In this blog I am going to explore why failure is actually beneficial and an essential part of self-development. Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress”. The great scientist knew, encountering our fears and failures prompts the most necessary changes in our lives and our businesses. Before we start, I just want to point out that “failure” isn’t a word I use too often. It’s harsh, negative and not an accurate reflection of the situation that occurred.
The OED definition of failure is “a lack of success”, which I think is so harsh as everyone has their own picture of what success should be. The other problem with the word failure is the connotations we have put on it, such as being a let-down, unworthy or useless.
I bet like me, there are a hundred things you have failed at – mine include passing my driving test the first time, my AS levels, a business venture with my dad. But then again, I have also accomplished so much, and I bet you have too. We are not defined by our failures, but rather how they help shape us into a better version of ourselves. Many of us get hung up on failure, or even just the thought of failure, and it can be so debilitating that it stops us from trying again and living the life we want to. But in fact, I strongly believe that failure is a good thing and that we could all do with a healthy dose of it once in a while.
Here are 5 reasons why failure is actually beneficial.
Failure benefit 1: It provides a reality check on where we are at
Failure benefit 2: The lessons learned are priceless
Failure benefit 3: This isn’t a “one-shot only” world – just do better next time
Failure benefit 4: It builds strength of character
Failure benefit 5: It realigns you to your goals
When I failed my AS levels I was devastated. I knew I had messed up. My dream since I was young was be the first person my family to go to university. I knew that if I didn’t get good A-level grades I would lose my chance. However, why did I fail my AS levels if university was something I had longed for the past 4 years?! Put simply, I wasn’t in the right mind frame. I was going through some personal issues & I wasn’t happy, and that was having a knock-on effect on my study.
Sometimes failing at something, even if you truly desire it, is an indication that something elsewhere isn’t right. The study wasn’t so much the issue, but the other problems going on around me.
Failure can be a useful way to shine a light to reveal what is really going on with your situation and what needs addressing. A few years ago, my parents and I bought a guesthouse & bar in Cambodia, with a friend of my dad’s as a partner in the venture. This was the expat’s dream of sun, sea and serving drinks to happy holiday makers & fellow westerners who have escaped the rat race. Bliss.
However, just 9 months down the line and we had lost our investment & sold our share. We cut our losses and got out. The dream, gone. This was a dream come true, so how did it go sour so quickly? In hindsight, because we didn’t manage it as well as we could have from the very start – we hadn’t put the right systems in place, we hadn’t established ground rules and expectations with our partner, and problem after problem meant that our profit was being eaten into.
After the initial hurt and anger, I came to realise that the lessons learned from this “failure” are priceless. I learned a great deal about carving out a business plan, forging a successful business partnership and how the small details in business matter.
If I could turn back time, would I do this all again? Hell yes! I learned more with the failure of the guesthouse & bar than I ever would from a guru’s “how-to” business book. Failure gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistaken actions and do what’s right the next time around.
Luckily for us, we live in a prosperous world, one where there isn’t just one opportunity to do anything. There are always second chances. Sometimes third. For Edison, there were 1,000 chances to invent the light bulb! If you fail once, then try again. Just don’t be foolish enough to make the same mistakes again.
When I was younger and new to the property game, I made the cardinal sin of being too soft, not collecting rent and being too lenient. The month’s rolled on and I hadn’t received any rent from my tenant. One year later, a looming court case, an emotional roller-coaster and £5,000 down, I had well and truly “failed”. However, will I ever make this mistake again? No. Was that my only business opportunity? No.
Failure teaches us to learn from our mistakes so that the next time we can avoid making the same ones. There will be another time too – this world is full of second chances and opportunities, just don’t be too blinded from the hurt of your previous failure to see them. The benefit of failure is that you can do better next time.
Anyone can look the hero when times are good, but how do you measure up when the going gets tough? Do you crumble like a sandcastle or do you stand your ground and keep smiling, focusing on where you want to be? Take a moment to think about that before you consider yourself a “failure”.
Going through a failure is a remarkable test of your character, your courage, your determination and your mindset. I truly believe that it isn’t until you’ve been through the worst, that you can truly appreciate the best. Failure is kind of like a benchmark. It will show you what you are made of, and trust me, you are tougher than you realise.
Time moves, circumstances change, and goals shift. One benefit of failure is that it gives you a chance to reassess your goals and where you want to go. Whatever your goal, you are going to experience hurdles and set backs along the way. I haven’t met one person who thinks you can cruise your way to success luckily.
Use failure as a natural milestone to check in with your long-term goals and assess. Ask, is this really what I want? Am I prepared to put in the hard work? Have I made mistakes that I can learn from?
If your goal has changed, that is okay. Now is your chance to amend it. If you’re not willing to push on after your failure, then you know the goal is not something you really want. If your goal is the same, fantastic – use the failure to spur you on.
If you think that those who “made it” were lucky or had success handed to them on a plate, then think again. There are so many famous success-over-failure stories. My favourite story is Sylvester Stallone’s.
Sylvester Stallone had it rough as child, being taunted in school and constantly in and out of foster homes. As an adult, things didn’t improve as he was unable to earn a steady income, and even had to sell his dog for $25.00 to help pay his electricity bill. It was only 2 weeks after selling his dog that he wrote the Rocky script in nearly 20 hours straight. After being rejected over 1,500 times, Stallone was given a nod by United Artists for $125,000 BUT only if Stallone would NOT star in it. Stallone refused.
Even when he was subsequently offered $250,000 and $325,000, he still refused as he wanted to star in it. He finally reached a compromise, starring in the film but only taking $35,000 and a percentage of profits as a concession.
The first thing Stallone bought with the money he earned was his beloved English Mastiff dog Butkus. Stallone had to pay $15,000 for the same dog he sold at $25! However, I am sure he could afford it seeing as Rocky grossed over $200,000,000 and his sequels grossed over a billion dollars!!
This is our opportunity to get to know a bit more about each other, to look at your goals, how coaching will support you and how to proceed with coaching if this is right for you!
I offer 1-2-1 coaching packages, as well as courses and group programmes at certain points of the year so please feel free to still book in a chat with me if you’re not looking for 1-2-1 coaching but interested in other courses instead.
“Go ahead, make mistakes. The worst that can happen is you become memorable.”
–Sara Blakely : Founder and CEO of SPANX
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