Somewhere along the way, we’ve been fed a lie. We’ve been told that failure is bad, that it should be avoided at all costs. We’ve been taught to believe that failure says something about our talent, our willpower, or our ability to succeed. And I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I bought into that lie. I did everything I could not to mess up or make mistakes. I analyzed various options, avoiding nearly every and all paths that might possibly lead to failure. But in the last year, I’ve had a major change of heart. I’ve realized that failure is important. It’s a good thing, and we all need to be failing more.
I’ve been talking a lot about courage lately (see here and here), highlighting the importance of moving forward in the face of fear. My 2017 experiment with courage highlighted just how much I avoided failure, and in turn, just how much I was missing out on.
The more I practice courage, the more victories I have. But if I’m being honest, the more I practice courage, the more I also fail. But it’s here where the lesson surprised me. In failing more, I realized that failure isn’t scary, fatal, or really all that terrible. It’s necessary and helpful, and the more I do it, the less power it holds over me.
Failure is important. It teaches us things that we couldn’t possibly learn another way. And you don’t just have to take my word for it. Here are seven pretty brilliant thinkers who knew the power of failure.
1. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill
2. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” J. K. Rowling
3. “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford
4. “What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning – and some of them many times over – what do you find? That you can swim. Well, life is just the same as learning to swim. Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!” Alfred Adler
5. “When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” Eloise Ristad
6. “I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustrations were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” Anthony Robbins
7. “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” John Wooden
It’s scary to put yourself out there and take a risk. You get out of your safe space and risk failure. But you know what? Failure is important. It’s necessary. And it will teach you more than you ever imagined.
Are you failing enough? If not, how can you be more courageous in your everyday life?