again defeated for Senate in 1858.   Count that up.  He was defeated for elections on 9 separate occasions before finally being elected for President in 1860. WOW!  Where would we be today if he had given up and let failure stop him?

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”  –  Abraham Lincoln

There are countless other success stories I could mention here, and believe me I was tempted to do so.  But I think I’ve made my point.  Failure is so important to being human.  Failure is so important to success.  Don’t let yourself be afraid of it.  Instead embrace it.  Seek it out.  Do what you can to accelerate your rate of failure.   Once you do, you will be closer to achieving the true dreams and greatness you are meant to achieve.

“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”  –  Dale Carnegie


I hope you enjoyed this post and it inspires you to go out and fail!  What is your greatest fear in life?  What are you scared to fail at?  Share it in the comments below and take the first step today.  After all, there’s no time like the present.

If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook or Twitter.  I would really appreciate it.  Thanks my friends.  – Bryan

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