Advice on how to handle failure can be found everywhere. A parent gives advice on dealing with failure to encourage their child to persevere when the youngster may think that the worst has just happened to them. Teachers let their students know that failing one test doesn’t mean that the whole school year is ruined, and encourage their students to use the failure as motivation to do better the next time. Coaches use stories about overcoming failure to build strength of character, and an increased will to succeed.
How Failure Develops Perseverance and Enhances Learning
With just a few clicks of your mouse you can find quotes on failure from Bill Gates, Colin Powell, Benjamin Franklin, J.K. Rowling, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and hundreds more. Some quotes on failure that have become clichés are:
- I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~ Thomas Edison
- Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. ~ Napoleon Hill
- You never fail until you stop trying.~ Albert Einstein
It seems like failure is constantly being framed as a learning tool and not an event in itself. Positive role models in every phase of our lives try to instill in us the mindset that there’s no such thing as failing. We even provide the same encouragement to our loved ones when they fail at something. Those views on failure beg the question, “Does failure really exist?”
I believe that the answer is “Yes, but.” Yes, failure exists.
Failure is all around us.
Ask a salesperson who has lost a prospect to a competitor and they’ll tell you that they failed to get the account. When an entrepreneur has to close their doors and file for bankruptcy that is a failed attempt in business. In sports when you lose a game that’s a failure. Then there are failed marriages, failed job interviews, failed life goals.
Yes failure does exist, and in many areas of our lives.
Some failures are more disruptive than others, but I’d be willing to say that we all fail at something almost every day. The question is not, “Does failure exist?” The question is, “Are you going to let your failures be permanent?” Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best when he said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Our failures can be our greatest learning tools. They give us the chance to examine what we did wrong. When we fail a test in school we have the opportunity think about how we can improve our study habits. When a romantic relationship fails we can think about what we may have done wrong, and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes the next time. When we fail in a business venture we can learn from that experience, and use it to be sure that our next attempt will be better researched and more carefully executed.
After any failure in life we can review our mistakes and design a new path to achieve our goals.
By identifying why we failed at an individual task we become smarter, stronger, and are more likely to succeed on our next attempt.
Life is made up of many failures. Some small and some large, but the key is to decide to use those failures as learning tools and try again. When you read many of the famous quotes on failure the root of their message is actually on perseverance:
- Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. ~ Henry Ford
- Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston S. Churchill
- Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever. ~ Lance Armstrong
- You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it. ~ Maya Angelou
- Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. ~ Marilyn Monroe
- Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
The key point that so many great figures in history have made is that failing at a task, even repeatedly, doesn’t make you a failure.
I’d like to share my own failure quote:
- If you haven’t failed at something you haven’t tried anything. ~ Richard London
Think about it. The only way to live without experiencing failure is to do nothing your entire life. If you don’t want to ever fail you should never go to school, never have a job, never go on a date, never do anything. That way you can be the only person in the world who never failed at something. But, I think you’ll agree that you’d be someone who everyone around you would look at with pity and say that you failed at life.
So, failure does exist, but finding ways to learn from those individual failures is vital. In my opinion, mastering the trait of perseverance and discovering how to learn from failures are essential to finding success and personal satisfaction in life. See failures for what they are; individual events. Then find the lessons in each of your failures and use them to build your greatest successes.