The idea that failure is necessary? Counterproductive
Try Googling “Quotes about Failure” and do you know what you get? Basically about 114 million results telling you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off, and be glad you’ve had your failure, because it makes you a better person. While I agree that we can learn from our failures, the rhetoric that failure is nearly a necessity for success is not only ridiculous but also counterproductive.
You have to evaluate that reasoning further. To assume that failure leads to success is like saying getting into a car accident leads to becoming an excellent driver. More likely, getting into a car accident may lead to getting into another car accident… because you suck at driving. The same can be true for failures.
Failure is not an indicator of effort
Sometimes people fail, despite good intentions and despite hard work, because sometimes it’s just not “in the cards.” Other times? Your idea is bad. The marketing wasn’t right. You needed to better evaluate your audience. Things needed to change. But this is not a necessary first step. Well-prepared, experienced people, with well thought out plans and intentional processes can have success first. Failure is not an indicator of effort.
Let’s instead start leaning on a better message. Let’s take the attempted message from the failure rhetoric and instead of focusing on the fail – or the necessity of the fail for greatness – focusing on pushing yourself forward.
You don’t need to fail, you shouldn’t look to fail, instead you should look to persevere… and be prepared to persevere. It’s not the smartest, or the wisest, or the richest that succeed in their goals, but instead those that decide that they will. It’s the hungriest.
My failures didn’t produce a PhD, my perseverance did
In my life, I was an average student. I didn’t do poorly, and while I had some lulls, I certainly didn’t fail at school… yet I didn’t excel either. Instead, I persevered. I persevered so long that I earned a Bachelor’s degree, followed by a Master’s degree, followed again by a Ph.D. It wasn’t my failure that pushed me forward, instead my decision to achieve. My decision to go further.
Instead of looking to your failures for success, start looking towards your goals. Focus on what you want to achieve and the path you need to take to get there. Be prepared to work – really work – and if there’s failure, it should be a surprise, not an expectation. Success is not good luck. Success is focus, determination, good ideas, and hard work.
Failure does not equal success
You may be rolling your eyes at this point, but I’m not claiming I’m without failure. I’ve been denied plenty of jobs. I’ve come in last many times. I wasn’t able to accept any scholarships. But do these failures define me? Are they my inspiration? No. My inspiration comes from my own personal desires and passions, and not from some idea that I need to lose in order to win. And could I have done without some of my failures? You bet. Sometimes you learn nothing, and have your feelings hurt.
So, read your motivational posters, your Facebook memes, and retweet those inspirational Twitter quotes, but never, for a minute believe that failure equals success. Success instead comes from the internal desire to achieve, and the determination to reach your goals – despite the conditions around you. Focus on your next success and not your failure, and you may get exactly what you hoped for.