Revolutionaries have always had a different take on failure than the rest of us.
Thomas Edison, the man who brought us light bulbs and telephones, found a silver lining in failure, saying, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
A half century later, one of the 20th century’s most inspirational figures, Robert F. Kennedy, reminded us that “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Today, visionary and billionaire Richard Branson proves that the trend of successful people embracing failure lives on. “If you fall flat on your face, at least you’re moving forward. All you have to do is get back up and try again,” he advises.
Despite these great insights from extremely successful people, many of us still have a deep fear of failing. Let’s have a look at why that might be—and redefine failure!
Thoughts about “failure”
If I say the word “failure,” what emotion comes up you? Embarrassment? Guilt? Inadequacy? Not a pretty picture. Failure is the label we stick on unsuccessful outcomes, no matter what the activity. It’s practically synonymous with ineffectiveness. The word alone can make us feel uncomfortable as we reflect on a personal “failure.”
When we fail, we automatically send ourselves negative messages. We discourage ourselves from trying again, because if we try again we risk another failure. While it’s true that when you give up trying, you don’t have to face the possibility of failing again, it’s also true that you’ll have close to zero chance of achieving success. In order to really succeed, you’ve got to be willing to fall on your face a few times—and still try again.
You didn’t start out being afraid of failing or hating to fail. When you were younger, failure didn’t scare you at all. When you failed as a toddler learning to walk, you fell down many times, and each time you simply stood up and kept on going. The same with learning to ride a bike. You didn’t think of yourself as a failure when you fell off your bike—you simply got back on and tried again. But somewhere along the way between that bike and now you may have learned that trying and not succeeding was bad. That trying was bad. Even that you were bad if you tried and failed.
Our mistakes or failures by themselves aren’t the problem. It’s how we think about them that gives them the power to shut us down. Because our society views failure in a negative way, we learn to avoid trying new things. Instead of risking failure, we stay in our comfort zone—the familiar, the tried and true. In order to avoid the possibility of failure, we let incredible opportunities pass us by . . . and they’re gone forever.
Don’t let that happen to you! Harness the power that lies within your failures, change the way you think about them, and learn to see the value they offer. Failure is not just one possible path, it’s practically the only path to success. It’s necessary. It’s required. You can’t succeed without learning. And you learn a ton through your failures.
View failures as learning opportunities
Failure = feedback! And feedback helps you learn. You have to risk failure in order to learn anything. Whether you fail or not, risk-taking alone is a powerful learning tool. But the actual experience of failing is the fastest way to learn. Failure vastly improves your odds of success, particularly in the long run, because it tells you what to do—and what not to do—next. When you analyze your failures and figure out where you went wrong, you’re teaching yourself, literally by trial and error, how to go right. Failing is a great way to learn and grow.
Mobilize your failures—turn defeat into victory
In every area of your life, the best thing you can learn is to learn from your mistakes—learn to treat your failures as gifts. Whenever you fail—whether with friends, school, sports, or any other activities—the universe has just handed you a piece of wisdom. Don’t let it go to waste. Mine it for all it’s worth. Ask yourself:
• What happened?
• What have I learned from this experience?
• What value can I find in it?
• What will I do differently next time?
The only time you really fail is when you fail to learn from your mistakes.
Next month we’ll have a look at the value of moving out of your comfort zone. So often, getting stuck in your comfort zone—and therefore not moving forward in your life—relates to fear of failure. We have some ideas for learning and growing outside your comfort zone that we’ll share with you.
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” -Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company
“Failure Leads to Success” is one of the 8 Keys of Excellence principles to live by that are an important part of the SuperCamp curriculum. Here’s a quick look at all of the 8 Keys:
About the Author: Bobbi DePorter, president of Quantum Learning Network, is the founder of SuperCamp summer residential programs for teens. With more than 80,000 graduates worldwide, SuperCamp inspires and empowers teens to excel in every area of their lives. Bobbi is the author of more than a dozen books on teaching, learning, and teens, including Excellence in Teaching and Learning—The Quantum Learning System, The Seven Biggest Teen Problems and How to Turn Them into Strengths, The 8 Keys of Excellence Principles to Live By, and The Quantum Upgrade Series (six books for students based on SuperCamp’s curriculum: Quantum Learner, Quantum Reader, Quantum Writer, Quantum Memorizer, Quantum Thinker, and Quantum Note-Taker).
(See what some recent grads have to say about SuperCamp at www.supercamp.com/student-testimonials.)
Since 1982, SUPERCAMP, Monthly Mentor, has inspired and empowered thousands of teens to feel confident and motivated, and to excel in school and beyond. Held on U.S. college campuses including Stanford and Villanova, SuperCamp offers residential programs lasting six, seven, and ten days for students in middle school, high school, and first-year college. Living on a college campus is a great experience for teens and most of our grads go directly to a four-year college after high school. As teens from around the world gather at SuperCamp, they are inspired to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, and they acquire learning and life skills that empower them to thrive in all areas of their life. Read More…