Failure is a little bit different, but the concept is similar. Failing to admit and learn from failure will only lead to more dramatic failure. The converse is also true: admitting and learning from failure will ultimately lead to success.
“One of the biggest secrets to success is operating inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone,” Heath says. Although you might fail incredibly, you might succeed incredibly—and that’s why incredible risk and courage are requisite. Either way, you’ll learn more than ever about your strengths, talents and resolve, and you’ll strengthen your will for the next challenge.
Society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. When we take a closer look at the great thinkers throughout history, a willingness to take on failure isn’t a new or extraordinary thought at all.
Failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success. “Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers [but] sadly, most people, and particularly conservative corporate cultures, don’t want to go there,” says Ralph Heath, managing partner of Synergy Leadership Group and author of Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes and Thinking Big. “Instead they choose to play it safe, to fly below the radar, repeating the same safe choices over and over again. They operate under the belief that if they make no waves, they attract no attention; no one will yell at them for failing because they generally never attempt anything great at which they could possibly fail (or succeed).”
The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb, which purportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype. “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a reporter asked. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
“The quickest road to success is to possess an attitude toward failure of ‘no fear,’ ” says Heath. “To do their work well, to be successful and to keep their companies competitive, leaders and workers on the front lines need to stick their necks out a mile every day. They have to deliver risky, edgy, breakthrough ideas, plans, presentations, advice, technology, products, leadership, bills and more. And they have to deliver all this fearlessly—without any fear whatsoever of failure, rejection or punishment.”
“To achieve any worthy goal, you must take risks,” says writer and speaker John C. Maxwell. When the rewards of success are great, embracing possible failure is key to taking on a variety of challenges, whether you’re reinventing yourself by starting a new business or allowing yourself to trust another person to build a deeper relationship.
The best way to measure your progress at something is the number of setbacks and “failures” you’ve had. If you haven’t failed yet, chances are you aren’t trying very hard. Failure is the blacksmith’s hammer that tempers the sword of success. If you want to get really good at something, you have to fail at least a few times.
If you look at all the great men and women throughout history, you’ll notice that they had one main thing in common. They failed, and they failed often. Henry Ford knew of failure intimately. So much so that he is quoted for saying the following: “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”