“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” J.K. Rowling
What is our attitude towards failure? Have we recently failed at something and are still kicking ourself? Do we look around and wonder where we went wrong because everyone else is doing great? Do we avoid trying new things because we are afraid to fail? Regardless of how we answer the questions, the fact is that we have all failed or will fail at something and our attitude will be critical to the final outcome. If we fixate on what went wrong instead of resolving to correct our mistakes, we limit our chance at recovery. Some people view failure as a stepping stone and others see it as a stumbling block. Even if we have different definitions of what failure means, the one defining factor is whether we have that stick to it drive or not – that we don’t give up so readily. Frankly, to borrow a line from J.K. Rowling’s TED speech, “Rock bottom can become the solid foundation on which we rebuild our lives.”
“I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.” Anthony Robbins
TED.com: JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure
In the article, 50 Famously Successful People Who Failed At First, we meet some of the most beloved and accomplished people in the world and they all failed at first. From Einstein to Edison, Gates to Disney, Spielberg to King, Rowling to Winfrey and more, the list tells us something – failure is a bump in the road to success. The difference between those who achieve success and those of us who don’t is that achievers find the courage to jump into the fire, get burned and do it again anyway because, as J.K. Rowling points out in the TED video above, there are fringe benefits of failure. Of course, the hardest part is taking that first leap and that is where most of us get stuck…
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” John Wooden
TEDxManitoba – Aisha Alfa: Holding Hands with Failure on the Road to Creativity
Today, Oprah’s Newsletter on Thought For The Day shared an article, The F Word: How Failure Can Lead to Success, on how four women found their footing and success after a major failure. The author, Lise Funderberg, first shares her recent failure to win a fellowship and how it led her to speak with four other women about the subject; to consider, as she put it, “what each of them has recognized as the paradox that success requires a willingness to risk failure.” Her interviewees were: Terry Gross, host and an executive producer of Fresh Air, an award-winning show on National Public Radio. Terry got fired from her first teaching job, a challenging gig in a tough school district. She saw her failure as an opportunity to rethink her career plans and found her path to success in radio. As Terry said in the article, “Sometimes when you fail, it’s for a good reason. You’re doing the wrong thing. And sometimes, as in my case, the failure is doing you a favor.”
Lisa Rau, wife, mother of two, and an elected judge in Philadelphia shared her story of losing her first run for elected office and how hurt she felt. She cried over it, but learned many lessons including the importance of speaking about failure, being brave to try again and asking for help. I liked this line from Lisa: “We also don’t talk about failure enough, and that’s part of why everyone is so scared by it. One of the things that’s great about failure is, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be.” More below!
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” Oprah Winfrey
The third person Lise Funderberg interviewed was artist Lily Yeh. Lily accepted an assignment to build a small community art park after months of rejection letters. She was reluctant to do it because the park was drug infested and in a tough neighborhood. As she contemplated resigning, a voice within encouraged her to continue. Today, it is the successful Village of Arts and Humanities; a nonprofit organization that builds community through art locally and globally. The work, though not financially lucrative, fulfills her on a deep and personal level. I liked that Lily shared this: “If I had been very successful—lots of sales and tons of money— the success might have been so glamorous and the profit so great that it would have made me not listen to my inner voice. I would maybe have been seduced by success in the world. Failure was a protection for me.”
Finally, Lise spoke with Carol Venezia, a wife, mom and successful photographer who lives in NY. Carol shared the struggles she endured trying to make a long distance first marriage work. She had hung onto a bad marriage because she so desperately wanted it to succeed… When it failed, she found her career path and a loving second husband. This quote from Carol resonated: “I finally said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not going to hold back my life for a dream that hasn’t worked out.” Each story shared a common denominator, the resiliency of the human spirit to bounce back from failure… But first, we must act on it. More below!
Read more At Oprah.com: The F Word: How Failure Can Lead to Success
“Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.” Roger Babson
“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Samuel Smiles
What I learned from the interviews and video is that failure can embolden us to shift our perspective and seek a new career path or direction in life. Failure can be a great teacher if we take a deep look at our unvarnished, real selves, stop pretending, hug our wounded self with compassion, and listen to the inner voice prompting us to be bold, to follow a new road, and to trust the process. Like the women mentioned in this post, I have had my share of failure too and every day I remind myself that, as J.K. Rowling shared in her TED video, “Rock bottom can become the solid foundation on which we rebuild our lives.“ What about you?
Stay Inspired! What are your thoughts? Are you scared of failure? What is your attitude towards failure? Do you look around and wonder where you went wrong because everyone else is doing great? Do you avoid trying new things because you are afraid to fail? Do share! Thank you.
Positive Motivation Tip: Failure is not an option if you never try… Fail anyway and strengthen your resolve to rebuild your life.
- Fail Forward (stevenkovar.com)
- 12 Most Inspiring Lessons from Oprah’s Lifeclass with Anthony Robbins By Hope Bertram (12most.com)
- Do you dare to fail? (cbsnews.com)
- Failure? What does it really mean… (anextraordinaryexistence.wordpress.com)
- Epic Fail: 3 Ways to Come Back Stronger (inc.com)
- Freedom to Fail (ariannasrandomthoughts.com)
- What we Achieve Inwardly will Change Outer Reality (conversationagent.com)
- You CAN’T fail and this is why (myactioncoach.wordpress.com)
- JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on TED.com (thinhealthyandlovingit.wordpress.com)
- Failure: The Key Ingredient To The Successful Writing-Career (warriorwriters.wordpress.com)
- How to Overcome Failure (mylittleblackpen.wordpress.com)
- Failure Is Just The Starting Point For Success (jimcantwell1.wordpress.com)