The Power Of Failure

Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure can be powerful!

The word failure is not an ugly word – except in school. We learn very little from our successes. In fact, Thomas J. Watson Sr., the founder of IBM once advised his protégés to “double your failure rate. Failure is a teacher – a harsh one, perhaps, but the best … so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. That’s where you’ll find success – on the other side of failure.”

We will learn more from our failures than we will from our victories but we must never become satisfied with failure. When we become resigned to failure we become a failure. When our failures increase our resolve we are destined for victory.

The greatest leaders have learned to use their failures as opportunities for reaching even greater heights. We usually learn more from failure than we do from success. Those who attain a degree of success without failure will tend to be superficial and naïve. These are easily spotted in any crowd as the ones who have all the answers. Those who have failed and risen again will be those who would rather listen than talk, always seeking more understanding.

The story of Abraham Lincoln is told in many a book on leadership and success. It is as follows:
He failed in business
He was defeated for the Legislature
He failed again in business
He suffered a nervous breakdown
1838 He was defeated for Speaker of the Legislature
1840 He was defeated for Elector
1843 He was defeated for Congress
1848 He was defeated again for Congress 1855
He was defeated for the Senate
1856 He was defeated for Vice President
1858 He was defeated for the Senate again
1860 He was elected President
He preserved the Union.

Abraham Lincoln was well acquainted with failure – but he never gave up. Every defeat made him more determined and more prepared for his ultimate task.

Thomas Edison experienced more than 10,000 failures before he perfected the light bulb. His desire to succeed never waned.

Learn from other people’s experience with failure. Other people and their personal experiences offer untold opportunities for learning. Through experiences of others there are two valuable sources of information available; two attitudes of mind; two categories of those with similar experiences but with remarkably different results. One serves as an example to be followed, the other as an example to be avoided – as a warning to be studied, but not emulated.

We should all be students of failure. It is part of the world experience – part of the life experience. Why do we want to study failures? So that we can learn what not to do.

It is unfortunate, perhaps, that those who fail do not teach their experiences for all to hear. If we had more opportunity to learn from the negative experiences of others, we might well save our own lives from certain disaster.

All experiences can serve as our teachers provided we learn from the information and invest its value in our own lives. That is the power. As someone wisely said, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.” If we ignore the lessons of the past, from whatever source, then we may become victims of the process of trial and error. By ignoring the lessons of history, our own trials will inevitably try us and our own errors will ultimately destroy us.

Setbacks will either make us better or they will make us bitter; the choice is up to us.

There’s an old saying that the true test of a horseman is not how many times he falls off his horse – but how many times he gets back on.

At one time or another we all have felt the helplessness of despair and failure. An old-timer once said, “You don’t learn anything from the second kick of a horse.” This ought to be true, of course, but for most of us it takes three or four kicks before things start to sink in.

Don’t let failures crush you – remember failures are lessons. Having the same failure twice rarely teaches you anything new, it just emphasises the lesson.

Use the power within you to train your mind never to be disappointed. If certain things do not come at certain expected times or in the way you wished, do not consider it a failure. Instead, stand firm that something much better will appear at the right time. Remember, failure is nothing but success trying to be born in a bigger way. Most seeming failures are just installments toward the victory.

Failure can make us feel very sorry for ourselves. It can be humiliating and disappointing. However, when failure comes, check the evidence and the first thing you may realize is that the fault usually lies directly with yourself. Often failure can be attributed to lack of planning, lax use of money or a lack of keeping proper records and not clarifying one step before moving on to the next. It can also be an overestimation of your own ability and leaning too much upon other people.

Out of all such experiences, lessons can be learned. Be determined to honestly and clearly assess your present position to find out the reason for the failure and look clearly at your own flaws before trying to blame others. This way failure can be turned into future success. Do not overlook the lessons learned from failures and certainly do something to rectify the weaknesses, but keep your eye always on the lesson learnt, not on the destructiveness of failure. And learning lessons is what failure is – or should be – all about.

Failing in life is like failing in school – you don’t go up to the next grade until you’ve learned your lesson. If you keep failing over the same things, you will never graduate, because you have not learnt the lessons properly. If you do make the same mistake twice, examine it in close detail, learn a lesson and don’t forget it. Then document your lessons into life-principles to prevent recurrence.

There is incredible value to be found in the mistakes you make. In fact there is arguably more value to be found in making mistakes than if you were to get it right first time, every time.

Overcoming failure builds character and it is a ladder to success. To turn failure into success – take action!

Learn to plan out problem areas. Use past failures to help you; know that you are not the only person who has ever failed. You are in elite company. Problems are always a growth experience; as we tackle the problem areas of our own attitude and perhaps lack of discipline, and succeed, the biggest and most worthwhile victories are won.

Saying: A smooth sea never makes a skillful sailor