You might be surprised to hear that failure is an important ingredient of success.
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Who wants to put in all those hours of effort, all that investment and energy and enthusiasm, and then fail to fail? Surely success is the name of the game?
But stop and think about it just for a minute. Sure, everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to achieve the goals they set for themselves. After all, that’s the whole point! But if you look back over your success and failures, how often did you make a mistake? How many times did it take before you mastered a new skill? Guaranteed there will be few occasions where you got it right off the bat. But the key thing here is that you didn’t give up.
Here are three ways that failure can fuel future success.
1. Failure encourages innovation
Thomas Edison famously had more than a thousand failures before he invented the light bulb that worked. But he didn’t see those thousand attempts as failures. He saw them as useful discoveries. He knew a thousand ways to make a light bulb that didn’t work.
Alexander Fleming ‘invented’ penicillin by making a mistake. He forgot to follow his laboratory procedure and left Petri dishes unattended for two weeks, allowing fungi to colonize them. We’ve all forgotten things in the fridge. But on this occasion that mistake and failure led to one of the most revolutionary contributions to modern medicine!
2. Failure encourages learning and experimenting
Both Edison and Fleming learned from their mistakes. They weren’t paralyzed or crushed by what looked like a failure, and they didn’t fear failure. They were curious and investigated further and experimented to see what would happen. And by doing that they changed the world.
If you take the personal element out of failure, the moral self-punishment, you can reframe mistakes, errors, or failure as information to use in trying again and again. Mistakes allow you to recalibrate, adjust your strategy, to work out what’s preventing you from moving forward.
3. Failure builds resilience
Have you watched a small child learning to walk? Over and over again the baby will fall over. At the beginning they make no progress at all, they crumple up. But little by little first one step then two, the baby learns to balance, to shift its weight from one side to the other, to master the skill of walking. Edison did the same on his quest to invent the light bulb. Every failure was a stepping stone to success. Every mistake or misstep gives you a clue as to how to reach your goal.
No one likes to fail, but the difference between staying defeated and becoming a success is not to see failure as an end in itself. Mistakes, ideas that didn’t work and flops are all evidence and teachings to help you build a sure foundation for success in the future.