Sometimes I wish the word “Failure” didn’t exist because it has such a permanence to it. I don’t really believe in failure. I believe that giving up is real. But to give up is something we have total agency over. Failure is something that, when we talk about it, we talk about the world assigning it to us. We talk about how others perceive us. It’s all about outside expectations and perspective. I don’t like that because, success is something that’s determined from within. Only I can really know if I’m successful because my success should be determined by how I’ve personally improved since yesterday. Or since last year. If we frame success and failure as something that outsiders determine, it’s a mess. We’ll almost always be failures, as there will always be others who, by comparison, are doing so much better. Success must be determined from the inside and, for that reason, so, too, should failure. Which brings me back to why the idea of “failure” needs to be re-thought. Many of the incidents we see as failure are not failures but something else – something positive, even. When you reframe failure as part of your success story, then there is no failure. Here are positive ways to look at failure.
At least it was now, when nobody saw
Many of the events we see as “failure” happen early on, when we’re just learning how to do something, and just getting our legs. It happens when you perform for the first few times and bomb or submit a short story and get rejected. The nice thing – the saving grace – is that these “failures” tend to happen when nobody yet really has eyes on us. So we get the benefit of learning a lesson, without having the whole world watch us struggle. Be grateful to “fail” singing at an open mic for 10 people in a coffee shop. Do it 100 times, so you do well when you’re finally in front of 10,000 people.
It provides a valuable measurement
Failure is actually just a measuring stick for how far you’ve come, and how far you still have left to go. Of course, the measuring stick will always be expanding since, once you reach your goal, you’ll create new goals. But, still, for now, failure was really just an opportunity to get a good, clear view of what work you still need to put in. It was a skill level assessment, that’s all.
You “failed” because you were brave
If you are currently suffering the pain of a failure, revel in that pain. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Feel proud to have it. You know why you’re having that pain? Because you were brave. You put yourself out there. You tried something. So many people never actually go for what they want. The pain of failure is evidence that you’re out there doing it.
There is no success without failure
There just is no success without failure. We often don’t know that, as we only become aware of someone once they’re successful. But every famous athlete, singer, actor, writer, inventor – they bombed, humiliated themselves, and failed more times than you know. Those failures were literal stepping stones to success. To want to get to success without failure is like hoping to jump from the sidewalk onto the roof, without using a ladder.
Success is just the attempt that stuck
Success is usually just the one of hundreds if not thousands of attempts that happened to stick. Really. You have to throw spaghetti at the wall sometimes. You have to throw 100 noodles to find the one that sticks. Often, what others see as a stroke of genius, was just one of a hundred attempts you made at something – none more informed than the others – that happened to work out. But, in that way, that success is really no better than the failures. They’re all part of the same family.
You respect successful people more, because of failure
When you find out that someone you admire faced hardship and suffered several setbacks, what do you think of that person? You don’t respect them any less, do you? You don’t think they’re any less great at what they do, right? No, in fact, you respect them even more. You admire that they kept going, in spite of the failures. Others will see your failures the same way.
You appreciate your own success because of failure
When you are successful, you’ll actually recognize and appreciate your level of success because you failed first. You’ll enjoy your success, because you understand, on a deep level, how distinctly different it feels from failure. Those who, on a rare occasion, get instant success with no failure – they’re rarely happy. They don’t recognize the light in success because they never experienced the darkness of failure.
The critics are the true failures
There will be critics. Of course there will be. There will be people who laugh at you and doubt you and chastise you. Just so you know, if they were pursuing anything of their own, they wouldn’t criticize you. They’d understand failure was part of the process. See their criticism as proof that they have nothing going on of their own. Pity them.
You can’t fail if you don’t give up
How can anybody say you’ve failed if your journey isn’t done yet? How can someone say you failed to climb a mountain if you’re still taking steps up it? No judgment can be made about your journey so long as you’re still on it. So, really, the only way you can possibly fail is by giving up. So long as you keep going, you escape failure – forever, really.
Failure = growing pains
When you’re hurting due to failure, take a moment and enjoy the pain. That there, what you are feeling – that’s a growing pain. You’re hurting now because you put yourself in a position to become wiser. It hurts for a second, but after that, you’re forever that much wiser. You’re forever that much better. Enjoy the pain. Something better is on the other side. And you earned it, because you were willing to suffer the pain of failure.
Nobody remembers your failures
If you really are concerned with outside perspective (it’s okay, we all are sometimes) know this: people almost never remember your failures. Really. Think of famous people. Do you know about the times they failed? Not really. You didn’t pay attention to them until they were successful. You don’t remember all of the contests they got 10th place in, or didn’t place in at all. They didn’t get on your radar until they made it. People don’t really pay attention to the failures of others. Success is what catches attention.
Failure tests your desire for success
Failure gives you an important test: it tests how much you really want this. It’s better to take that test sooner rather than later. If one failure – or even a dozen – forces you to quit, then you didn’t really want it. But if after many failures, your spirit can’t be crushed, then you do really want this. And when you see that, you just move forward, ready to face more failure. You understand what this means to you now.
It’s good to practice failure
Failure will exist at every level. Even those who we see as untouchable and hugely successful still suffer what, to them, is failure. As we grow and hit those next levels, we’ll just want to go further. Along the way, there will always be failure, so it’s actually good to practice it now.
If you’re failing, you’re putting in the work
If you are failing, it’s because you’re putting in the work. You aren’t sitting around, fearing all of the ways things could go wrong. You aren’t debilitated by fear of judgment. You’re doing it. You’re out there. Failure is a symptom of putting in the work, so be proud of it.
Some failures transform into success
Some failures turn into something else. They don’t turn into the success you planned for, but they turn into something else. It’s very common to go after one thing, not get it, but in the process, discover another path. Sometimes, when competing in one contest, though you don’t win, somebody notices you, and gives you something else.