Everyone dreams of being successful. No one ever wants to fail.
Those are two universal statements that are true on their own. And yet, many people fail to see how they are inextricably linked.
In short, you can’t have one without the other. Like they always say, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying!
So, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to be comfortable with the idea of failing. That’s easier said than done, I know.
To help make it easier, it’s good to keep in mind the immense value that failure brings. Here are 9 powerful lessons only failure can teach you.
1) The good side of failing is only as good as your willingness to learn
I’ll begin by saying that the lessons failure brings are only as good as your openness to learning from them.
That seems pretty obvious, right? But it’s not as easy as all that.
The reality is, failure really has a bad rap because we’ve come to associate it with these feelings:
- Fear of trying again
- Shame and embarrassment
- Self-criticism and perfectionism
- Victim mentality
- Denial or avoidance
These negative attitudes towards failure are understandable; of course, it never feels good to fail. Unfortunately, as normal as they are, they do get in the way of discovering the silver lining.
When it comes to this matter, I love this quote by Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10, 000 ways that didn’t work.”
So if you can look at what happened in a positive light, you’ll be able to analyze what went wrong and do better next time.
Otherwise, you’ll likely get stuck in a spiral of self-blame, never able to move past that one time you failed.
And that is truly an utter waste of time…
2) Time really is gold
Another lesson failure teaches us is that time really is like gold – precious, non-renewable, and a worthy investment.
In my early twenties, I tried to juggle a full-time job, evening classes, and a hectic social life. Needless to say, I was stretching myself thin.
When I eventually burned out, it felt like a failure. But it did teach me this lesson about time. It made me more conscious of how I handle time and make it work for me.
Here are a few key takeaways I learned about valuing time:
- Prioritize what’s most important to you and focus your time and energy there. Say no to multitasking.
- Balance is key. Without it, we’ll eventually crash and burn, which in turn leads to more wasted time. And with health costs to boot!
- Time is finite. Each day only has 24 hours. Don’t squander it on things that don’t serve you.
That said, even wasted time has a purpose – to teach us to be mindful and disciplined next time. Because if there’s another thing failure teaches us, it’s this…
3) Nothing is ever wasted
Remember that Thomas Edison quote? That applies to this, too. All those hours he spent on the 10, 000 ways that didn’t work? Those weren’t a waste, because with each failure, he learned something new that eventually led to the light bulb that worked.
Once, I poured months into a business venture that didn’t pan out. At first, it felt like a lot of wasted time and effort.
But when I looked back on it, I realized I’d learned so much – I’d upskilled in many ways and met many interesting people, some of whom served as my role models. Even if the business ultimately didn’t work out, I gained a lot from it nevertheless.
So, next time you’re faced with failure, look beyond the disappointment. You’ll be surprised at the valuable takeaways hidden within its nooks and crannies.
4) Failure shows us our strengths and weaknesses
One of those valuable takeaways is that you’ll find out which areas you’re good at and which areas you need help with.
That’s one of the best things I learned with that failed business venture I mentioned. I learned that I was good at being the “think tank”, at coming up with exciting product and marketing ideas.
I also discovered that no matter how hard I tried, I just really sucked at handling the financial side of things. The bureaucratic side of establishing a business, bookkeeping…
If I hadn’t failed, who knows, I might never have seen or accepted this weakness of mine. At least now I know to leave crunching the numbers to a professional.
5) Failure keeps us humble
Ever eaten humble pie? If you’ve failed, then yes, I’m going to assume you probably have.
And that’s a good thing! I believe that humility is one of the most important lessons failure can teach us.
Real talk: success feels fabulous, yes. It can make us feel like we’re invincible and on top of the world. But sometimes, it can also make us forget who we are.
But failure can knock us down a peg or two real quick, which is sometimes necessary so we don’t cross over into arrogance and stop growing.
In my own moments of reflection, I always think back to the times I failed and feel grateful because if not for those failures, I think I might have been an insufferable a** with a full-blown ego.
6) Failure teaches us to be kinder
Aside from humility, failure can also teach us how to be more compassionate.
Think about it: when you’ve experienced disappointment, doesn’t it make it easier for you to empathize when you see someone else struggling?
There’s a certain sense of companionship here. Failure is an inevitable thing in life; we all go through it. I know for sure that after I experienced a major setback, I became more patient with others as they worked through their own issues.
And I’ve even learned to be more patient with myself. I know that I’m a work in progress and I can’t keep expecting to do perfectly every single time.
7) We overcome by adapting
Albert Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”
Notice how he said “insanity,” not “failure.”
I don’t know about you, but that puts failure in a positive light, doesn’t it? Because it implies that sure, you might have to do and redo, try and re-try to see what works, but with each attempt, you adapt.
If you never adapt…well, as Einstein said, that’s just insane. In my book, that’s the real failure there.
As long as you are re-evaluating and adjusting your strategies, you will overcome. Which brings me to my next point…
8) The more you fail, the more you build grit
Trying and trying, picking yourself up after a fall…that’s real grit right there. And that’s something you get better at with each failure.
Grit is the determination to keep going, to keep pushing forward even when the odds don’t favor you.
Did you know that Walt Disney was dismissed as someone who “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”?
Or that authors J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were rejected over and over and over before their first books finally got published?
And yet, those people got back up every single time, and the world of entertainment is so much richer for it.
When we fail, it’s easy to feel defeated and to want to throw in the towel. But each time we dust ourselves off and get back up again, we’re building grit.
And the more we fail, the more opportunities we have to build this perseverance. To choose “fight” over “flight” until it becomes second nature to you.
9) We are stronger than we think
Finally, this is the most important discovery you’ll make after each failure you experience. That you are, as Dr. Seuss said, “…braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and twice as beautiful as you’ve ever imagined.”
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? While you’re caught in the grip of the crushing disappointment of failure, it’s hard to think you can power through, that you have what it takes to rise again.
But you’re still here, aren’t you? And if you pause and think about all those obstacles you’ve ever had to overcome – maybe a divorce, unemployment, a traumatic childhood…you’ll see this lesson with such clarity.
That’s the beauty of the human spirit – when we set our minds to it, we have nowhere to go but up.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful reminder from poet Maya Angelou:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
And when you do, you’ll see just how much you owe to every setback that crossed your path.