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4 Reasons Why Failure is Pretty Awesome

4 Reasons Why Failure is Pretty Awesome“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

When we were kids failure had a different meaning than it has today.

When you learned to ride your bike you fell over. Over and over again. Maybe you scraped your knee, cried a little. And then you got up again. And started pedalling. Soon you were riding the bike like you had done it all your life.

It would be nice if we could all keep this way to thinking about failure as we grow older. Some probably do. Some don’t. Why?

A few reasons that I can come up with from my personal experiences are:

  • Being too hard on oneself. If people fail they may be way to hard on themselves. A failure is rarely the end of the world, but it is easy to fall into to the trap of thinking that is. So learn to lighten up more and give yourself a break.

  • School and society grades us and makes failure something bad. When we learn to ride the bike or walk we don’t think about failure being something bad. We just keep moving after we fall down. But later, in school people start telling us that failure is something bad, that it and taking risks are things to avoid. We are told such thing and we are graded. And so throughout the years, with the help of school and what other people around us tell us, we develop a fear of failure.

  • The ego helps to develop a victim identity. As we attach more importance and weight to a failure it can become an important part of our identity. We may fail a couple of times and it devastates us. And so we may view ourselves as “failures”. And the ego likes identify itself with things. Sometimes success. Sometimes failure. And even though you are just a person who failed on a few occasions your ego – a little voice in your head – tells you that you are a failure. And then it goes on throughout the years telling you things to reinforce and make that identity more powerful. And since people tend to treat you as you view yourself, they may reinforce this pattern. So don’t take your thoughts too seriously. Books by someone like Eckhart Tolle may help you do that. Or posts like Just Do It! and 8 Ways to Return to the Present Moment.

  • It’s not “normal”. If you want to fit in perfectly, then seeing failure as something bad is a better bet than seeing it as something that can be quite positive and beneficial.

  • Too little of being in the now. Children tend to be more present than adults. They do what they want without having their mind scattered on all kinds of other stuff. Of course, you can’t just run around in the grass with your arms stretched out imagining that you’re an aeroplane half the day. You have responsibilities and such things. But you can still incorporate being present more of the time into your everyday life and thereby improving your concentration and performance and decrease the amount of time you spend over thinking your challenges. And perhaps, once in a while, you can still run around playing aeroplane. :)

I think Beckett has it kinda right when he says: no matter. People make failure into a large matter, perhaps even into a part of their identity. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should give up your common sense and risk all your savings on some wonky business deal.

Now, what is good about failure?

1. You learn.

Instead of seeing failure as something horrible you can start to view it more as a learning experience. When standing in the middle of a failure, you can ask yourself questions like:

What’s awesome about this situation?
What can I learn from this situation?

There is always one lesson or many more in what you may see as a failure.

2. You gain experiences you could not get any other way.

Ideally, you probably want to learn from other people’s mistakes and failures. That’s not always easy to do though. Sometimes you just have to fail on your own to learn a lesson and to gain an experience no one can relate to you in mere words.

3. You become stronger.

Every time you fail you become more accustomed to it. You realize more and more that it’s not the end of the world. Failing may in fact become a bit anticlimactic – just like when succesfully reaching a goal – after you have spent much time building a grandiose image of it in your head.

You get desensitized. You can handle things that would have been very hard to handle a few years back. Failing can also a have an exhilarating component because even though you failed you at least took a chance. You didn’t just sit on you hands doing nothing. And that took quite a bit of courage and determination.

4. Your chances of succeeding increases.

Every time you fail you can learn and increase your inner strength. So every failure can make you more and more likely to succeed. And there is probably no other way to the success you dream of without a whole bunch of failures along the way.

Image by *Zara (license).

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  • Glen Allsopp June 5, 2008, 8:53 pm

    Well done for positive spin on such an “ugly” word, but hey…I guess that is what you guys are all about ;).

    Learning is the number one thing for me, if you look back in life at all the times you have grown, you will see the hardest times strengthened you the most.

  • Eterniel June 5, 2008, 9:21 pm

    Great post (as always :). It should be “being too hard” not “being to hard” in the first item of the first unnumbered list though. :)

  • Kaled Asmri-- SuccessElixir.net June 5, 2008, 11:12 pm

    I was the worst bike rider in the whole neighborhood!

    great post Henrik… I agree that failure can become awesome, AFTER succeeding.

    see, successful people talk about their ‘past’ failures PROUDLY. but I bet they wouldn’t do the same before they make a success.

    when ya try.. and fail.. try again.. and fail… till when! you learn more but the fact is, failures drain your energy, confidence & esteem.

    However, NOTHING should stop us from trying. it’s the joy of life. and as one expert said:

    Q: when do ya think that someone has failed?
    A: when he stops trying!

    Thanks Henrik…

    Kaled.

  • Henrik Edberg June 5, 2008, 11:15 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, guys! And thanks for the heads up, Eterniel. :)

  • Sara June 6, 2008, 6:36 am

    I think there’s something to the idea that failure makes us normal. Many of us think that everyone will be ready to kick us to the curb if we fail. In reality, we’re all hoping someone around us fails, just to break the tension.

  • Christopher Truman June 6, 2008, 6:53 am

    Failure is the one part of life that people have the most trouble dealing with. If you can take away the fact that failure is awesome and a integral part of life and success from this article, then you will be much better off!

  • Shanel Yang June 6, 2008, 9:11 am

    Henrik – Great post and great topic! Kaled – Many successful people talk about their failure as they are failing–the difference is that they don’t call it failing; they call it learning. Failed attempts at a desired goal actually energize these folks because it makes them more determined to try harder. For example, in studies conducted over 20 years by Standford University psychologist and professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., people fell into one of two mindsets about failure: (1) those who fear it and avoid it like the plague; and (2) those who welcome all new challenges, the harder the better, as ways to improve their skills and knowledge about the world and themselves. Her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential” shows not only that this difference in mindset develops at an early age and influences our growth (or not) for the rest of our lives, but, more importantly, that we can actually change our mindsets from the fixed mindset to the growth mindset, starting simply with the knowledge that we can. I’ve written two articles on this topic on my blog just to share the great news: “Change Your Mindset to Change Your Life” and “So You Think You’re Smart?” I love to spread the word about this book because I think so many people’s lives could be changed by it. The #1 reason people fear failure is that they think it will expose their “innate” shortcomings. But, the good news is that there is no skill or talent that cannot be learned and improved upon. Even the superstar athletes and child prodigies (and she writes about several in her book) with the fixed mindset can never reach their full potential; hence, they will always “fail” compared to the superstars and prodigies with growth mindsets, who never stop working on their “gifts.”

  • Marc and Angel Hack Life June 6, 2008, 3:08 pm

    A solid set of points on failure. Interestingly anough, just before I read your article I posted this to Twitter:

    Why Failures Can Be Such Success Stories – http://twitter.com/marcandangel/statuses/828379173

  • JR Fan June 6, 2008, 5:40 pm

    Great quotes! Thanks for posting them!! I’d like to share one of my own I have been thinking about a lot recently.
    James Ray said, “If your not growing, you’re dying.” Six simple words that I really needed to hear. I guess it was because I was complaining to my friend that I just wasn’t feeling stimulated enough. It wasn’t as if I was doing anything “bad” in my life, so I was not sure why I was not feeling right. After learning this idea, I realized that “staying at even par” is not enough. That bad feeling was because by not growing, I was staying in the same place, just plodding along towards my death in a way. Doing nothing has negative consequences. But if I was to start growing, I would be moving my life forward, expanding it into something much more exciting! That’s what living is all about.

    After I finished reading Harmonic Wealth, I realized I needed to commit myself to a lifetime of learning – it did not end when I threw my graduation cap in the air. Check it out for yourself…
    Here’s the link to the website where I bought the book: harmonicwealth.com/read

  • kannan viswagandhi June 9, 2008, 2:19 am

    Hi Henrick,

    Great post.
    Coincidently,i saw the french open final only this morning.World no.1 Roger Federer again failed to defeat Rafel Nadal,fourth time in a row.But,in the after match talk,Federer said,Take it easy and see you again in the next year.That is the spirit of a champion.
    Failure is not bad,but what you learnt from that is.We have to see to that we shouldn’t repeat the same mistake again.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Best Wishes,
    Kannan Viswagandhi
    http://www.growing-self.blogspot.com

  • Rigdha June 9, 2008, 11:15 pm

    Great post Henrik,

    “It’s not “normal”. If you want to fit in perfectly, then seeing failure as something bad is a better bet than seeing it as something that can be quite positive and beneficial.”

    Absolutely!

    But like you said, failure only means you’re now one step closer to cracking it!

  • Claire June 16, 2008, 1:23 pm

    Great Blog, Great Topics

    Positivity is the key to living a joyful life

    Today I have made a conscious decision to grab life by the seat of its pants and cultivate a positive mindset.

  • Kyle Edginton June 17, 2008, 6:32 pm

    Don’t you just love failure! There is just so much that can be done with it. Thanks for your continued wisdom, Henrik.

  • Eva July 13, 2008, 1:37 am

    Failure is for setting up braver attitudes to continue on towards our goal. There really isnt any such things as failure- in some ways, some failures can be seen as success! Stick with positive people & you will adapt a positive attitude. Stick with the winners. & keep a gratitude journal. Write down al lthe things youre greatful for everyday & soon there will be so much you wont have any space to write it all down! Congratulate & treat yourself for every positive moment. Good luck!

    ~Eva

  • GAI TET October 8, 2008, 7:58 pm

    Why Failure?

    Every human being born into human race must fail in order to succeed. For example, you have terribly failed not to be born a male or a female. You can not do anything about it. You just fail.

    So by realizing this, you can not complain because failure is a a part of the nature in the whole mechanical Universe.

    Just move on. Imagine big. Dream big. And, invent or create possibilities for yourself and your life and live by those possibilities.

    GAI TET