How Many Times Do You Need to Fail Before You Make It?

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

There’s no better way to start demystifying the power and importance of failure than by quoting a man who’s regarded as one of the most successful inventors and businesspeople of all times.

With 1,093 US patents and a net worth of $12 million at the moment of his death, Thomas A. Edison surely knew that failure isn’t something to be afraid of.

On the contrary.

Success and failure aren’t on the opposite sides of the spectrum; they should be rather perceived as different stages of the same process.

Embracing your mistakes is a crucial part of making it, and here are a couple of reasons why this is so.

Failure Helps You Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Playing it safe is one of the worst and most ineffective tactics you can choose.

If you’re not taking any risks, the odds are that you’ll settle for small, daily wins, but this approach will definitely hinder some potential groundbreaking achievements which could set you on the path of success. Don’t forget that if Thomas A. Edison hadn’t taken risks so stubbornly and persistently, we might still be using candles, oil lamps, and gas lights.

Only by challenging yourself on a daily basis will you be able to push your boundaries. If you choose to stay within your comfort zone you’ll never have a chance to truly set yourself apart and make a difference.

Psychologically speaking, risk-taking is beneficial for a number of reasons, some of which are:

  • Conquering your fears. By putting yourself in new, challenging situations all the time, you’ll have an opportunity to flex your entrepreneurial and problem-solving muscles, all of which will help you face your fears and see them not as insurmountable obstacles that should be avoided at all costs, but as something that will help you grow.
  • Learning new things. Research has shown that if you’re doing hard things 70% of the time, you’re actually maximizing learning. Otherwise, by taking only the roads well-traveled, you’re practically putting your brain on auto-pilot.
  • Laying the groundwork for success. Although risk-taking sounds like an impulsive, haphazard activity, it doesn’t mean that you should rush headlong into it. Whenever you want to take a leap, you should carefully consider all the factors and prepare your every move. By doing so, you’ll understand the potential outcomes and fallouts, and you’ll be ready to get back to your feet even if something goes wrong.


Failure Is Inspiring

All the great people who have finally made it are very well acquainted with failure.

Though it at first might taste bitter, it actually inspires us to try even harder and pursue our goals.

One of the most notable examples of this is, again, Steve Jobs. Back in 1985, he was practically fired from Apple during the battle for control of the company. Instead of giving in to his disillusionment, Jobs bounced back, developed other innovative projects and triumphantly returned to Apple 12 years later to save it from the brink of bankruptcy.

The rest is history, as he not only transformed the fallen tech titan into one of the most profitable and loved brands in the world, but also changed the face of music, smartphone, computing, and multimedia landscape in the process.

In his 2005 commencement speech during the Stanford University graduation ceremony, Steve Jobs credited getting fired from Apple, something that seemed devastating at the time, as “the best thing that could ever happen to me.” According to him, being hugely successful is burdensome, and going back to square one and starting everything from scratch sparks creativity

This is, in a way, one-door-closes-another-one-opens kind of a story, because failure helps you change your perspective and gives you a sense of freedom to try out new things. A good thing about hitting the rock bottom is that you can only go up from there, which allows you to experiment and pursue your dreams and ideas.

Failure Humbles You

Flying high can easily trick you into thinking that you’re invincible, which is a dangerous belief.

Bill Gates, another tech and business genius, says that “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

And that’s why failure is sometimes necessary to humble and prepare us for hardships that might happen. Nobody is invincible, and sometimes it’s a good idea to have an occasional slip which will serve as a reality check.

The global financial crisis of 2008 came seemingly out of the blue and struck even those believed to be “too big to fail” hard. What we can learn from this collapse that many economies are still reeling from is that sometimes even the big guys like Lehman Brothers can go bankrupt. This is considered the biggest corporate failure in history, and the company which once had $639 billion in assets came crashing down and caused a financial tsunami which affected global markets.

This kind of humility will not only keep you grounded and help you be aware that what you have today might be gone tomorrow but also prompt you to reassess your strengths and weaknesses and regroup yourself.

Successful people tend to feel strong and self-sufficient, believing that they’ll stay on the top of the world forever, and such a notion can actually make them more vulnerable to different threats. It’s easy to alienate friends and family when everything is going your way.

Failure, on the other hand, teaches you that no man is an island.

Strengthening your support system and building a network of close people who will be there for you when you’re losing, will provide you with the resources to succeed again.

Although being considered a highly negative thing, failure has its benefits and instead of harboring an irrational fear from it, what you should do is embrace and come to terms with the idea that it might happen to you too sometimes. Naturally, failure can be beneficial only if you learn from it, but it’s important to keep an open mind and not perceive failure as a huge setback which will hinder your success, but as a stepping stone which will bring you closer to it.

Michael Deane blogs for Accountant Online, and is a master at failure. Well, not quite. But he is certainly trying to do his best, one day at a time.

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