we revere success, so do we abhor failure. In Western culture, failure
is regarded as the direct opposite of success. People who fail at
anything, especially work-related activities, can expect a punishing
assault on their self-esteem. In reality, each of us must face this
challenge, for who is fortunate enough to avoid rubbing elbows with
failure? How you deal with it will determine whether or not you
feel good about yourself. Here is a new perspective on failure that
will help you to meet the challenge.
In truth, failure is an integral part of success because it contributes
to the learning process. You cannot improve your knowledge, refine
your expertise, bolster your competence, or perfect your technique
without failing and learning from the experience. Life itself can
be looked at as a series of large and small failures occasionally
punctuated by success. If life required you to wait until you were
perfect you would never get out of bed. Life is, in fact, a process
of learning through our mistakes, not in spite of them. It is a
dynamic process in which you cannot get it right until you get it
wrong first. So in spite of its usual negative connotation, failure
is actually the catalyst for success.
Look at any inventor, any pioneer, and you will see that they tried
and failed and tried and failed until they finally figured out what
they were doing. A classic example is the famous inventor Thomas
A. Edison. Edison tried over a thousand materials until he found
the one that would make a filament for his light bulb that would
not fizzle and burn in seconds. We do not remember Edison as a failure
for the 999 substances that were a miss. We remember him for the
one that was a hit.
If sports is your metaphor of choice, consider the baseball greats
who have maintained batting averages over 300. That means they failed
70 percent of the time! The professional ball player who strikes
out can feel sure that next time at bat he will be closer to hitting
a home run. He does not obsess over the one that got away. The emphasis
is on the next one.
NEXT is actually one of my favorite words. By focusing your energies
on the next situation, failure can be perceived as a positive experience
because it means you are now closer to success. So when you fail
to achieve a desired result, yell "NEXT!" No one, including you,
will remember the ones that got away. You will be recognized and
compensated for your successes. If you take a positive approach,
failure is not an enemy but your friend.
Hopefully you won't have to strike out 999 times before you succeed.
But it is essential to recognize that persistence is one of the
key qualities of people who reach their goals. They don't let their
failures stop them. Instead, they use their failures to learn and
Ed Brodow is a motivational speaker, negotiation expert, and author
of Beating the Success Trap: Negotiating Your Own Path to Success. If you wish to reprint this article in your publication,
please contact Ed for permission at firstname.lastname@example.org.