“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” - Michael Jordan
The most successful people in the world know a secret: Failure is good.
We live in a success-driven society. And for many of us, we were taught to avoid failure at all costs, as this was the equivalent of being unsuccessful. We've been conditioned to fear failure and to get upset when we make mistakes.
But this isn’t an empowering way to live. Failure is a necessary part of personal growth and a key component of a growth mindset. It’s not something to shy away from.
Here are 7 important reasons why failure is good.
1. Failure Helps Us Get Better and Better
“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.” – Zig Ziglar
Fear is life's greatest teacher. It provides priceless lessons.
Repeating the same safe choices leads to a life of boredom and predictability. And for most people, it’s only through making mistakes that we learn the most valuable lessons in life.
In his New York Times Best Selling book, “The Obstacle is the Way”, Ryan Holiday writes:
“It’s almost a cliché at this point, but the observation that the way to strengthen an arch is to put weight on it—because it binds the stones together, and only with tension does it hold weight."
This implies that the challenges we encounter in life make us stronger and more resilient. So push forward. By learning from our mistakes, we experience personal growth and create a successful life.
2. Failure Allows Us to Find Opportunity in Our Obstacles
“Wherever we look upon this earth, the opportunities take shape within the problems.” – Nelson Rockefeller
As we move through life, we assign meaning to our experiences. "Good" or "bad" only exists in our perception.
In Ryan Holiday's words, "We decide what story to tell ourselves."
This means that we can consciously choose to frame failures as opportunities instead of permanent roadblocks. Entrepreneurs are great at doing this. A new business venture can emerge from challenging problems and adversity.
Adversity carries opportunity.
3. Failure Stokes the Fire of Our Determination
“Failure doesn’t kill you… it increases your desire to make something happen.” – Kevin Costner
True success comes when you stop feeling discouraged from failure. You must break this habit.
Every failure nudges us one step closer to achieving our goal. Knowing this can help fuel the fire of your determination, instead of allowing setbacks to put it out.
Failure also serves as a reality check. Whenever you have a setback, life is asking you, "How committed are you to succeed?"
A classic example of this is Thomas Edison, who failed 1,000 times before inventing the light bulb. Most people would give up after the first few attempts. However, each failed attempt eventually led to a successful light bulb prototype. He was determined.
If your desired outcome is something you truly care about and believe in, you'll persist in the face of failure with an attitude of total determination.
4. Failure Encourages Us to Live in the Moment
“I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.” – Oprah Winfrey
Fear is a natural emotion. But it becomes excessive when you worry about the past, and grow anxious about the future.
The way to eliminate excessive negativity is to shift your focus to the "here and now." After all, there is nothing you can do to change the past, and you can’t control the future.
Real success involves enjoying the process of working towards your desired result. Instead of hating the journey and succumbing to fear, enjoy the moment and take things one step at a time.
5. Failure Makes Us Fearless
“What matters is this: being fearless of failure arms you to break the rules. In doing so, you may change the culture and just possibly, for a moment, change life itself.” – Malcolm McLaren
In the long-term, staying in the comfort zone hurts you.
The more we fail in life, the more we realize that we can handle it. This is why moving forward is so important, no matter how hard it is may seem in the present.
It may be uncomfortable to embrace failure. But over time, it no longer becomes debilitating and you can overcome it. A classic example is taking a cold shower. At first, it’s torture. But after a while, you get used to it and may even enjoy it.
Once you get rid of the fear of failure, you’ll have the courage to push boundaries and try things no one else has tried before.
6. Failure Clarifies What We Want
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” – James Joyce
Failure teaches us what we don't want to happen. And as a result, we learn what we do want.
This clarity helps us take precise and careful action towards our desired outcomes.
Ryan Holiday echoes this sentiment:
"Failure shows us the way – by showing us what isn’t the way.”
Successful organizations, for instance, use failure to remove what doesn't work. Then they double-down on the best ways of operating.
7. Failure Allows Us to Help Others
“… As we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela
Failure is good because it contains nuggets of wisdom that can help others.
Your experiences and failures can serve as a roadmap for people who want to achieve a similar goal.
According to this Harvard Business Review, they found that experiencing failure leads to more successful mental models.
Well-flushed out models, based on your experiences and failures, will help you better teach others.
Next Steps: Allow Yourself to Fail
Successful people have failed enough times to know that setbacks are temporary. Failure is good. And as you become more comfortable with it, success becomes inevitable.
Want to learn more about how a person's mindset will determine how they spend time? Check out our article: The Difference Between a Fixed and Growth Mindset: How They Impact Your Life.