Why Failure is a Stepping Stone to Success
“A company or a person will have significantly stunted growth and development if they don’t learn to embrace their mistakes.”
Say the word failure and most people want to run, hide and most certainly avoid ever even starting, for fear of failure attaching itself to you. However, the most successful people in the world today will tell you that in order to succeed, you need to make friends with failure because failure is part of the process in success.
The simple truth is that no great success was ever achieved without failure. Thomas Edison was famously quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” after 10,000 failed attempts at creating a light bulb.
The social media obsessed world we live in today, means most people only show the world their lives highlight reel. Leaving you thinking that while you’re still struggle to make it happen, everyone else is living their best lives. By changing how we view failure we empower ourselves to try and to learn.
To understand how failure is actually an advantage to you, 99FM’s MYD Smart spoke to Namibian Industrial Psychologist, Coen Welsh, who prepared a short guide to failure and why you should take pride in yours (as long as you’re learning from it).
Take pride in your failure by Coen Welsh
We live in a society where weakness and failure are rejected. People live in fear of making mistakes, yet the leaders at Etsy, the public craft-focused e-commerce website, are encouraging their employees to be proud of their failure. This concept is something that would make most organisations cringe.
Why would a company want to make their failures public? The answer is simpler than you think and can be summarised in the words of Albert Einstein who said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” In other words, a company or a person will have significantly stunted growth and development if they don’t learn to embrace their mistakes.
So how do we go about embracing our failures to learn from them?
Re-Think Your Thinking About Failure
When people suffer from depression and something we call learned helplessness, they often explain the situations in their lives using the 3 P’s. The three P’s are, Personal, Pervasive and Permanent.
This applies to how we view failure as well. When someone fails they attribute the failure to something personal. The project failed because of something in themselves. They were not good enough.
The second interpretation is pervasive. This is dangerous because when you interpret failure as pervasive, it is likely to affect all other areas of your life. For example, “I can’t stick to this diet and therefore I am also never going to be able to finish university and never qualify for anything.”
The last way people interpret failure is that they see it as permanent. “Because I didn’t get it right this time, I won’t get it right next time either and in fact I will never be able to get it right.”
Apply New Thinking to Failure
See your failure as impersonal. If something fails, it is not because you are inherently bad, but rather the circumstances may not have been ideal or maybe you just need more practice.
See failure as something that is limited to this moment in time. If you fail today and try again tomorrow, you may get it right. Failure today does not suggest permanent failure forever.
Find out more about the three P’s in Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism: How to change your mind and your life.
Join the Global Day of Failure
The 13th of October is the day of failure where people are encouraged to do something they will fail in and share it on social media. See more by clicking here.
Embrace the Chance to Fail and Learn
If there is a likelihood of a project failing, embrace it, but don’t just accept that it’s going to fail. Try your utmost to make it succeed and when it then fails, you should have a whole host of lessons to learn.
In the words of Johnny Cash: “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”
Coen is a qualified Industrial Psychologist with a master’s thesis focusing on the Antecedents and underlying Psychological Conditions predicting Employee Engagement. He has studied, lived and worked in London, Cairo, Pretoria and Namibia.
Coen is a founding trustee of Capacity Trust where he currently consults in the people and human resources space for a variety of organisations in Namibia ranging from private sector clients to government and SOE’s.