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Failure: The True Path to Success

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You’ll only win if you stay in the game because winning is a direct result of the sum total of your failures. Click To Tweet

We all hate failing, but mine was on another level. I dreaded failure so much that if I were on the 118th floor of Burj Khalifa tower, I’d rather take the stairs than be in the same elevator with failure. I was so paralyzed with the fear of failure that I dared not try anything that could potentially make me look dumb. For that reason, opportunities passed right before my eyes, and I didn’t lift a finger. My constant thought was, what if I fail? And so I never tried. It turns out; I failed anyway because I never explored my full potential. It was years later before I learned that if I had any chance of succeeding at anything, then failure was inevitable.

Failure shouldn’t hinder us from embracing challenges. This is because we are all going to fail at some point. The difference will be how we handle the challenge and what we learn from it. So, as you march towards your definition of success, be assured that there’ll be many mistakes, failures, errors, and challenges along the way. You’ll only win if you stay in the game because winning is a direct result of the sum total of your failures.

Now, did you know that 12 publishers rejected J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter fantasy series before a small publishing firm in London picked the first series? Today, the Harry Potter series has sold over 500 million copies. A newspaper’s editor once fired Walt Disney because he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. It’s interesting that with his so-called lack of imagination, Walt Disney was the brains behind Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and many award-winning other animations. 

This list can’t be complete without sneaking in renowned world leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, great minds like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, and talented musicians like Shakira. Yes, Shakira. Her high school teacher said she sounded like a goat. She didn’t make it to the school choir.  Harmonize a bongo star just across the border in Tanzania failed flat in his first audition in the Bongo Star Search.

One thing that stands out is that these people failed not once but dozens of times. In fact, a good number of them were discredited; no one believed they had the talent or the brains. But they didn’t give up. They stood the test of time. Their failures birthed their success.

Failure allows you to grow. It builds character, and often it’s what separates those who are committed from those who are cheerleading from the sidelines. Why? Very few people recover from failure. A good number will give up on the first or second disappointment.

 Failure is an opportunity to grow

When you fail at something, it only means you’ve learned how not to do it. The next trial will be better than the first, and the more you persist and gain experience, the more you increase your chances of doing things the right way.

The reason we give up so fast is that we believe failure reflects our inadequacy, an indicator of our lack of talent, knowledge, or skills. That shouldn’t be the case. Failing means the action you took wasn’t the best solution. So, keep trying because success isn’t easy. It requires resilience and persistence. The next time you fail at something before you start the blame game, stop, reflect on what you did wrong, and learn from it.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

How will you know what you can accomplish if you try nothing?  Failure teaches you what you couldn’t have known if you didn’t try. It opens up new possibilities. You’ll discover alternative ideas, meet new people, or discover a different place. Failure will teach what you can’t learn with instant success.

By now, you should know that I’m not vouching for failure. All I’m saying is we should change our attitude towards failure. If we can’t embrace it, we can as well say goodbye to success. So, instead of hiding in your comfort zone or ridiculing others for trying, debunk the stigma associated with failing.

Let’s appreciate the courage that comes with pursuing our goals, the effort it takes to fight for our beliefs, and the commitment that’s needed to follow through on our ideas. Even if we fail, we’ll know that we have given it our best. And when we succeed, Ken Williams, a serial failure-ist and author, says, “Let’s learn not to hold success so tight that we strangle it.”

Also read: Henry Onyango on Failing Your Way to Success

Mourine Odongo
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5 responses to “Failure: The True Path to Success”

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