“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” —Colin Powell
I’ve failed at nearly everything I’ve ever done in my life. My first marriage ended in failure. I started multiple business ventures which never got off the ground. I failed friends and family, college and technical certification exams, blown several job interviews. Hell, I even muffed a driving test once. Looking back, at all my life’s major milestones, I failed the first time. And failure taught me everything I know.
In my experience, nothing drives success more than failure. Not FEAR of failure; I’m talking about actual blow up in your face, put out the flames and run home like a scalded dog kind of failure.
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” —Richard Branson
Failure is life’s great teacher. Humbling experiences strip away your arrogance and ego. It is the perfect time to reflect; it is also the perfect time to learn.
When my first marriage ended, I needed to understand WHY it failed. At any other point of the relationship, I’d have been quick to point the finger of blame at my spouse. But once the marriage finally collapsed, the only person left I could point at was my reflection in the mirror. In that moment of somber clarity, I realized a lot of the blame for the marriage’s demise was mine. Failure is life’s ultimate wake-up call.
Failure teaches us better than any college professor. Why? Because it is firsthand experience. It is intimate knowledge you will not discover any other way. Success will teach you what works; failure teaches what works, but even more important, what doesn’t. Thomas Edison once remarked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”. With each individual setback, he gained more insight which would lead to his eventual victory.
Like Thomas Edison, when I had a business venture fail, I learned what NOT to do the next time. Knowledge gained by failure is the bedrock foundation for building ultimate success.
Like any great teacher, failure can be a harsh critic. But while failure is cruel, it is seldom fatal. While I might wallow in self-doubt and pity when I fail, believing my world shattered, it was never the case. The sun rose the next day. One of failure’s greatest lessons is resilience. To quote the Michael Jordan, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Failure strips away false expectations and reveals the truth. True success is hard work, and it comes at a cost.
I remarried many years ago. I’m a better husband now because of the lessons I learned from the failure of my first marriage. For the last 10 years, I’ve been part of a successful company, built on experiences gleaned from all my previous business failures. Oh, and I did get my driver’s license eventually. I’ve failed over and over and over in my life. I’ve learned the lessons failure teaches, which is exactly the reason I succeed.
UPDATE 12/26/2017: I just went to see Star Wars, The Last Jedi, and one of the lines from Yoda was, “The greatest teacher, failure is”. There you have it. If Master Yoda says it, you know it has to be true! —AJ