Can Failure Help You Succeed?

What’s the opposite of success? If your immediate reaction was to say “failure,” we suggest that you shift your thinking. It might sound cliché, but we would argue that the opposite of success is never actually taking a chance and risking failure. And as for failure itself? Well, while we’re not saying that it’s something you should shoot for, it doesn’t always have to mean the end of anything. It might just be a temporary setback, a jumping off point, or even, if you look at it in the right way, a way to push yourself toward success. Hey, even Albert Einstein once said, “Failure is success in progress” – and he flunked out of high school!

So consider this: what do Milton Hershey, Walt Disney, and Bill Gates have in common? Well, besides being synonymous with success in our minds today, all three of them started at least one business that failed spectacularly before they became successful. In the end, what mattered for them wasn’t that they had failures, but how they reacted to and learned from them. So what can you learn from YOUR setbacks on your path to success?

Your Failures Are Great Learning Opportunities

clock with the words "time to learn" on it
Every time you fail. you gain a little more experience and knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t.

Whether you’re the impulsive type or the most meticulous planner around when it comes to your business decisions, there are always going to be unforeseen outcomes of your actions and choices. Once you’ve made a few attempts to reach your goals (again, the important thing here is getting out there and trying!), you’ll not only have gained a little more experience and knowledge, but you’ll also have a concrete, visual representation of what works – and what doesn’t. 

So, while you should do all the proper planning that you can, think about it this way: you could see the visible evidence of your failures as embarrassing, but why? Why not see them as a necessary part of finding a solution that works?

Failure Gives You Time to Reassess

Here’s a question to ponder: are successes always the best things for you and your business? Sure, success feels good, and might bring short-term benefits, but successes that are easy can leave a lot of room for failure, because they can make you feel that nothing could ever go wrong.

Not only that, but if you’ve picked a path and set yourself on cruise control without taking time to look around and assess that path, then these successes could put blinders on you in another way. Chasing successes that aren’t right for you or your business – and just automatically moving towards that vision of success – could mean that you’re not looking around and taking time to reassess and readjust. Experiencing a failure or two could be a sign that it’s time to look around and make sure you’re where you need and want to be, and a great time (and excuse) to move in a new direction that’s right for you. 

Opening Up About Your Failures Can Be Powerful

To go back to the idea of failure being somehow embarrassing, we would urge you not to just sweep your failures under the rug and move on, simply because you’re worried about how others will see you and your failed endeavors. Remember this: everyone fails at some point (see above: Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, Bill Gates, etc, etc), and that means you’ve got a potentially unlimited pool of insight to tap into if you open up about what didn’t work for you. Have the courage to talk about your failures with the business leaders around you who have been there, done that, and you could end up with some seriously helpful new perspectives.

person sitting down and another person standing up pointing towards a screen with graphs on it
Talking with other business leaders about your failures can teach them lessons.

Not only that, but by opening up about your failures, you allow others to learn lessons from you! After all, there’s no failure that isn’t a valuable lesson to someone, somewhere.

Facing Your Fear of Failure Can Move You Forward

Have you ever shied away from doing something that you wanted to do because you knew you couldn’t immediately be highly successful at it? That fear of failure can limit what you think you’re capable of, and can lead you to quit before you even try. But you can’t expect to sit down at a piano for the first time and be Mozart; you’ve got to learn your scales and bang out some sour notes for a long time first. 

So why hold yourself to an impossibly high standard of success when it comes to your business? If you continue to do so, you’ll never set yourself up for the small wins that lead to bigger, more satisfying wins, or for reaching the smaller goals that will get you one step closer to your larger goal.  

Fear of failure can also inhibit your decision making, even causing you to avoid making the tough decisions altogether – which will only end in missed opportunities, not better outcomes. Let go of the fear, and flex your decision-making muscles so you can become more practiced at making confident decisions, then build on the good ones and learn from the not-so-good ones.

Hey, we get it: failing doesn’t feel good. But sometimes failure teaches you things that success just can’t, and if you react to it in the right way, and seize the opportunities it gives you, it can make you more resilient, creative, motivated, and focused. And remember: failure can be scary and disheartening, but it doesn’t have to be, and it is always better than regret.

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