Failure is Just a Point of View | Why You Should Embrace Failure
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
There are countless how-to books on what it takes to be successful. What you won't usually find on the list is failure as a crucial component to success. I wholeheartedly believe that to succeed, we must accomplish two things: experience a perceived failure, and learn how to embrace failure.
Failure doesn’t mean you are incapable, weak, or undeserving. Failure is simply a deviation from our desired outcome in a situation. It is inescapable. It is what you take away from "failing" that is important. Of course, we understand it can be hard not to get what you want after days, weeks, or years of hard work; whether it's that final exam you spent hours studying for, your brilliant startup idea, or your career mobility, falling short of your goals can discouraging in the moment and feel like a ding to your confidence.
However, leaning into the moment and giving yourself a full perspective of the experience allow you to see that there is so much more that you can take from the situation and that every failure presents a meaningful opportunity.
It is through failing that we learn our most valuable lessons.
Failure is inevitable, but it's one of the best teachers you'll ever have. I have lost count of how many times I have failed at things. One moment I can recall perfectly was when I was a naïve yet optimistic teen doing Parkinson's Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. I was a great student, had done research before, and assumed that if I followed protocol all of my experiments would come out perfectly. Then, like a bad omen, experiments started failing- time after time, month after month. I thought something was wrong, that it had to be me. I just wasn’t working hard enough and so I needed to work harder. That turned into working seven days a week in the lab troubleshooting the same things, running western blots, and various other tests. I spent weeks working tirelessly and had no results to show for it. It didn’t make sense and honestly, I was fed up. Then, just as I was giving up, experiments began to work again. Why couldn’t it all have worked weeks earlier? To the logical mind, there is no right answer to that question. However, digging a bit deeper I understood that I need that period of failure to for personal development. I learned how to ask important questions. I learned how to think more critically, and I mastered the experimental technique at hand. I learned how to be creative and innovative in my approach, and I also learned patience (something I am admittedly still working on).
Failing builds character and unlocks your true self.
Oftentimes we associate our success and sense of identity with what we have accomplished. With that picture of success, what happens when we fail? We feel overwhelmed, worthless, and insecure. As a result, our self-esteem slowly starts to deteriorate.
The reality is that we are human beings, not human doings, and no failure can define who we are or our value. Being that failure is unavoidable, we have to embrace it. The ability to accept and overcome adversity will is what sets the successful few apart from the many. After all, failure can only resist persistence for so long.
Failure pushes you to be better.
Many times we do not accomplish our goals because we see failure as an obstacle too big to overcome. Thus, we either settle just shy of what we want to avoid disappointment or abandon our dreams completely. Failure is a necessary stop along the road to success, and if you research any of your favorite entrepreneurs or celebrities you'll see that they were met with at least ten "nos" for every "yes" they received. Here is the key: rather than treating failure like a rejection or a denial of your brilliance, treat it as a lesson. Ask yourself what you excelled in as well as how you can enhance your skill set. Using the rejection as an opportunity for personal development and feedback will help you to ensure that you're constantly improving at your craft.
I'll end on this note: it is not failure that kills our dreams, but rather how we respond to it that stops us from achieving our goals. Take the loss and turn it into a lesson, and never stop never stopping.