Success Is About Learning From Failure

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm – Winston Churchill.

It has been said that failures are outcomes we had not planned for and certainly didn’t want. Yet failures are inevitable in our lives because any human endeavour can inevitably have one  of two possible outcomes-success or failure. What is not inevitable is how we chose to respond to failures.

Many of us lead goal-orientated lives and careers which we lead at high speed and often with a low tolerance for not achieving goals within defined deadlines. For some of us failures can be devastating; we are crushingly disappointed and  our self-esteem is diminished. Others of us view failures as inevitable; we accept them, try to learn from them and move on.

Strange as it may seem, failures can have a positive role to play in our lives and they can teach us a lot about ourselves. They can make us more resilient and determined. If we have the right mental attitude failures can strengthen our character. Much depends on our attitude and how we react to disappointments. We can learn, grow and evolve from our past mistakes or failures. As we go through life we will encounter failures and we can learn valuable lessons along the way. Many success stories have a previous trail of failures. Success happens to those who do not give up but have the resilience to bounce back. it also happens to those who examine the causes of failure and then embrace the necessary changes. Success does not happen to those who wallow in self-pity and spend time procrastinating.

As we analyse the causes of our failures we may come to realise that we are on the wrong road or chasing the wrong goal. We may need to readjust our ambitions and we may need to take a different direction. Calm assessment of any failure may also conclude otherwise so we should  accommodate the knock, adjust our radar, learn to improve and move on again. Yes, rejection or failure can floor us. Like a good boxer, if knocked to the floor get up and renew the effort.  Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently – Henry Ford.

Failures are inevitable but what matters is our determination to continue and our ability to bounce back. Resilience can be learned and life experiences can teach us to toughen up and renew our efforts. Winston Churchill once advised; Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.

Be determined to learn from your failures, analyse why you were not successful and, in time, you will notice that your personal capacities will grow and enhance. Refuse to retreat into helplessness and self-pity but instead be determined to adapt and move on.

It is far more preferable to view failures as opportunities for learning. The only people who never fail are those who never try – Ilka Chase. There are many well-know people who are associated with being outstandingly successful but endured a series of previous failures before their resilience paid off;

Abraham Lincoln was defeated 26 times for public office before eventually becoming the 16th president of the United States.

J.K.Rowling was penniless , broke and almost destitute before becoming the millionaire author of the Harry Potter series of books.

Thomas Edison “failed 10,000 times” to invent a commercially viable light bulb before eventual success. His teachers said he was ” too stupid to learn anything.”

Henry Ford suffered two bankruptcies before eventual success with the Ford Motor Company.

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job and now earns millions of dollars each year as a talk show host.

Walt Disney was fired from his first editor job because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.

What did they all have in common? Resilience and a determination to learn from failure and try again. You are in good company when you experience failure in your life and career!

Over 100 years ago Frederick Douglas correctly observed; if there is no struggle there is no progress. Life’s journey inevitably involves struggles, difficulties and obstacles. In such circumstances we may experience success or failure. Those most likely to succeed are those who modify their attitudes and responses after experiencing failure. It is not the strongest of the species that survives; it is the one that is most adaptable to change- Charles Darwin.

Successful athletes and sports teams know all about failures. They also know how to learn lessons from failed attempts to win. They review performance lapses and modify their approach for future attempts at securing successful outcomes to challenges. They know that adaptability and renewed effort with hard work can deliver future success. They review previous errors, embrace mistakes and learn from them.

Whatever the outcome from any challenge it is always best to maintain a positive mental attitude. Remaining calm and rational in the face of disappointment is always best. Believing you can is better than believing you can’t. In my own case I have always had immense self-belief when seeking career advancements. If I fell short on any occasion, I reviewed why I failed, renewed my efforts and tried again. But this was always in situations where I believed what I was seeking was professionally suited to my skills. Pushing out the boundaries and operating outside your comfort zone is high risk but can also lead to high rewards. Just be prepared to take some knocks but also have the courage and strength of character to renew your efforts with undiminished determination when you are not initially successful.

Failure can therefore breed success. It toughens you but never let it break you. Failure is often the father of success. It can often inspire you to be more creative by being more innovative in overcoming challenges and reaching  goals. By renewing your efforts to succeed you will likely enhance your skills and become a more accomplished person. Take heed of the wise advice of Henry Ford;  Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.

Fear of failure can often prevent us from achieving our goals. It can lower our self-esteem and we can succumb to self-pity. It can undermine our self-belief if we allow it. If you don’t believe in yourself you should not expect others to believe in you. Procrastination is not an option but rock-solid self belief surely is. In my own career path I knew that I had no choice but to believe in myself if I wanted to achieve. That was my choice and the only option I needed for career success. By challenging myself to be better I gained the confidence to face challenges and eventual success. I was often motivated by the words of American president, Theodore Roosevelt; It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. This statement is complemented by the words of his famous niece Eleanor Roosevelt; You gain strength,courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.  Success therefore comes in “can” not “cannot”.

Sometimes the enemy lies within. Check your negative attitude or lack of self-belief because they never deliver success. We need to be stronger than our excuses and be better than our fears. We must maintain self-confidence to sustain a healthy self-image. We must equally maintain confidence in ourselves and have faith in our futures by believing, like former American president Barack Obama, Yes We Can. Work at remaining optimistic in attitude because  optimism is the faith that leads to achievement – Helen Keller.

In life we are all a work in progress; we are never the finished product. We shape our lives and we shape ourselves.The power rests within us to make our lives better and our futures better. Fear of failure should never eclipse our motivation to succeed. Success is always about doing our best, about learning each day and not giving up. We can adopt the victim mentality by making excuses or assigning blame. Yet we have control over our attitudes, reactions and responses to events and challenges; the choice is yours. Winners have the positive attitude to try again, the courage and resilience to recover from knocks and the belief in their own abilities to never give up. Are you a winner?

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work – Thomas Edison.


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