Failure – something so many of us fears and something none of us can avoid. Some of the world’s most successful businessmen and women failed in life, and they failed A LOT. We’re all human, and we’ve all experienced our fair share of failure. But it’s failure that brings invaluable life lessons. You learn how to admit fault, to become more self-aware and most importantly, what not to do moving forward. Failing doesn’t mean you stop and start over. It means you focus on your weaknesses and make them your strengths. Steve Jobs didn’t hit a home-run developing Apple at first bat. The same way Bill Gates struck out a few times before he gave us Microsoft. Failure is all about perspective.
Failing occurs in all facets of life; some are just more apparent than others. No one gets anywhere worth going without a few (or a lot of) bumps and hiccups along the way. This revolving door of failure taught me life lessons that I had no idea I was even learning.
Strength + Relentless Pursuit
People often view failure as a weakness or something negative. We think it’s the exact opposite. It’s in the defeat that you find the most strength and that constant urge to find your purpose. We don’t always realize the importance of something, whether it be a dream, profession, or passion until we come dangerously close to losing it. This point of failure is where self-growth occurs, and you realize what you’re made of. You learn that success is scary. Dreams are scary. You face the uncomfortable revelation of “what if it doesn’t work out” and the inevitable, “what if I fail.” But how will you know if you don’t try? How do you figure out how great success feels if you don’t feel failure, first? These scary thoughts sometimes lurk for lifetimes if we don’t suck it up and go for it.
“What if I fall? But what if you fly? – Erin Hanson
Self-Awareness + Recognition
Here’s where it gets hard, here’s where you admit that you failed and figure out why it happened. For all of you sports fans, here is where you watch hours of game film to see where things went wrong, both individually and as a team. From my experience, this is where I learned the most about failing and how I compensated for being the “shortest six rotation setter in the SEC.” This is where I audited my competition, found their weaknesses, and capitalized on them. Here is where I found my niche. It was with me the whole time; I just hadn’t ever looked at it as something that set me apart. I had two options – fail or succeed. I could keep doing what I was doing and be mediocre, or push myself and find another way to be better than I was. The truth is, there is always another way. You have to take a step back, be willing to self-reflect, and look for the answer in places you wouldn’t usually think to.
Appreciate the little feats of success
It’s the little wins and the small efforts that make a difference. Whether you spend an extra thirty minutes on a proposal, send your design through peer review just one more time or get into the office fifteen minutes early to get started on that never-ending project. All of these small things that are entirely optional to do (because let’s face it, you could always do the bare minimum) can turn into significant opportunities. Doing the little things consistently is what lands you the big account or gets you the big break you’ve been working so hard for. It’s the little feats of success that make previous failures seem more and more like a stepping stone to the place you’re striving to get to.
Failing = Winning
So many people measure success based off of the final result – a win or a loss. You are either adding to the team or subtracting from it. However, failing is healthy, and we encourage it. You don’t learn to play volleyball the first time you pick up a volleyball. The same way you don’t graduate from college and become the CEO. You learn the sport, or the job, over time and throughout many stages of your life. You’re not going to master everything on your first try, and that is OK. It’s about learning the most you can in the midst of any shortcoming and building on every lesson possible.
We all fail at something. But what separates successful individuals and companies from those who remain stagnant and let these issues defeat them is their relentless pursuit and drive to achieve their goal. Failure is inevitable. It’s the lessons we take away from it that launches us to success.