Is Failure Mandatory on the Road to Success?



The short answer is no. You do not have to fail repeatedly in order to achieve success. That being said, having some failures is the fastest way to learn, so long as you look at why you failed. If, like many of us, you remember your failures more than your successes, then certainly you’ll avoid the same failures.


Fall Down Seven Times, Fall Down Seven Times?

Why the emphasis on falling down so much? I mean, I get it about persistence and getting up over and over, but do we all have to scrape our knees so many times to learn the lesson? You might like this other article about failure, too: What Happens When You Focus on Failure and creativity? Then again, many people learn the hard way–by making mistakes themselves.

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Learn from Others

Sometimes a person’s only purpose in this world is to provide a bad example to others. You know what I mean. Drunk driving is just one example. We don’t have to experience it firsthand to know it’s a bad idea. Amy Reese Anderson suggests that “At the end of the day we can learn things the hard way or we can learn them the easy way – the choice is up to us.” And the advice to accept help or advice from others is one that seems to gain favor the older we get. Read her article: Learning from Others Mistakes is a Great Way to Save Yourself A Whole Lot Of Time, Money, And Pain.

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Success Is Not a Good Teacher; Failure Makes You Humble

Shah Rukh Khan, the Indian actor, said “failure makes you humble.” Not only does failure make you humble, you will have empathy with others who have failed. And then there’s the laughing-at-yourself part. That happens, too. And who amongst us doesn’t enjoy self-deprecating humor? But why go out of your way to fail when failure comes naturally? We’ll probably fail no matter how hard we try not to.

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Steve Jobs on Failure

Steve Jobs famously said, “you’ve gotta be willing to fail. You’ve gotta be ready to crash and burn.” He also says that you need to ask. Be willing to pick up the phone and ask, which most people don’t ever do. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.

What Happens When You Focus on Failure and Creativity?

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How are failure and creativity related? We all know the Japanese proverb, “fall down seven times, get up eight.” And usually that relates to being unafraid to fail, like kids are, and persevering, despite all odds. Most adults, unfortunately, are literally afraid of falling. Maybe that fear of failing (and falling) could be a physical as well as a psychological fear. We may get a little inflexible if we’re that afraid. You’ve all seen that person on the freeway, driving 35 miles-per-hour in a 65 miles-per-hour zone, white knuckling the steering wheel. By the way, you might like How Nostradamus Predicted Massive Twitter Failure.

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Failure is a Big Deal

To some people, failure is a huge deal. We’re all trained to get the good grades in school, not to try for D’s and F’s. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, talks about the importance of failure, and of the imagination. A mere seven years after her college graduation, she was poor, divorced, a single parent, and jobless. Without her failure, she might “never have found the determination to finish the work the most important to her.” And we all know how that turned out. Because her greatest fear had been realized and she was still alive, she was set free.

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Reframing Failure

We can’t plan ahead so much that we never fail, otherwise we risk having a life not worth living at all. And life is full of failures that need to be reframed so that we can move past them. Or else, like J.K. Rowling, if your own worst fear is realized then you can be set free. You might have never thought of it that way. I hadn’t.

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When Is Failure Not Failure?

Failure isn’t always failure in the typical sense. For instance, if you release a product that’s a great product but the market isn’t ready for it. Or if you have an idea, but no one listens to it. That may only mean that you’re ahead of your time.

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What If Failure Was Mandatory?

I like to play the “what if” game. Here’s one: what if failure was mandatory, and everyone was required to fail a certain number of times? How would that change businesses? There would be a lot more innovation, wouldn’t there? What are your thoughts on failure? Leave me a comment! Don’t be afraid to fail. Really.

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