“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
~ Henry Ford
Failure matters. Why? Because failure is like gravity – it’s everywhere. In fact, we spend much, if not most, of our lives creating and dealing with failure.
“Move fast, and break things!” is fundamental to the Silicon Valley ethos. But do we really learn from our failures?
Behind our exclusive and societally sanctioned worship of success, is an equally paralyzing fear of failure (a.ka.”atychiphobia”). Failure is part of our blame culture. The fear of failure is buoyed by feelings of shame and guilt and unworthiness bringing the opportunity to learn from failure to a grinding halt.
But history is replete with people who went on to achieve great success, after repeated failure. And despite their vast differences, they all had something in common.
Albert Einstein was considered an epic failure. He did not speak until he was 4-years-old and did not read until he was 7. His parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” He was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He did eventually learn to speak and read. Even to do a little math. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921 and created the beginnings of quantum theory.
Thomas Edison was only a mediocre student. His teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything” and he was fired from his first two jobs for being “unproductive.” He failed over 1,000 times trying to invent a commercially-viable electric light bulb. But obviously Edison has had a huge impact on society, or we would all be in the dark. He held over 1,000 at the time of his death.
Stephen King did not start as a wildly successful author. One of his most successful books, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers. After so many rejections, King reportedly gave up and threw the manuscript in the garbage. But his wife retrieved it and urged him to not give up. King has sold over 350 million books.
Oprah Winfrey was born into working-class poverty to a single teenaged mother. She was fired from one of her first jobs in TV after the producer declared she was “unfit for television.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He went on to be nominated for 59 Academy Awards and is the great animator of our time.
JK Rowling was divorced with a child to support and on the dole when the idea for the young wizard, the first Harry Potter book came to her. At that point, she considered herself a major failure. She was diagnosed with clinical depression and was suicidal. According to Forbes magazine, Rowling is the first author to become a billionaire.
Henry Ford burned through all the money from his first group of investors without producing a car. In fact, he failed and went broke five times before he eventually succeeded. The Ford Motor Company has been one of the most profitable automotive companies in the world over the years, making him into one of the richest individuals in history.
Robin Williams was voted “Least Likely to Succeed” in high school.
Charlie Chaplin was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because his pantomime was considered “nonsense.”
Beethoven was told he was “hopeless as a composer.”
Marilyn Monroe was told by the director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency:”You’d better learn secretarial work or else get married.”
Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life.
Emily Dickenson published less than a dozen poems during her lifetime but went on to become one of the most famous authors of modern times publishing more than 1,800 poems posthumously.
I could go on but you get the point.
The Bottom Line
So what do all these have in common? What’s important to notice is that each and every one of them had grit, perseverance and the ability to overcome setbacks. Each and every one of them was somehow able to reach deep down inside of themselves and tap into their reserves of self-belief and self-determination.
Fear of failure is a hallmark of a FIXED mindset and often contributes to us staying inside our comfort zones – a.k.a. no-growth-zone. By not fearing failure, you are one step closer to having a GROWTH mindset and living a big life!
Think of success as a license to fail.
Wait! Before you go…
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