“It is a mistake to suppose that [people] succeed through success; they much oftener succeed through failure.” – Samuel Smiles
Failure, mistake, fiasco, reject, setback, breakdown, screw up, faux pas…These are just some of the words that we use when things just don’t turn out the way we had planned or hoped or imagined. They are all value judgments. They describe an outcome of an action in a very negative way.
There are 6 600 000 000 Google data about failure that Google found in just 0,43 seconds. It is obvious that people care about failure and this, because everybody experiences it.
But we rarely look at failure in a positive way. We certainly don’t describe it as a learning experience. We’re thought that failure is a terrible thing, that we should avoid and fear failure.
Failures are a blow to our self-esteem. How many of us can look in a mirror and say to ourselves out loud: “I failed and that’s okay. Failure is okay”?
How many of us, remind themselves, in those moments when we’re trying to dust ourselves off, that some of the most creative and effective people of our times gave themselves the permission to make mistakes; because they knew that if they’re not making some mistakes, they’re not making any discoveries?
They knew that failure is a learning process and it has nothing to do with self-esteem.
We all know how Edison was a master at using his “mistakes”, as further steps to discovery when he tried 5,000 different ways to build an electric storage battery to store the electricity that powered his light bulbs.
Or Burt Rutan, the airplane designer who said: “I’ve got to develop nine prototypes that go nowhere to make one that goes to production for big money. Only the place that tolerates failure gives rise to the thinking that results in success.”
Or Einstein, who thought that genius is making all possible mistakes in the shortest period of time.
But let’s consider some of the several recent examples. Just ask Brian Chesky, CEO of the home-rental site Airbnb who published on Medium a post including seven rejection emails from Silicon Valley investors who passed on the opportunity to get in early at Airbnb. At the time, the company was seeking to raise a $150,000. That $150,000 would’ve meant a 10% stake of Airbnb, which is worth $30 billion today.
Rovio, the creator of the game Angry Birds spent eight years producing 51 different versions of the game. 51 rejections later, Rovio released its 52nd version of the game which was the one that finally took off and encountered a tremendous success.
Before creating WhatsApp, Jan Koum and his business partner Brian Actom, both worked at Yahoo for almost nine years before leaving the company together. They then applied to Facebook with no success. It’s only after that they decided to create the famous app that is now ironically bought over and owned by Facebook which, of course, made Jan and Brian billionaires in a very short amount of time.
Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki
Failure happens and is part not only of the learning experience but also of the normal creative process. The slogan of IDEO, the design company, is “Fail fast, fail early and fail often” as it’s from failures that one can find new, interesting and life changing results.
There’s also design thinking, which is also well known in the design world, and which has a lot to do with failure.
Design thinking is problem solving process that incorporates a prototyping stage in the testing stage. And with these stages, sometimes you have to reiterate, to run more experiments and then go back again and so on. And all these are part of the understanding process of “what worked, what failed and what you have learned”, before moving to the validation stage and come up with a successful solution.
Thus, again, when we look at failures as learning experiences, they can actually help us to become more successful.
The Canadian economist Larry Smith says people often let fear of failure drive them to career failure. Quite ironic.
So here’s the challenge: instead of your achievements, built a résumé of your failures and call it your “Failure Resume”. The more failures the better. Because that means that you were brave and curious enough to take risks, to learn, discover and push your boundaries and smart enough to extend your brain and the way you look at the world.
No human ever became interesting by not failing. The more you fail and recover and improve, the better you are as a person. Ever meet someone who’s always had everything work out for them with zero struggle? They usually have the depth of a puddle. Or they don’t exist.” – Chris Hardwick
And most important, I hope that, as you complete this, you will see that failure was your companion during your entire life from the moment when you took your first steps, failed, went back and tried again until you stood on your feet.
Think back to all the times when you failed, but failed upwards. Did it have the devastating effect that you thought it would? How did you learn and grow from it? How can you look at failure differently next time?
If you’re still hesitating, know that Johannes Haushofer, a Princeton professor published his CV of failures where he bravely listed all his career lows and all the degree programs and academic positions he did NOT get.
New "publication": My CV of Failures! https://t.co/d8ot5vvynY
— Johannes Haushofer (@jhaushofer) April 23, 2016
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill
Banish the terrifying “what-ifs” and never let fear hold you back from realizing your full potential.
Fail up! And always remember that the only failure is that of not learning and that we always learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.