When I was in my early twenties, I learned why failure is good. I went canoeing with my best friend and the water was rough from recent rain. We capsized on a bend and the canoe became lodged up against the bank. It was underwater, jammed up against the bank, with the open part facing the current. The current was so powerful that we couldn’t budge the canoe.
After 20-30 minutes of us trying to dislodge the canoe, my friend said, “let’s just leave it. We’ll never get it loose.” Since the canoe was a rental, we would have to pay about $400 for it so I said “hell no!”
We kept trying and tried different ways and angles of twisting and applying force to the canoe that worked and we got it free. I learned from that experience that if you keep trying, you can figure out a way, even when it seems hopeless. I gained confidence from that experience.
There are many reasons failure is good. You better think it’s good because you will do nothing in life without failing. So why not view it as good? Get used to it, embrace it, and understand that it is always part of every success. Yes, I said “always” and “every.”
Here are some reasons failure is good.
Failure Strengthens You
Facing and overcoming failure strengthens you. Keep trying and you will reduce the fear of failure, avoid being paralyzed, and stop engaging in self-defeating behaviors.
Failure strengthens your character because you become stronger when you face a setback and overcome it. Once you discover bad things can happen and you can overcome them to succeed, you develop a more powerful and confident character. Because you’re less fearful, you will try more new things and increase your chances of succeeding.
Failure strengthens your confidence because you prove to yourself you can work through a challenge and succeed. Confidence comes with preparation and demonstration. Prepare yourself well by learning what you need to reach your goals. That means reviewing your mistakes and learning from them. Then don’t quit when you run into a roadblock and your confidence will grow.
It makes you less fearful because you know you can overcome difficult circumstances and succeed. Fear of failure is debilitating. It stops many people from ever trying. Once you taste what it’s like to fail and keep trying until you succeed, you’ll lose any fear of failing. To keep trying is the secret ingredient to all success. You can learn and get better, but only if you will persist.
Failure strengthens you because you get stronger when you overcome inevitable problems that crop up in every activity. You learn and grow stronger by doing and experiencing. Successful people are strong because they aren’t afraid of failing. They have a healthy attitude towards failure.
Many successful coaches in sports repeat the same attitude towards failure. You can’t always control what happens, but you can always control how you respond.
The correct response to a failure is to examine why you failed, learn, and try another way. The worst response to failure is giving up.
Related: How to Overcome Challenges
Failure Teaches You
Failing teaches you how to succeed because you find what doesn’t work and seek what does. It teaches you to handle setbacks and be persistent. Learning how to overcome setbacks is an indispensable skill that you need in every part of your life.
When you face a setback, you can learn a lot by reviewing what went wrong and thinking about how to change your actions to get it right. Even when you have succeeded, you can learn from failure by reviewing what went wrong during your path to success.
Research shows that doing after action reviews is a great way to learn and grow. In one study, Ellis and his colleagues found soldiers got better at navigating when they were debriefed on their failures and successes.
In a related study, Ellis and his colleagues found that reviewing failures after succeeding was the most effective way to improve yourself.
You can implement this idea by examining your failures and successes every week.
Related: Strategies for Learning from Failure
Failure Reveals New Opportunities
When you fail, your determination to succeed causes you to find fresh ways to approach your goal. Failure forces you to look for other ways to achieve your objectives.
When Edison failed many times to make a usable light bulb, he had to keep looking for new materials and structures. After many attempts, he stumbled upon a successful combination. He is a famous example that failure is only final if you quit.
Failure Provides Crucial Feedback
I have never found a success story that didn’t include a trail of mistakes and failures. Overcoming the problems makes success stories more attractive. The trail of mistakes and failures are also the signs that point to how success happened.
The way to use feedback is to review the mistakes and failures each week and learn from them. A coach I know reviews the good, the bad, and the ugly from the previous game every week. In fact, all coaches review failures from the previous week and coach the players to correct the mistakes. The ones who do this the best win more games.
Your Failures Make You More Interesting
Have you ever heard the story of the one who succeeded at everything she tried? First, it never happened. Second, if it did, it wouldn’t be inspiring or interesting.
Everyone loves the stories about how people have failed many times but kept trying and succeeded. We love these stories because we can relate to the mistakes and failures that make us human. They inspire us and give us courage to keep trying.
A good reason failures make you more interesting is that you have to try new things to experience failure. You take risks. Trying new things and taking a chance is interesting, but playing it safe all the time is boring. When you try more things, you have a much broader experience to share with others.
Facing and Overcoming Failures Gives You The Best Chance To Be Successful
James Dyson has the best-selling vacuum cleaner in the world, and his net worth is about $7 billion. However, it took Dyson 5 years and over 5000 prototypes to develop the first bag less vacuum cleaner.
He had to innovate to come up with his vacuum and he had to produce it himself, all after multiple failures.
He failed many times to find a manufacturer for his creation, so he set up a manufacturing plant on his own.
If Dyson had quit after 4000 prototypes or after he failed to find a manufacturer, where would he be today? Instead, he overcame his failures, solved problems, and succeeded.
Related: How Failure Leads to Success
Failure Drives Innovation
The secret to failure driving innovation is attitude according to Professor Baba Shiv, Stanford University. If you fear losing out on opportunities, you will innovate. Professor Shiva calls this a type 2 mindset. If you fear making mistakes, that causes risk aversion and stifles innovation. He calls fear of mistakes a type 1 mindset.
Fear of mistakes will cause you to stagnate and avoid action. Fear of missing an opportunity drives you to keep trying despite failures and mistakes. Strive to have a type 2 mindset and you will innovate and succeed far more often.
One way to get yourself and others to engage in a type 2 mindset is by creating pressure and desperation. According to Shiv’s ideas, cutting resources forces you to come up with alternative solutions.
An example Shiv uses is a company cutting the marketing budget and setting higher expectations for results. This caused marketing to test many ways to be more efficient. Most of the ideas failed, but they learned better ways to market.
Failures Make You More Powerful, Confident, and Successful
Usually when you fail, it’s because you don’t have the right knowledge or skill to succeed. Failing shows you your shortcomings so you can learn what you need to succeed. It is a rare person who engages in a challenging goal and marches right through to success, having all the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed brilliantly. It never happened!
Learning and gaining the knowledge and skills you need makes you more confident and propels you to succeed. So, embrace failure as a chance to gain the knowledge and skill you need to succeed. Never beat yourself up because you didn’t know something, made mistakes or lacked skill. Learn, practice, and keep trying.
Final Words on Why Failure is Good
How do you view failure? Is it an opportunity or a roadblock? Successful people consider failures to be valuable opportunities to learn and grow. I hope you can be successful and learn to embrace failure too.
Best wishes in your pursuit of success and happiness.
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Learning from Success and Failure. (2007). Retrieved 23 November 2020, from https://hbr.org/2007/06/learning- from-success-and-fail
After-action review. (2018). Retrieved 23 November 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After-action_review
Ellis, S. & Davidi, I. (2005). After event reviews: Drawing lessons from failed and successful events. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90 (5): 857-871. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0021-9010.90.5.857
Ellis, S., Mendel, R. & Nir, M. (2006). Learning from successful vs. failed events: The moderating role of kind of after-event-review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91 (3): 669-680. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0021-9010.91.3.669
Rothblum E.D. (1990) Fear of Failure. In: Leitenberg H. (eds) Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-2504-6_17