On the Subject of Failure

Failure is something that each and every one of us deals with on a daily basis. It weighs heavily as we consider our options. It can be a crippling force that leaves us unable to make a decision or take action. It is the storm cloud on the horizon that terrifies us. For some, it can even be deadly.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I have a bit of a perfectionistic streak. In fact, I hold myself to a very high standard and can literally make myself sick to my stomach, beating myself up over my failures. Even worse, they stick with me for years as jagged thorns in my memory. Often much more memorable and easy to remember than my successes. Recently, however, I’ve had an epiphany. Failure is not the end, but rather the pre-cursor to success.

That epiphany is quite simple. It’s something I’ve understood for years and based on observations which I think we all innately know to be true. Simple little life lessons. At an early age you no doubt learned the hard way that fire was hot just as you learned what foods you liked and which ones you detested. We don’t classify these as failures, we classify them as learning experiences. So what changes when you get older? The reality is … nothing.

When Edison was questioned about his 10,000 failed experiments to invent a storage battery, he put it best with his witty response, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” However, the issue often requires a more complex exploration before it becomes internalized. Which leads me to an important and difficult concept I’ve been working to incorporate into who I am.

Simply put there is no such thing as failure. In short, failure is a state of mind. To explain, every action changes us. If you look at life like a a maze, every decision takes you down one of several paths. Some lead to dead ends which conventional thinking would call failures. The catch is that each of those decisions has changed who you are. Moving forward you’re better equipped to deal with future decisions and challenges because of that ‘failure’ than you would be if you had not experienced it. Though you may not realize it, that “failure” will serve you later down the road. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, and you may not even realize it when it does, but it will shape your future and who you become.

So, next time you find yourself facing failure remember it’s not a bad thing. You’re not defeated. You’ve just taken one more step toward success.