Why Failure Is The Secret To Success

So, you failed the test, the relationship, the business. Is all truly lost, or can you see some new life from the ashes? I’ve failed more times than I can count and I’ve often felt judged because of that. But what I finally figured out, and it took forty years to do it, is that my only real failures were the times that I didn’t get back up again, didn’t try a second or third or fourth time, and didn’t follow through. No one else kept me from trying again; that was all me. The only person really judging me, was me.

I decided that I wanted happiness more than I wanted to avoid failure. I wanted to be—above all else—on the pursuit of my purpose: fail or succeed.

Today, I feel a great strength and pride in my marred journey. I am a phoenix, rising. So much beauty has come from the ashes of my past failures.

Here’s something kind of neat: The creation paradox is that you create and destroy at the very same time. You build and you level, simultaneously. You construct and deconstruct, together. Think about it—what has been disassembled, ceased or eliminated as you built or created? And conversely, when something might look like a failure—just wait—there is always a creation in there somewhere.

Failure only means you’re learning and moving; you’re in the action; you’re not too afraid to try; you’re one step closer to your big success!

Have a look at these famous people. Failure turned out to be an imperative step to success for Oprah Winfrey (fired by a TV producer in Baltimore who said she was “unfit for television news”), Steve Jobs (once forced to step down from Apple, the company he founded), and Bill Gates (Harvard University dropout with a failed first business). There stories are fairly well-known. Yet, check out these fabulous failures that succeeded…

Arianna Huffington, creator of the Huffington Post was rejected by 36 publishers before her second book landed a publishing deal, albeit this was pre-HuffPost. However, her journey to success was one of persistence even in the face of failure, rejection, and criticism. When the Huffington Post itself was first launched, it was met with negative reviews and cited by critics for poor quality. What did they know! But did Huffington give up right there, tuck her tail between her legs and slink off? Heck no! (Because she didn’t, today millions around the world read and share the fascinating voices and stories within the HuffPost. And, I get to write on the massive platform!)

In 1919, Walt Disney was fired from one of his first jobs as a newspaper animator-cartoonist. The editor said that he, “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Imagine, Walt Disney being accused of not being creative enough. That’s like firing the Pope for not being religious enough. Or, criticizing Einstein for not being smart enough.

J.K. Rowling, author of the most successful book series of all time, was let go when she worked as a secretary at Amnesty International in London. She had been caught writing on her work computer about a boy named Harry Potter who was a lovable wizard. Perhaps we need to send her former employer a thank you note. Rowling received a severance pay that allowed her the freedom and security to write full-time. And while it worked out brilliantly, when she was first sacked I bet she felt like a terrible thing had just happened to her.

Even Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, Mona Lisa—the best-known and most visited painting in the world—was at first considered botched by some. After all, the woman wears a funny smirk, she is not particularly beautiful, the scenery in the background is jacked up from side to side and the waterline doesn’t even match! (Pray tell, could there be a hidden meaning in the work?)

So, don’t judge your success or failure. Don’t panic when change comes or you ‘fail’ at something. Think of the time and space that is being freed up; ponder the lesson; appreciate the new direction that has been defined. Whenever there is loss, there is gain. And even in destruction, there is creation.

Maybe it’s a relationship that ended miserably. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you feel you have ruined an opportunity. Think of the people of greatness who have come before you, and how they succeeded precisely because of their failures.

So, you failed. Try again. Then, try again. Be on the journey, not on the judgy bench.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa